The best way to help your child thrive is by spending time with them. By engaging with them, you stimulate their imagination, boost their confidence, and strengthen that connection that you both need.
9 Tips for Becoming a More Playful Mom
For some of us, being “playful” doesn’t come naturally. We either get too caught up in our to-dos to be able to sit and play for long, or we feel foolish playing pretend. Here are some tips to help you become more playful:
1. Set a designated mommy-and-me playtime each day
Set aside 15-20 minutes at the same time each day to be playful with your child. This is especially helpful if you do it at the same time every day so it becomes part of your routine. Treat this 15-20 minutes the same way you would an important meeting–no skipping, no putting it off, no cutting it short. Make the commitment to play. During this time, you are not allowed to think of the mess you are making, the other things you have on your to-do list, or any other bothersome adult responsibilities
Parents find that different times of the day work best for them. For some parents, the beginning of the day is easiest so they can “fill their child’s bucket” before taking on the responsibilities for the day. Other parents can’t wake up without their mind flooding with to-dos and do better having playtime as an afternoon break or in the evening after they’ve had some time to be productive first.
Is 15-20 minutes too long to keep your mind off your role as an adult? Break it into two 10-minute chunks.
2. Ease into your more playful side
If you can’t convince yourself to sit on the floor, dress up in dress-up clothes, and play pretend, ease into the playfulness. Start small, with a simple card game, science experiment, or art project.
Then step up the silly playfulness. Memorize a few silly kid jokes, use a funny voice, or pull a goofy face.
Finally, step up the goof with an activity a little outside your comfort zone. Put on a crown and read your child’s favorite princess story using your best silly voices. Play tag or have a cartwheel contest.
3. Choose a time when you and your child are alone
If you get stage fright when you’re trying to be goofy around your spouse or older kids, choose your play time when it’s just you and your child. Remind yourself that you are your child’s first and most important friend, then let loose and play.
4. Put away your phone
When you’re having playtime with your child, keep your phone well out of reach. You don’t want to become distracted by texts, calls, or social media that will pull you out of “the zone.” You also want to keep yourself from thinking about “documenting” this silly playtime with pictures or video, which will make you more self-conscious and less focused on connecting with your child. Turn the phone on silent and keep it somewhere you won’t be tempted to grab it and won’t see it lighting up with notifications.
5. Turn on music
Sometimes turning on silly kid music can help you get more into a playful attitude. Turn Pandora to a Raffi or Disney station and use it as the background to your silly playtime.
6. Make a list of activities to choose from ahead of time
If you have trouble coming up with a way to be a playful mom in the moment, there’s no shame in making a list ahead of time. Come up with activities you can do together to make it easier to pick when your playtime comes around.
7. Let your child lead the story
Instead of trying to come up with a creative storyline, let your child lead. Some children are quick to take playtime through a whole narrative, and you can just enjoy being along for the ride.
8. Create a storyline formula or brainstorm scenarios
Sometimes, our child may not have the skills or confidence yet to come up with their own storyline. They may also revert to the same story over and over when you’re playing pretend–which may make you crazy. In these cases, it can be helpful to have a go-to formula to come up with a new storyline yourself.
“I have a formula I use when my daughter asks me to make up a story or play out a story with her dolls. I have a main character (often a bug or animal) with a cute name (Dot, Rose, Macie, Jilly), who *loves* to do something (like play the trumpet or dance). They run into another bug/animal that needs help (is too afraid to dance, is being haunted by a ghost, is scared about their first day of school, can’t figure out how to bake a cake–any little tiny thing that I can come up with), and then the main character uses their talent to help them get out of it. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous the problem and solution are, my daughter eats it up every time.”
“I used to hate playing pretend, especially since my son would play the same ‘dino smash’ game every single time and just made a mess. I came up with a formula that makes it easier. We have to find something (treasure, magic rock, etc.) and pass 3 challenges (dinosaur, river, save someone, sneak into someplace, climb a mountain) first. It’s the same ‘need to do something+overcome 3 challenges’ pattern each time, but it feels new to him.”
9. Recognize it takes time and practice
If you’re not naturally playful, becoming a more playful mom is just like learning any new skill. It takes time and practice. If you’re uncomfortable with playing pretend or engaging in physical games like tag or hopscotch, try to mix one or two of these activities in each week with activities you are comfortable with (card games, cooking, art projects) the other days.
List of activities to help you be a more playful mom
Here are 32 ideas for being playful with your child:
- Have a goofy face contest; the last one to laugh wins.
- Show them your moves and start a dance party. Either turn on music and just “go for it,” or plan the dance party ahead of time by getting ready and dressing up ahead of time. You can add extra spice by adding glow sticks or glitter.
- Get into a cartwheel or handstand contest.
- Play tag.
- Dress up and play out your favorite story.
- Write a play and then perform it together.
- Bake something. Don’t be afraid to use crazy colors or decorations, like tie dye, sprinkles, or edible glitter.
- Write a story together. Take turns writing it one sentence at a time.
- Turn your day into a musical and sing everything you say.
- Make some play dough. Discuss colors and pick something to sculpt before you make the dough.
- Make some slime.
- Read a book. Get as dramatic and goofy as you can; the bigger the better!
- Make up a language.
- Play with face paint. You can turn each other into dragons, cats, superheroes, or anything else you can imagine
- Sing karaoke together. There are plenty of karaoke songs available on YouTube that show the lyrics, or you can just sing along into a hairbrush to your child’s favorite songs.
- Set up a play store. This could be a coffee shop, a grocery store, or an ice cream shop–the options are limitless! If you’re feeling creative, make little menus and put together posters around the house.
- Finger paint. There are lots of edible finger paint recipes available online for your little ones, or fun, creative finger paints for your preschoolers and kindergarten-aged kids.
- Start a dinosaur dig. Hide some “fossils” in your backyard or around the house, and excavate them together.
- Write a comic together.
- Play a board game, or better yet, make one up.
- Play card games.
- Learn a magic trick or two.
- Make some rock candy; tasty and educational.
- Go on a short hike and play along the way. Do things like racing them to the nearest boulder on a hike, pretending you’re adventurers on a safari, or spotting dinosaurs along the way.
- Get back to basics: “duck, duck, goose,” “london bridge is falling down,” and limbo are all fan favorites for a reason.
- Turn into a tickle monster!
- Build a candy village together
- Make candy art together
- Paint! You can paint with watercolor, acrylic, or oils. If you want to get a little extra playful, paint outside using your feet, water guns, or water balloons.
- Have a fashion show while creating the funniest, silliest costumes you can come up with using items out of your closet or play bin.
- Make up a new superhero (the sillier the better) and fight bad guys.
- Decorate your driveway with sidewalk chalk.
No matter how you do it, your child will enjoy your special time together. Remember, play not only helps you connect with your child, it also helps to provide them with a feeling of security and community, stimulates their curiosity and creativity, helps develop problem-solving skills, and improves self-esteem!