Building a strong parent-child bond through Playful Parenting

father-1633655_1280One of the most important and challenging undertakings of parenting is to build strong, close bonds between children and their parents. A strong parent-child connection enables children to become confident, independent, develop healthy relationships, and become a peaceful adult.

In his book Playful Parenting, Dr. Lawrence Cohen points out that through play, children explore the world, work through challenging situations and get connected with the people they are close with.

I have found that approaching common parenting struggles with Playful Parenting techniques to be very effective, and it helps to make things easier and more fun for everyone in our family.

Through play, we get to join our children’s world — promoting mutual respect, exploration, and cooperation while enjoying each other’s company.

Using Play to Manage Parenting Struggles

Parents of young children experience many situations where the child resists when they’re asked to do something: They don’t want to pick up their toys or get dressed to go out; they don’t want their hair washed or their nails cut. The list goes on. Making a game out of these tasks can help. It instantly makes the activity more fun and enjoyable for the child and makes it something they’re much less likely to resist.

When my toddler son was into recycling and trash trucks, we made a game of cleaning up his blocks by saying, “Let’s put all the trash in the trash truck.” The blocks were the trash, and the container was the trash truck. When he was 3 and very much into firefighters, we made a game of getting dressed to leave the house by saying, “There’s a fire! It’s time to get in the fire truck. Let’s get on our fire coats and boots!” He’d then be quick to get on his shoes and coat to get in the car.

Many times, parents think they don’t have time for such games. You’re in a hurry to get out the door, so why add in a game and waste more time? But I find that when we play our way through it like this, it actually takes less time for my children to get ready.

Some critics say that parents shouldn’t have to do this and that a child shouldn’t need a game to make them listen. While it’s true that they don’t need it, and there are many other ways to help children cooperate, it does make it more enjoyable. Just like, as an adult, I find it’s more enjoyable to clean while listening to music, or to fold laundry while watching TV. It’s the same concept.

Playing Your Way Through Fears

Play can help release tension and can make what seems scary into something silly. In this way, it can be used to help children work through their fears.

When my son was 4, he was scared during thunderstorms. The sudden sound of thunder was too startling for him, and it kept him tense at bedtime. One night during a storm, I said to him, “What do you think that thunder sounds like? I think it sounds like a train rumbling down the track.” He loved Thomas the Train, so I suggested, “Maybe it’s Thomas!” He started to laugh, and I kept going: “That was really loud. It must’ve been Gordon, because he’s so big!” This turned it into a fun game and made the experience less scary.

Play can also help with minor stresses. A child may come home upset after a hard day at school but then may get to work out some of those emotions by playing school where he is the teacher and in charge.

Dr. Cohen talks more about the idea of using play to handle childhood anxiety in his book The Opposite of Worry.

Connecting with Children Through Play

One part of Playful Parenting is about strengthening connection between parent and child. Children who feel connected and attached to their parents feel closer to them and thus want to cooperate with them. One simple and effective way to connect with our children is to sit and play with them.

Playing can be hard for adults: We’re out of practice, or have low patience, we may have forgotten how to play, or simply feel like we don’t have the time for it. Some people may feel awkward or embarrassed about being silly and goofy if they participate in children’s imaginative play, like a dad who may not want to sit and play with dolls with his young daughter.

However, when we make the effort to be involved in our children’s interests and carve out even as little as 10 minutes a day for one-on-one child-led playtime, our children notice it and respond positively. Deepening our connection with our children makes them more likely to respect us and to want to do what we ask of them. It helps them feel secure and loved, and makes us all happier.

Growing up in an attached family, learning the power of stimulus

daniela silvaMy home life was rich in attachment — and stimulus.

Attachment begins with the creation of emotionally close, consistent relationships between parents and children in all child development stages. Then, in order that the child can develop his abilities properly, stimulus is essential.

From an early age, I was inserted into the great world of letters. I remember watching my father carefully reading the dictionary while reading the newspaper. He looked at me and read the new word he had just learned in the dictionary. Even without understanding very well the meaning of words, he regaled me with books, and I loved to flick through the pages, which were rich in colors and illustrations.

My mother also had great motivation for reading. She told me that much of the knowledge she has acquired about parenting and motherhood came from magazines. Thus, I grew up admiring the art to practice a good read, and exchange knowledge with people.

Plays of make-believe nourished my imagination and my childhood. My sister and I loved to invent theater pieces to present to a large, imaginary audience. We used to hang a sheet over a clothes line, which we called “the curtain,” in order to open to the “public” and make our act.

Play is essential in a child’s life, because it creates rhythm and meaning through the senses and movement. It is necessary that parents show interest in the play and first discoveries of children, because these practices create meaning and encouragement for the child.

pixabay - child and balloonI always had a lot of support from my family in all areas of my life, but the most valuable thing I learned from my parents was about the importance of listening to your child. Not just hear through the words, but mostly watching what was not said, the nonverbal messages. In addition, to be able to identify a feeling even when they are not expressed in words, it is necessary to know the temperament of your child and her “intelligences.”

Howard Gardner is a psychologist and professor known for developing of the theory of multiple intelligences, which points out that a person has multiple intelligences distributed in various skills, such as logical reasoning, language, music, spatial sense, kinesthetic ability, and interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. Transferring the theory of multiple intelligences into parenting, think about learning moments between parents and children through stimulus.

Stimulus is crucial for development. Without stimulus, the child does not learn, cannot feed, does not gain confidence and autonomy, and is unable to strengthen relationships. My childhood was characterized by an attachment-based parenting approach that valued education by stimulus. It was like that when I learned my first numbers and letters through books presented by my father and board games I used to play with my sister, when I perfected my motor coordination and posture through dance classes encouraged by my mother, when I really understood about equilibrium and confidence in the moment that I learned to ride a bike, and when I received encouragement from my parents while I was studying my on my sat prep. It is very important that children can develop everyday experiences to strengthen skills, and the family must be aware of this.

To educate through positive, attachment-based stimulus is to educate for a happier and fulfilling life, promoting the development of more confident children who able to influence the world positively and creatively.

3 tips for connection in the summertime

DSC02151Summertime can bring a variety of opportunities to connect with our children and enjoy new experiences together. It especially can be a time to reconnect with a child who has been at school all day throughout the year and is now home each day.

Here are 3 suggestions for deepening the family connection during the summertime:

1) Start a family tradition or ritual

Creating traditions and rituals each summer, just as during other seasons and holiday times, can help children experience predictability and be a source of family bonding. In our family, summer traditions include minor league baseball games, going to a carnival, visiting all the libraries in the county, and eating dinner outside.

We didn’t consciously set out to create these traditions: They just happened as we found things that our family enjoyed together and things that to us say, “summer.”

You may also want to bring some traditions from your own childhood into your families now.

IMAG007922) Get outside

Research has shown a correlation between time outside and reduced stress levels. Being outside in nature also helps keep kids calmer. Consider a trip to the best points for Apple picking in NJ, they will love it and learn a lot from a nutritive fruit

There are so many opportunities to get outside throughout the day. It can be staying near home and playing in the yard, or venturing out further for a hike or nature walk. Try to visit different playgrounds and climb the playground equipment along with your children.

Or, when you’re in a need of an opportunity for self-care and craving some balance, sit and enjoy a book in the fresh air while they play.

Some of the fun activities my children like to do outside our house include getting a bucket full of shaving cream and some paintbrushes and “painting” the deck using longest lasting deck stain, filling a squirt bottle with water, searching for bugs and pretending to be bugs, doing messy art projects outdoors, and setting up an outdoor movie night. If you are not having a redwood decking but wanna build one for your kids, so that they can do outdoor activities, then contact Outside Entertainment Area Specialists for the deck building.

3) Find fun activities, but don’t force them

A few years ago, I created a “summer wish list” of about 15 places to go or things to do during the summer. We didn’t end up doing all of them, but it was helpful to have some plans and suggestions. Some of those activities became our traditions, while others were one-time only outings.

While these can be great, it’s also important to remember that some may not work out as you planned. Sometimes, what seems like a great idea to us sounds boring to our children. I’ve been trying to take my oldest son strawberry-picking since he loves strawberries and since it was something I loved as a child, but he’s simply not interested. Rather than forcing it, I work on finding other activities he is interested in and focus on being present with him in whatever it is we end up doing. Sometimes that means just playing board games inside.

It’s important to remember that these activities are about strengthening our family connection. If the activity is stressful to you, not enjoyed by the kids, and not creating a good bonding experience, don’t feel bad about scrapping it for something else!

I hope you enjoy exploring, experiencing and connecting with your kids this summer!

Less screen time…more creative, active playtime

screen free wk 2016Editor’s note: May 2-8 is Screen-Free Week, an observance created by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood that encourages children, families and communities to unplug from digital entertainment and spend their free time playing, reading, daydreaming, creating, exploring, connecting, and rediscovering the joys of life beyond the screen. Attachment Parenting International (API) reminds parents to find a balance with screen time in their families and supports a variety of activities — including play — to strengthen and nurture secure parent-child attachment relationships.

Children need to play.

Play is so essential to children’s health and well-being — and so endangered — that the United Nations lists it as a guaranteed right in its Convention on the Rights of the Child. One of the most important reasons to limit children’s screen time is to ensure that they have more time and opportunities for hands-on creative play.

Children play creatively to:

  • Have fun
  • Express their fantasies and feelings
  • Gain a sense of competence
  • Make meaning of their experience.

Hands-on, creative play promotes:

  • Intellectual growth
  • Critical thinking
  • Constructive problem solving skills through opportunities to explore and experiment
  • Self-control.

As the amount of time children spend with screens is increasing, the amount of time children spend in hands-on, creative play is decreasing making us want to recommend you to check out SUPER WHEELS SKATING CENTER here. Also, the more time young children spend with screens, the more time they are likely to spend engaging with them as older children and the harder time they have turning screens off. In addition to the time it takes up, screen media is less conducive to creative play than other media such as books or radio.

The best-selling toys, marketed on television and the Internet, often inhibit rather than promote creativity, because they are either linked to media programs, embedded with computer chips, or both. When children play with toys that are based on media products, they play less creatively because they are not spurred to make up their own world. And toys that talk, chirp, beep, and move electronically mean that a child’s involvement is often limited to pushing a button — hardly a creative activity!

Active play is important, too. Kids need at least 60 minutes of active and vigorous play each day, and one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to meet this goal is by playing outside. Given that childhood obesity is a major public health concern, the amount of sedentary time that children  spend with screens is a big problem. Children ages 10-16 now spend, on average, only 12.6 minutes per day in vigorous physical activity, yet they spend an average of 10.4 waking hours each day relatively motionless.

In  addition, young children living in inner cities are failing to develop essential large motor skills. One recent study found that 86% of disadvantaged preschoolers in 2 cities lacked basic motor skills like running, jumping, throwing, and catching.

While proponents of screen technology laud gaming systems like the Wii, which promotes movement, a recent study suggests that simulating activities by playing on a Wii does not burn as many calories as actually engaging in those activities.

Screen-Free Week is a chance for children and families to experience the joys of play:

  • Play with art supplies
  • Play with words
  • Play with music
  • Make up songs
  • Play with blocks
  • Play with nothing
  • Play cards and board games
  • Play indoors
  • Play outdoors
  • Play tag
  • Play sports
  • Play together
  • Play alone

And when Screen-Free Week is over, keep on playing!

Additional API Resources

Jean_Illsley_Clarke_PhotoAn exclusive API audio recording with Dr. Jean Illsley Clarke on “How Much Is Enough? Attachment Parenting, permissive parenting and overindulgence” — now only $9

2011 AP Month “Families at Play” research

An interview with Sara Adelman, founder of Screen-Free Week, on API’s online The Attached Family magazine

Personal stories on API’s blog, APtly Said:

“Non-TV ways to connect with your kids”

“Screen time and Attachment Parenting”

“Screen time can be family time”

Playing together

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on October 10, 2008, but its message about the importance of presence is as timely today as then.

By Tara, Feels Like Home

1124423__chalk_I have a secret.

I am a mom’s group drop out. I researched for months and found a local playgroup so that my daughter and I could meet some local moms and kids. I joined, paid my dues and then I flunked out. They didn’t ask me to leave or ban me from membership. I just stopped going. I didn’t fit in.

The problem wasn’t the other mothers or the other kids. The problem is that I’d rather play with my daughter than sit and chat with the other moms.

My own mother thinks I’m weird.

I’m one of those play-on-the-floor moms. I’m not only tuned in to what my toddler is doing, but I want to be a part of it. I zoom the trucks around and read books and make the animals’ noises. I talk and squeal with her while we play. The other moms at our playgroup supervise their kids, but they don’t participate in the play. I join in.

When I’m out in public with my daughter, other adults often offer me a seat because I sit down on the floor. I never take it. I’d rather sit on the floor and play with my toddler. No matter where we are, we play with the toys. I chase her, and she chases me. I point out objects in the room and in pictures and books. We have fun, and we’re usually more than a little raucous.

I love every minute of it, and her laughter, hugs and kisses tell me that she loves it, too.

For me, being present in my daughter’s life isn’t the same as being in the same room at the same time. It’s not about watching her play. Being present, to me, is playing together, being involved with her thoughts and actions, and actively communicating with her.

As she grows up, I hope my daughter will recognize that I would do anything to spend more time with her. I hope she remembers what a happy toddler she was and the times we sat on the floor or in the grass and played.

I doubt that she’ll remember, but I know I’ll never forget.

Even if she doesn’t recall the moments or the days, my daughter will remember feeling loved and adored and knowing that she commanded my full attention. She’ll remember the way she felt when I tickled her belly or pushed her in the swing and how she was important enough to be the center of my world.

I know that all parents don’t enjoy playing on the floor. Whether you do or you don’t, you can still be present in your children’s lives. You can create moments they’ll remember. Let them be the center of your attention. Make them special breakfasts or desserts. Don’t just sit in the same room: Get involved. Draw together. Talk. Play a game. Enjoy their toys together.

You will never regret the time you spent being present in their lives.

Simple living by living simply

katelynne eidSometimes I feel that everywhere I turn there is something else that I as a parent or my child “needs.” But how often do we actually need that product?

Likely, its almost never.

As I navigate this world of parenting, I find myself actively trying to move away from the world of “stuff” and focus more on the things that matter most. I am far from mastering this goal, but I have come up with some guidelines that help me keep things in perspective:

Children do not need every toy they see, or that we see for them.

I am often amazed at the amount of clutter we have amassed in our playroom in my daughter’s first two years of life. We’ve had birthdays, holidays and visits from the grandparents, after each of which there seemed to be an influx of new things. While I’m sure my daughter would tell you she loves each and every toy, I find most of them sitting unused while she favors a select few.

Coming from a large family, it is hard to limit the amount of gifts received. My husband and I are a work in progress at trying to strike the right balance between gift-giving and exorbitance. A couple of examples of how we try to do this:

  • We have asked our family members to limit the amount of gifts they buy our daughter.
  • We have decided that while we want all our friends and family to celebrate birthdays each year, a gift is not necessary to attend the party with a birthday party magician.

To be fair, my husband and I provide a full life for our daughter, and she will still receive presents on birthdays and holidays, so she is by no means left wanting. We are simply trying to raise her with the understanding of what is important in life.

476129_colourful_xylophoneWith regards to toys, I have also found that the less electronics, the better.

In this world of technology, there are entire aisles filled with battery-operated toys that talk, sing and walk. Yet those are not the ones my daughter reaches for each day.

Occasionally an interactive toy is helpful, and children certainly enjoy them. However when given a choice, my daughter almost always reaches for the more basic options: colorful blocks, a picture book or a shape sorter that looks like a turtle.

It is the time we spend with our children, not the things we give them that make a difference.

Our lives are so busy, and often it seems as though there aren’t enough hours in the day. However, it is so important to remember to take time as a family. For us, that means family meals and dance parties.

We try to eat together as often as we can. Since my husband has a lengthy commute in the evening, and my daughter eats dinner early, family meals occur at breakfast. I have always heard that family dinners make a lasting difference in our kids’ lives. I need no better proof than to see the excitement on my daughter’s face when she yells, “Yay, we all eat together!”

Since our schedules prevent us from always eating together, we also have family dance parties. If you’re not a musical kind of family, that’s fine: Family time can be based on any activity your family enjoys, such as reading, playing outside or playing a game. My daughter has been dancing since she learned how to stand, so for us, it’s a dance party. We put on some music, turn it up loud and go crazy.

Remember to mindfully teach your children.

It is easy to forget, but our children are learning from us and the world around them each day. It is important to engage them in what you are doing, as each activity or moment provides an opportunity for growth.

It may take a little longer, but let them help you fold a load of laundry or empty their dishes from the dishwasher. Take some time to read with them, teaching them the letters and numbers they see on the page. Even something as simple as going for a walk, pointing out the trees, sky, clouds or cars you see, opens up an entire world for your kids.

Foster creativity in your children by teaching them how to use their imagination.

Teaching our kids isn’t just about the ABC’s and 123’s. It’s about remembering that part of being young is exploring the world through imaginative play.

Sometimes my daughter needs no encouragement. She will play in her kitchen, making meals for her doll and acting out her own story. Other times, she will start talking to me about a friend or a character, and after a few basic questions like “What you are going to do?” or “What does he/she want?” she has launched into an elaborate story filled with details that amaze me.

It is when I see her imagination at work that I am truly amazed by the little girl in front of me. It is in those moments that I am reminded how precious this job of parenting is and how responsible I am for her.

For me, remembering to focus on what’s important and letting the rest go allows me to keep things simple for her and our family.

How children benefit from rough-and-tumble play

By Barbara Nicholson, cofounder of Attachment Parenting International and coauthor of Attached at the Heart with Lysa Parker

friends-swinging-together-749492-mPlay is a critical component of healthy, secure attachment. As our children grow, we parents need to ensure that they have plenty of opportunity for active, fun activity.

Our culture is often criticized for too much structured time, with team sports often taking the place of unstructured play time for families and friends. Even preschoolers are shuttled to dance, gymnastics and other classes that can take the place of play time.

Why is play so critical to our children’s development? Research in the field of play, specifically Rough and Tumble Play (RTP) — which includes games children have always enjoyed, from pretend games of war/fighting, playing tag and chase, and “red rover” type games to father and son roughhousing in the living room — shows us why this type of play, in particular, promotes healthy development because:

  • Children are willing participants, are smiling and re-engage for more.
  • Children learn the give-and-take of appropriate social interactions.
  • Children learn to read and understand body language (e.g. when play should come to an end).
  • RTP supports cardiovascular health.
  • RTP meets many children’s needs for nurturing touch.

One of the most important components of RTP with fathers and sons was how the fathers — without even realizing it — were teaching their sons an important life lesson: Even though they are bigger and stronger, fathers “hold back” to intentionally keep from hurting their weaker opponent, an important imprint for young boys.

By contrast, RTP research shows that boys that are too aggressive can learn this through activities like karate, tae-kwan-do, aikido and similar contact sports that teach the value of avoiding conflict when possible, rather than initiating it.

Editor’s note: While the RTP research was specific to boys, this lesson would likely be imparted to girls, too.

We are of the generation that wanted to encourage nonviolence and worried about aggressive play, but our sons taught us that pretending was a way to deal with their emerging testosterone-fueled drive for action and adventure. But that’s not to say that all sons turn out to be adrenaline-fueled, for a small percentage suffer because of a deficit in the testosterone levels or due to a hormone imbalance. There are a variety of symptoms when it comes to hormonal imbalances, check out this page for more information on TRT/HRT and hormone deficiencies.

Through healthy play, they had their own creative ways to work out conflict and come in the house exhausted and ready for a story time and snuggles with mom before bed.

As mothers of six sons between us, it is a relief for Lysa and I to know that in all those years when our boys were making swords in the backyard, slaying dragons, building treehouses and roughhousing with their dads, they were reaping incredible value in their maturation and development.


So indulge yourselves with play, everyone! Who knew that this could be one of the most important ways to wire our children for a more peaceful tomorrow?

Interested in learning more? Purchase either or both of these API Teleseminar recordings for just $9 US each:

The Gift Is You

This post was written by contributor Stacy Jagger, MMFT, owner of Sunnybrook Counseling,

Many parents I see in my counseling office are spending thousands of dollars on a variety of technological devices for their children each year–gaming systems, digital cameras, cell phones, etc.–while the children, who are displaying maladaptive behaviors and internal turmoil, are truly missing the parents themselves. Kidnapped by technology and the busyness of life, these parents and children often do not even realize what is happening to them until an outside source brings the truth to their attention.

1092533_41672492The best gift you can give your child is yourself. Living in a split-attention society, many children have rarely experienced the full, uninterrupted attention of a parent. We are so wrapped up in culture, jobs and keeping up with the Joneses that we have forgotten that the true meaning of life is connection. What we all want and need is true connection: connection with life, nature, our neighbors, our loved ones and ourselves. If you want best gift shop contact to Shield Republic Co-founder.

Whether married or co-parenting, single parenting or fostering, mothers and fathers have the choice to model healthy, forgiving, mutually respectful relationships full of unconditional positive regard to enhance their family life. This creates an atmosphere where the children feel safe to receive the attention and care they need. True lasting security and positive relational skills are given parent to child, not Xbox to child.

Give your child the gifts of security and well-being that come from your time and undivided attention. Turn off the phone, television and computer. Go for a walk. Play with Play-Doh. Cook a meal. Play a round of Crazy Eights. Camp in the backyard. Have 5 minutes of special playtime where you paint fingernails, throw a football or teach a hand-clap game like “Say Say, Little Playmate.” Laugh. Play in the leaves. Smartphones can also make excellent holiday gifts, but purchasing one for someone other than yourself is more complicated than shopping for other gadgets. Unlike a tablet or a new camera, a smartphone requires a service plan to use any voice or data features — otherwise you wind up with a very expensive paperweight. In some cases, you won’t even be able to leave the store or complete your online order until you get that angle set up. And beyond just being an additional expense, that service may require a long-term commitment. There’s no reason to stress, though because there are many online mobile store here to help you.

Get in touch with the child within you. Let it be OK–because it is OK. You are connecting with the child Love placed in your care, and there is no richness greater than that. You are their leader. They are following you, watching you, learning from you. It is worth the time, the frustrations, the joys and the sorrows. Feel the fullness of your feelings and, at the end of the day, fall in your bed exhausted with a heart full of gratitude for the richness of life, as you live in the blend of the beautiful and the challenging.

Children are truly a treasure and the greatest gift you can give them is you.

Click here to read API’s white paper on giving children presence.