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“HOW TO PLAY WITH YOUR KIDS” was originally posted on Your Modern Family in April 2013, but it is back today to serve as a great reminder for all of us…

It is important to understand how to play with your kids and to learn why play is so important.  Many people ask me, “What is a Play Therapist?’   It is about teaching children through play.  I love my job as a child development therapist. I have the privilege to go into homes and “play” with children. It has been studied and proven for decades that play is important in childhood development.  

mom playing with kids
Why is it important to play with our children? 

Play is fun for the kids, but above that, it lends a way for them to express themselves and learn new skills.  It is important for you, the parents or caregivers, to play with your children.  Many parents think that playing with their kids has to be elaborate and they put it off because of this (studies show).  The truth is, playing with your children can be as easy or as involved as you want it to be. 

When you play with your child, you are showing them that you care.  On top of that, playing helps you bond with your child.  It will help your relationship grow.  You are showing them that they are important to you.  You are relaxed and happy (here are 10 secrets of a happy mom)

Playing with your child builds positive self-esteem in your child.  They are learning.  They can role-play, learn about their feelings, and show you what they have learned.   They learn new skills, learn how to take turns, how to work together, how to problem solve, and more. 

How to play with your kids

Examples on What & How to Play with Young Kids:

  • Sing a song with your child while you are cleaning, driving in the car, or putting them to bed. 
  • Play ‘tickle monster’ when you are getting them down from their high chairs. 
  • Play “This little piggy went to the market” while you are putting their shoes on.  
  • Each one of these activities shows your child that you are involved.   It will build their confidence.  
  • These 5 games, that you may have forgotten to play.
  • Take just a minute or play sight word bingo or ABC bingo.   They are a great learning tool!
  • A great way to play with your child is to take them outside
  • You can take them to a park to swing.
  • Let your toddler or preschooler push a stroller around your driveway (a favorite for kids!) 
  • Teach them to kick a ball, and throw a ball.  
    All of these things are teaching them about spacial awareness and developing their gross motor skills.

Tips for Playing with Younger Children:

  • Take Turns!  This is a very important part of playing with toddlers. 
  • Throw (or roll) a ball back and forth (teaches kids about taking turns)
  • Play peek-a-boo or Hide & Seek, and then switch to let the child have a turn
  • Sing a song and let them fill in a word.  “Twinkle Twinkle Little _____” 
  • Play with their toys
  • “paint” with water.  
  • Here are more activities for your 6-12-month-old. 
  • Give them a bath! 

How to Use Bath Time as Playtime for Younger Children:

When our children were younger, one of the best playtimes at our house was bath time!  Our kids loved bathtime until they were old enough to start showering independently.   
Here are some examples of bathtime play: 

  • Let them play with bathtub toys, but play with them.  Bath Tub Toys can include trucks, shovels, buckets, measuring cups, medicine syringes, pretend pirates, and little boats. 
  • Add bubbles. 
  • Throw in a few bath-tub crayons
  • Give them a washcloth and teach them how to wash their bodies (working on body parts). 
  •  Tip: Use these tips to clean the bathtub toys  Our kids could play in the bathtub for an hour or more!  It is a fun way for them to explore.

Tips for Playing with Your Older Children


How to Play with a Strong-Willed Child 

One tip that I want to share about raising a strong-willed child is to remember that when you play with your child, all that you really need to do is follow your child’s lead and talk about it. 

For example, if a young child is using a truck to push around blocks, tell them just that… “Oh- you are using that truck to push around those blocks!  Great thinking!”   
If they start stacking them, say “Look at how you are stacking the blocks now.”   Just tell them what they are doing. 

No matter what the age, talk about what you are doing together.   Talk about what you are observing.  It lets them know that they have your attention, you are focused on them and you are enjoying being there doing THEIR activity.

Remember that everything that you do has a purpose.  When you are playing, it may look like just playing to your child, but you are teaching them, molding them, encouraging them…

More Ideas for Play



Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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  1. Great encouragement. I think I’ll go play with my kids again:) Pinning!

      1. You don’t know me, but I have been reading your pages and i think they are just excellent. obviously i am not a mum yet but I am not boasting; I always have a great bond with children, especially babies, (one time my cousin which i had never seen before kept crying then i played with him and he stopped and played too, for example) and I don’t know why but reading about these sort of things really interest me! I was just wondering, Do you accept requests? I was wondering if you could give some advice on school, i.e. when you should do your homework, ect., this would be deeply appreciated!
        Thank you!

  2. This is such great advice. I keep trying to get his father to play within and he says he doesn’t know what to do. Now I can show him it isn’t just me saying it. Following you from now on.