Why Senseless, Silly Fun is Good for You. Plus, 10 Ideas for Free Family Fun
By Ann DeWitt and Kim DeMarchi
So many families we’ve worked with confess they’ve somehow lost sight of the fun in raising kids. That's understandable: There are jobs to do. Homework to complete. Children to shuttle. Dinner to make. Bedtime routines to adhere to.
But senseless, silly moments of joy are important to all of us—especially to your kids. When you take time to play with them, you’re actually saying, I value who you are and you’re worth having fun with. You’re saying, I love spending time with you!
Many of us have to make a conscious decision to be a playful parent—and that often requires letting go of ideas about of How Things Are Supposed to Be. If you’re a playful parent, your house may be messier (because fun is more valuable than another load of laundry), and the homework might not get done in a solid hour of totally focused silence (because maybe you had to stop to play a game of keep-the-balloon-off-the-floor).
We think it’s worth it.
Here’s what play gives to your children:
- Children spend a lot of time following rules and being told what to do. Play lets children take the lead and be in charge of the rules, the games, the moment, and the scene.
- Play is good for building self-confidence and skills.
- Play helps children work out difficult feelings that they can’t articulate. They can express their emotions with puppets and dolls and figurines.
- Play can help kids become better problem-solvers. Play helps kids come up with their own creative options, rather than simply trying to figure out what a teacher wants them to say.
- Play in the family strengthens relationships. Siblings who play together more, learn ways to interact without arguing or fighting. They learn that there are ways to engage their parents’ attention positively (and that their parents will be more receptive to an invitation to play than an invitation to argue or struggle).
Consider this blog your very gentle push to go out and be more playful. We promise the rewards are immediate and long-lasting. Here are 10 totally silly ideas for everyday fun with your family.
1. Shoe match
Many young children love shoes. Pile up all of your shoes and give your child one shoe; tell them to find a matching shoe in the pile.
2. Wake and shake
We know someone who wakes her kids up with a different kind of music every day: Irish polka, Madonna, African folk music, Katy Perry, you name it! She has a speaker in the hall for just this purpose!
3. True or false
Each person says one statement and other family members guess whether it’s true or false. (Young children even love finding out silly things like: Mom likes vanilla yogurt better than peach.)
4. Make an “I’m Bored” jar
With your child, come up with 10-20 fun things he loves to do. Write them on scraps of paper, fold them up, and put them into the jar. Next time he says, “I’m Bored,” have him take out a slip of paper. Drop what you’re doing and do it with him.
5. Friday night dance party
Every family in America should have a dance party, ideally once a week.
6. Hide and seek
When mom or dad comes home after work, have the kids run and hide when they hear the key in the door. Mom or Dad has to find the kids first thing! Our kids loved this.
7. Knock your socks off
In this game, the goal is to get your opponents’ socks off while keeping your socks on. If someone is a lot better, that person could use only their non-dominate hand, start with only one sock, or wear shorter socks. You get the idea.
8. Be each other
At dinner, swap chairs with another family member and act like each other. Kids can talk in a low voice like dad or pop up to get something like mom. The objective here is to be silly.
9. Clown hug
Hug each other tightly while jumping up and down, turning in a circle, or swaying crazily back and forth. Make silly sounds or say things you love about the other person.
10. New neighbor
Send someone outside to knock on the door. When you answer, the person outside pretends to be someone new (the president, a firefighter, a dog, or a vacuum salesperson).