Playful Parenting Tips

Marbles Rings

Playful Parenting Tips

 

Marbles has gathered a collection of playful tips to help through the ups and downs of parenting. Below are few tips to playfully foster meaningful relationships with your child.

Pay plenty of attention to positive behavior.

Kids thrive on attention. Actions and emotions that get attention show up more frequently. Give  attention to positive behavior you want you kids to repeat. This works with adults too!

Routines are even more important for kids.

Establishing and maintaining routines:

  • Provides predictability
  • Encourages cooperation
  • Builds self-control
  • Eases transitions

Remember to add play to your plan too!

 

 

Offer specific praise.

Providing kids with specific praise lets them know exactly what they did well.  Try “you worked really hard to build that tower” instead of “good job.”

 

 

 

 

Focus on what TO do instead of what not to do.

Kids respond more positively when we tell them what TO do instead of what NOT to do. Try “hang up your towel please” instead of “don’t throw your towel on the floor.”

 

 

 

 

Think aloud as you solve problems.

Think aloud as you problem solve.  When kids can understand your thinking and why you did things a certain way it helps develop critical thinking skills and independent problem solving. 

 

 

 

Turn chores into challenges.

Sort laundry using tongs. Race to see who can put away more dishes. Pick up a room in the time it takes to sing a song. 

 

 

 

 

 

Involve kids in cooking.

Involve kids in cooking. Cooking builds math, literacy, and fine motor skills. Kids are more likely to eat what they make themselves. 

 

 

 

 

Have a plan to keep little hands and minds busy.

Kids like to be busy! Ensure kids have plenty to do wherever they spend time so they stay engaged positively and productively.

Learn more.

 

 

 

 

Read to child for at least 20 minutes each day.

Experts recommend reading to your child for at least 20 minutes each day. It doesn’t have to happen all at once. Two minutes here and two minutes there quickly add up.

Learn more.

 

 

 

Offer kids choices whenever possible.

Offer kids choices whenever possible. Having a choice builds buy-in, fosters independence, and helps kids feel empowered.

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Openly share your feelings.

Support kids emotional development by sharing and labeling your feelings and modeling how you handle emotions.

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Set clear boundaries and expectations.

Establish clear expectations ahead of time. When kids know what’s going to happen and how they should behave they’re set up for success.

Learn more.

 

 

 

 

Practice social skills.

It’s hard to share and take turns! Make it easier by role playing, making observations of other kids, and talking about how characters in books navigate friendship.

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Utilize timers.

Help kids develop a sense of time by using timers, letting them know how much time activities will take, and pointing out the passage of time on a clock.

Learn more.

 

 

 

Kids grow from relationships more than activities.

Kids grow from relationships more than activities. Focus on connecting, creating memories, and making the most of everyday moments.

Learn more.

 

 

 

 

Model positive stress management.

Model positive stress management. Vocalize when you feel a strong emotion, why, and how you are going to manage it in a positive way. Rewind when you react negatively and share what you wish you’d done or how you’ll handle your feelings differently next time.  

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​​​​​​​Keep kids connected to extended family.

Keep kids connected to extended family. Strengthen family bonds with phone calls, video chats, cards, and letters. Ask grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins to share memories or old photos or read a story from afar.

Learn more.

 

 

Do what works for your family.

Do what works for your family. Schedule or no schedule? Hands-on or hands-off approach? There is no ONE right way to manage a family but love, support, and quality time with each other are the right start.


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Ask open-ended questions.

Ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions encourage kids to use more language and think more deeply. 

Learn more.

 

 

 

Let kids know when you can tune in.

Let kids know when you can tune in. Use a visual cue to lets kids know when you are working and need quiet unless it’s an emergency. Try wearing a tiara or tying a colorful ribbon on a door to show when you’re busy. 

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Acknowledge your own emotions.

Acknowledge your own emotions. Kids are still learning how to label and process their emotions. When you share your feelings with kids, you let them know that all kinds of feelings are okay. ⠀

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Empower kids to help.

Empower kids to help. Give kids age-appropriate responsibilities and opportunities to contribute. Kids feel proud and build competence when they pitch in.

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​​​​​​​Tune in to your kids’ interests.

Tune in to your kids’ interests. Provide plenty of opportunity for kids to engage in activities you know they enjoy. Introduce new activities and allow kids to decide if they want to participate.⠀

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Create a visual schedule.

Create a visual schedule. Promote independence by using pictures or images to show kids the plan for the day. Knowing what to expect builds buy-in and helps with transitions. 

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Encourage an adventure mindset.

Encourage an adventure mindset. Allow for some mess and risk.  Kids discover their own boundaries when we give them space to explore. 

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Encourage gratitude.

Encourage gratitude. Model gratitude by thanking your children often and sharing your own thankful thoughts. Create and decorate a jar to collect moments of gratitude to look back on later. 

Learn more.

 

 

Practice mindfulness.

Practice mindfulness. Learning to be present in the moment reduces anxiety and stress, improves impulse control, and increases happiness.  Try a podcast, app or just take time to shut the world out and be still and breathe together. 

Learn more.

 

 

 

Don't sweat the small stuff.

Don't sweat the small stuff. It’s okay and even a good idea to let things go. Giving your child healthy emotional support and your attention and presence is more important than folded laundry and tidy playrooms. 

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Rotate toys to create novelty.

Rotate toys to create novelty. Stash a selection of toys in storage. Bring them out in 2-3 weeks to freshen up the play with something “new.”   

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Model making and learning from mistakes.

Model making and learning from mistakes. Help kids develop a growth mindset by letting them know it’s okay to make mistakes. We learn and grow by doing things that are challenging and persisting through struggle.   

Learn more.

 

 

Show affection in creative ways.

Show affection in creative ways. Story time snuggles, sing-along hugs, secret handshakes, made-up words, and lunch notes are all creative ways to connect with kids and let them know you care. Confidence and self-esteem blossom in an atmosphere filled with affection.  

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Encourage curiosity.

Encourage curiosity. Get excited about what your kids are excited about.  Support them in pursuing their own interests. Help them find answers to their questions and ask even more questions. 

Learn more.

 

 

Make music a part of your day.

Make music a part of your day. Listen to music, dance to music, or make your own tunes to promote early literacy, motor, social and cognitive development. 

Learn more.

 

 

 

 

Find novel uses for everyday materials.

Find novel uses for everyday materials. Even the most common objects can spark creativity and curiosity when you use them in unexpected ways.  Weave pipe cleaners through a colander.  Make a fort with blankets and chairs. Step inside some cardboard boxes and skate on carpet. 

Learn more.

 

 

Host silly celebrations.

Host silly celebrations. Celebrations spark joy, create memories, and help kids understand family values. Make up your own reason to celebrate. Declare it Tea Party Tuesday, have a backwards day that starts with dinner and ends with breakfast, or host a birthday party for a favorite book character.  Create your own decorations with materials from around the house and take plenty of pictures. 

Learn more.

Designate screen-free time and space.

Designate screen-free time and space. Decide as a family where and when to be screen-free.  Maybe it’s in the car, one hour before bed, at mealtimes, or try a screen-free Saturday or Sunday. 

Learn more.

 

 

Let kids make mistakes.

Let kids make mistakes. It’s tough to step back and allow kids to stumble. Raising a resilient child means taking advantage of teachable moments and allowing for natural consequences. 

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Cultivate creativity.

Cultivate creativity. Creativity blossoms when kids have freedom to explore and unstructured time to pursue their own passions and interests. 

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Keep it simple.

Keep it simple. Scale back on schedules and expectations. What really matters is that kids feel loved and valued.   

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Build in break time.

Build in break time. Plan ahead for regular breaks that get the whole family moving, playing, or laughing.  Go for a walk or bike ride, play a quick game, or just sit outside on a blanket and read, tell stories or jokes.  

Learn more.

 

 

Use descriptive words in everyday conversations.

Use descriptive words in everyday conversations. Build vocabulary naturally by using descriptive words, introducing new vocabulary, and describing what’s happening during play.   

Learn more.

 

 

 

 

Choose toys that can be used flexibly and creatively.

Choose toys that can be used flexibly and creatively. Toys that can be used in multiple ways encourage creativity, imaginative play, and grow with your child.  Let kids play with real things too. 

 

Learn more.

 

 

Start a hobby together.

Start a hobby together. Let your child take the lead on choosing a new hobby you can do together.  Research and practice the activity, keeping it playful and fun.  Getting to know your child through their interests just may spark an interest of your own. 

Learn more. 

 

Honor the pace of play.

Honor the pace of play. Is your child ignoring you?  They might be in a flow state. In flow, kids are so immersed in play that the rest of the world falls away.  This is a time when kids build focus, independence and problem-solving skills and are at the height of creativity. 

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Show kids that adults play too.

Show kids that adults play too. Play is crucial for kids’ development, but it’s just as important for adults. Take time to do what brings you joy.  Join your kids in play. When you need a mood booster, turn to play.  

Learn more

 

 

Make reading an interactive experience.

Make reading an interactive experience. Kids get more from story time when it’s an interactive experience.  Ask questions, make connections, and think aloud as you read together. 

Learn more.  

 

 

Create mealtime and bedtime rituals.

Create mealtime and bedtime rituals. Kids thrive on routine.  Create routines around meals and bedtime that will help you connect and bring laughter and memories to each day.   

Learn more.

 

 

 

Provide kids with challenge.

Provide kids with challenge. Persisting through challenge teaches grit, builds confidence and fosters a can-do attitude. We grow when we work at the edges of our capability.

 

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Live a little greener.

Engage your kids in exploring what it means to be earth-friendly. Collaborate on how your family can do more to reduce, reuse, and recycle. ⠀

Learn more.

 

 

 

Be patient with repetition.

Young children like to do things over and over again. Repetition provides the practice kids need to master new skills and builds neural connections that support learning.

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Be part of the picture.

You are one of the most important elements of the memories you create with your kids. Ask others to take photos with you in the picture instead of always being the one behind the lens. ⠀

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Download calm during a tantrum.

It can feel stressful and embarrassing when children tantrum, especially in public. Pause, take a deep breath and give yourself a pep talk. You’ll stay calm and teach self-regulation in the process. 

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Volunteer together.

Volunteering and giving back to the community empowers kids by letting them experience helping others. Volunteering broadens kids’ perspectives, helps them see beyond their own needs, and fosters compassion. 

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Turn "I can't" into "not yet".

Encourage kids to embrace challenge and do hard things. Fostering a growth mindset helps your children turn “I can’t do it” into “I can’t do it yet.”

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Focus on process, not product.

Focus on process, not product. When creating art, cooking together, or doing a project, focus on the process instead of the end result. It’s all about the journey, the discoveries you make along the way, and the imperfections that make for surprises. There is less pressure when kids aren’t focused on a particular outcome. 


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Share family stories.

Share family stories. Kids love hearing stories about their parents and extended family. Family stories build kids’ identity, cultural understanding, sense of history, and remind them that grown-ups were once kids too. 

 

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Kids aspire to be what can see.

Kids aspire to be what they can see. So many career possibilities are invisible to kids. Bring visibility to off-the-radar professions by asking friends and neighbors to share what they do, how they make a difference, and what they enjoy about their work.

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Be a problem-solving partner.

Be a problem-solving partner. Give kids space to solve their own problems. Help them think through solutions.

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Rough and tumble play has value.

Rough and tumble play has value. Kids have a natural instinct for roughhousing. Rough play builds gross motor strength, balance, body awareness and control. Set some guidelines for keeping it safe and step back.

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Encourage outdoor exploration.

Encourage outdoor exploration. Unstructured time outdoors provides opportunities for kids to follow their curiosity, create their own adventure and use their imaginations.

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Share stories about when you were a kid.

Share stories about when you were a kid. Kids forget that you were once a kid too! Share your childhood highlights and moments when you made a mistake or conquered a challenge. It’s reassuring for kids to know that you overcame setbacks and they can too. 

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Win over whines.

Win over whines. Comfort, distract and name your kid’s feelings when they whine. Sometimes whining is the best that a kid can do in the moment. Take pause before responding and know that your attention is mostly what they need. 


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Create sensory bins.

Create sensory bins. Running your hands through sands, beans, rice, or water calms the senses and provides lots of opportunities for exploration. Sensory play builds fine and gross motor skills, supports brain and language development, fosters understanding of cause and effect.

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Let your kids lead.

Let your kids lead. Kids learn best by showing others what they know. What skills does your child have that you don’t? Give kids the opportunity to be the teacher. 

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Boredom fosters creativity.

Boredom fosters creativity. Building plenty of unstructured time into kids’ schedules forces them to get creative about how they entertain themselves. 

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Give kids the opportunity to help.

Give kids the opportunity to help. Kids want to feel important and even young kids can help out around the house. Sometimes it seems easier complete tasks yourself, but kids learn a lot from doing chores and feel proud about contributing. 

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Call out kindness.

Call out kindness. Comment on and praise your child when they engage in an unprompted act of kindness. Take it a step further and write it down to put into a jar or on the fridge. Go back later and talk about those kind moments with a treat.

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Enable kids to manage time.

Enable kids to manage time. Help kids develop a sense of how long tasks take and how to plan their day. Kids feel empowered when they play a role in forming schedules. 

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Empower kids to negotiate conflict.

Empower kids to negotiate conflict. Instead of jumping in to resolve conflict, equip kids to solve problems on their own. 


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Enjoy the ride.

Enjoy the ride. Need a change of scenery? Pile in the car and go for a ride without a planned destination. Play car games, tell stories, reminisce, stop along the way and make some unexpected memories. 

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Set up Spend, Save, Share jars.

Set up Spend, Save, Share jars. It’s never too early to establish healthy financial habits. Setting up jars to divide allowance into SPEND, SAVE, and SHARE is a first step. 

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Create a rest time routine.

Create a rest time routine. Little kids need naps and older kids need a little rest. Establish a wind down routine that works for you and your family. 

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Ask kids how they want to make a difference.

Ask kids how they want to make a difference. Instead of asking kids what they want to do when they grow up, ask kids what difference they want to make. A simple shift in phrasing can prompt big shifts in thinking and imagining. 

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Play dress up.

Play dress up. Let your kids explore your closet. It’s fun to pretend to be a grown-up going to work or a fancy party. Dress-up play encourages kids to dream, role play, practice emotions and social skills. 

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Encourage laughter.

Encourage laughter. Stir up some giggles and help kids develop their own unique sense of humor. Being able to find the laughs in life helps kids be resilient, take new perspectives, and have an optimistic outlook. 

Learn more here & here

 

 

 

 

Switch your words.

Switch your words. Instead of saying “I have to go to the store” choose words like “I’m excited about making dinner. I’m going to the store!” This teaches kids that we are in control of our choices.

Learn more here & here.

Highlight math in everyday experiences.

Highlight the math in everyday experiences. Kids think mathematically beginning at birth. Start to vocally categorize, sort, and count as you go about your day. Use math words in your everyday routine such as noticing shapes, sizes, and patterns. 

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Foster flexibility.

Foster flexibility. Help kids go with the flow, shift gears, and generate new plans when things don’t go as expected.

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Turn errands into adventures.

Turn errands into adventures. Every kid wants to do big kid things. Sharing the shopping list, ordering the pizza, or holding the money are ways to help them feel included while also fostering an “I can do it” attitude.

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Offer food more than once.

Offer foods more than once. Parents sometimes fall into the “my child won’t eat that” trap. Kids often need to be offered a new food several times before deciding to try it (and like it). Include new foods with favorites and let your kids decide when they are ready to test them out.

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Work though worries.

Work through worries. Like adults, kids have worries. Help your kids work through their worries by finding out what’s on their mind, guiding them to solutions and showing them that you care and understand. Highlight the positive by taking time daily to share the good in their day.

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