I have been trying some new playful parenting tools. Play is an amazing connector of hearts and creator of laughs, two really important and valuable things! It just does not always come naturally for me.
One thing that does help, though, is a good list of starting points! My sources for these ideas: Hand in Hand Parenting‘s wonderful resources, and the books Playful Parenting and the Art of Roughhousing. Share more ideas with me in the comments or on Facebook in my Parenting by Connection group.
1 Tune in, don’t swoop in. This kind of playfulness is about connection. It is important that your child has the upper hand in the power balance. At the same time, it is such a good chance to pay close attention to cues. It is vital that you honor this.
2 Think of ways to be silly. Look for any possible avenue. Go way over board on this. Some examples: Pretend you forgot what day it is, or that you are mixed up about the way to pronounce something. Hold the homework paper upside down while trying to figure it out. With toddlers, especially, any thing that produces laughter is a winner.
3 Play may lead to big feelings. Tears or upset during or after play times are ok! It does not mean you did it wrong. Listen to the feelings that come up and stay present. In fact: sometimes imperceptible and even imaginary hurts can come up during play, and respond as if they are real and important.
4 Careful but not too much caution. It is good and so important to be safe. When doing active play like a pillow fight, choose your space with this in mind, and remove any potential hazards. At the same time, try not to project an overly cautious attitude. When kids see that you are attentive to safety but also trust their play, it’s an incredibly powerful message. This is a big step towards resilience.
5 Don’t tickle. It is an uncomfortable feeling that takes power away. Parents generally have more power so it is valuable to invert that relationship in play.
6 Use Listening Time to get support. Save your responses and use the support of another person or listener, that is the place to process your annoyance, anxiety or frustration about parenting.