Tips for Fun, Playful Parenting

“Follow the giggles.”— Lawrence J. Cohen, author of Playful Parenting

One of the best parts of parenting is having fun with your kids. Most of the time, it’s easy, but sometimes it’s not. Unleash your “inner child” with these ideas.

Tips for . . .

all parents

Look for fun moments! Many experts emphasize finding “teachable moments,” but don’t overlook the fun ones in the process. Learn how to do both here.

Notice what gets your kids laughing. Emphasize more of those situations, and back off when it’s no longer funny.

Play games with your kids. They love spending time with you when you join in on what they love to do. Some love outdoor, physical games. Others like card games and board games. Some like to tease. Follow their lead.

Break up your routine. Go somewhere fun, such as an amusement park, a zoo, a museum, an apple orchard, or a water park. Ask your kids for ideas of where they think it would be fun to go.

Be clear about what’s really funny and what’s not. As kids develop a sense of humor, they’ll push the boundaries. Be clear about what’s inappropriate and why.

• Get more ideas on how to have fun as a family here.

parents with children ages birth to 5

Set clear boundaries about what’s appropriate and what’s not. Some kids discover swearing will get others to laugh. Some will talk about their private parts. Be clear what isn’t funny and what’s inappropriate.

Roughhouse with your kids in safe ways. Kids love it when you play with them physically.

Pay attention to what gets your young child to smile or laugh. Do more of those things. Many young children love playing peek-a-boo or making funny faces.

parents with children ages 6 to 9

Discover ways to have fun when your kids want you to do something over and over and over. After awhile, board games and card games can become stale to you—but still fun to your kids. Find a way to inject some fun into activities that become routine for you.

Have a pillow fight! Kids at this age often love this type of fun.

Cook together! Although cooking can be messy, kids often have a blast when they cook something with you that they’re really excited to eat.

Click here for fun ideas on how to create ways to make eating vegetables and fruits more fun for kids.

parents with children ages 10 to 15

Encourage your teenager to invite a friend for family outings. Your teenager is more likely to have fun with your family when he or she has a friend along. Get simple tips for encouraging positive friendships >

Be sensitive to what embarrasses your young teen. Many are extremely self-conscious and can overly interpret teasing. Connect with them in playful ways but notice when your teenager’s mood starts to change.

Make your home a fun place. Since kids at this age often want to be more with their friends than with you, figure out ways to make your home friendly for teens to have fun (in appropriate ways). Some families put up a basketball hoop. Others create an area for teens to hang or play video games. Some have scrapbooking supplies or other crafts for kids. Others stock the fridge.

parents with children ages 16 to 18

Have a sense of humor about yourself. Teenagers are drawn to parents who don’t take themselves too seriously, and teenagers often learn how to have a sense of humor about themselves as well.

Get to know your teenagers’ friends. The more you can connect with them and show them that you’re interested in them, the more likely they’ll try to connect with you. These connections can lead to having fun times together

Read the most F.A.Q’s about friends and peer pressure >

Food, food, food! Since teenagers often have a fast metabolism, don’t underestimate the power of the type of food, juices, and soft drinks you have around for teenagers. Most are broke, and they like to hang out at homes that are welcoming to them in the food department. For many teens, fun equals eating food they like.

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