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Play is vital for our connection with our kids.  Having that light, playful, fun presence is so imperative for building connection!

When my coaching clients are exploring their own childhoods, I’ve noticed no one says, “Gee, my parents were just so happy all of the time!”  

Of course not.  Most adult memories are of parents that were serious, stern, angry, disconnected, distracted, unhappy, depressed, etc.  

The natural state for children is joy, and it is for us as well – and play is a fantastic way to get back to that state and deeply connect with our kids.  

So, here is a list of 25 fun things to do with your kids – almost anytime, anywhere – that cost nothing:

  1. Play chase/tag (adjust level of resistance per age/ability). Hint: they should almost always just narrowly escape!
  2. Play the tickle monster: similar to chase, but you will catch them eventually, give one little tickle*, then pick them up to “eat them” or “carry them to your cave”
  3. Play with dolls
  4. Play with stuffed animals as puppets
  5. Play hide and seek
  6. Create a scavenger list, indoors/outdoors (use pictures or work together for small kids)
  7. Be the student and play school
  8. Go “camping” at bedtime
  9. Play catch
  10. Go on a bug hunt
  11. Jump in the leaves
  12. Stomp in puddles
  13. Climb trees
  14. Play “Simon Says”
  15. Ride bikes
  16. Play “Marco Polo”
  17. Play flashlight tag
  18. Have a picnic and help THEM gather/make the food
  19. Play grocery store
  20. Have a dance party
  21. Play Stop and Go (especially during undesirable task like having nails trimmed)
  22. Undersea bath adventures – see what sinks and floats
  23. Paint the tub
  24. Build a snowman
  25. Go sledding

Most importantly: 

  • Don’t stand when you can fall over!
  • Don’t talk in a normal voice when you could talk in a funny voice!
  • Don’t talk when you could sing!

  Play is the work of childhood but it is also the LANGUAGE of childhood.  If you want to deeply connect with your kids, which is the foundation to everything else you’ll do as a parent, try to speak their language.
  Literally put this on your to-do list for the day: Playful Parenting.  Make sure your kids don’t go to bed without you having played with them AT LEAST one time, even if it’s during bedtime (puppets are a great thing to do in bed, and you can also act out themes that might be causing the child stress for further exploration and guidance).   
  For Dads: be sure you check your level of resistance when playing the physical games.  It is important to start at their level, allowing them to often “win” or “escape”, but continue to gently increase resistance as appropriate, so you are providing both nurturing and a challenge. 

  *A note on TICKLING: In general, avoid tickling other than a quick poke or tickling as you would tickle an infant.  NEVER hold them down and tickle them against their will.  “Tickling can be fun, but it can also feel to children as if things are out of control.  Tickling can be confusing; the laughing seems to mean children are enjoying it, even if they may not be.” – Lawrence Cohen, PH.D., Playful Parenting