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Help your child’s brain: Practice playful parenting

Bob Sitze
Bob Sitze

No one argues against play — except perhaps mythically dour Norwegian bachelor farmers. But in your always-hustling lifestyle you may be overlooking an underlying playful temperament that distinguishes true play from its often expensive look-alikes.

Educators note that many kids come to school not knowing how to play. Having engaged in constant entertainment — a poor substitute for play — some kids (and many of us adults) don’t know how to engage in imaginative involvement with their environments. Their definition of “fun” is narrowed by their limited access to situations, places and people that are — you guessed it — playful!

mom and childmom and childWhat does play do for your children and you? It teaches resilience. It enables larger brains with increased capabilities. Social-emotional intelligence — a cornerstone for pleasing relationships — is developed in play. Perhaps a more basic human drive than hunger, playfulness is connected with higher levels of happiness. And because play invariably involves motion, it offers you all the mental and physical benefits of exercise.

So how do you parent playfully? Some thoughts:

• Don’t make your playfulness reliant on playthings.

• Juice up your sense of humor — and the absurdities on which humor depends.

• Share both structured and unstructured play moments with your children.

• Challenge yourself to find a style of discipline that includes playfulness. (I am not kidding about this.)

• Play at odd moments and in odd places (e.g., in tense situations, in large groups, in church).

• Watch your children at play and make their play vocabulary part of your own.

• Practice playfulness in your work life.

• Think of playfulness as its own reward.

However you saturate your parenting with playfulness, you will find satisfaction.

Assuredly. Wonderfully. Simply.


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