Tips for Playful Parenting

playful parenting image family playing

playful parenting mother and child playing

Q: What does it mean that children learn through play?
Children play to learn about their world. Peek-a-boo, for instance, teaches them that people might go away, but they also come back. Children learn about gravity by dropping food off their high chair (sadly, adults don’t think this is such an exciting discovery!) Children learn about their bodies through active rough and tumble play that shows how strong and coordinated they are. And they learn to be a friend by playing with other kids–and with us–practicing sharing, for example, or seeing what happens when they don’t share.

Q: Why is playfulness an important aspect of parenting?
For parent and child, play is a bridge back to a close, warm connection, after they–or we–become frustrated or upset. What better way to have a reunion (after coming home from work or school, for example) than to get down on the floor and play horsie, or dress up as pirates and run whooping around the house together, or have your children show you the wonderful world they created from their toy farm set or dollhouse.

Q: Why is learning through play important?
We all know that lectures don’t work with young children, and they don’t learn by reading question and answers on a website! But they learn every minute of every day–look how rapidly a two-year-old learns language, look how much a three-year-old can know about dump trucks or dinosaurs. They learn best when they are just “learning by accident,” soaking in knowledge while they have fun playing. After all, they didn’t need flash cards to learn to speak or walk. But sitting in a swing, enjoying the feeling of flying through the breeze, helps them practice balance so they can walk without toppling over. And taking care of a baby doll helps them get ready for anew baby brother or sister.

playful parenting photo of a family playing together mom dad and two children

Q: What is the role of toys in playful learning?
Toys can be a great tool for children’s learning through play, as long as we remember that it is the playing and the fun that do the teaching, not the toy. So look for toys that don’t do all the work for the child, but leave lots of room for creativity and imagination. Great toys give the child a starting point for their exploration of the world. And toys bring the big outside world to the child–a child can’t drive, and they can’t be a real doctor, but they can zoom around a toy ambulance and bring it to the toy hospital.

Q: How important is imaginative play for children?
Imaginative play is the heart and soul of children’s play and children’s learning, especially when they are three to six (but it starts earlier and continues later than that). That’s why I love toys and games that let children make up and tell their own stories (instead of just passively absorbing the stories told on screens). A big pile of dress up clothes–in child and adult sizes–should be part of every child’s life.

Q: What is cognitive learning, and how is that different from a child learning their ABC’s or their numbers?
Cognitive learning means exploring the most important and basic questions of life—who am I, what can my body do, what happens when I pour water from this cup into that cup, why does my sister cry when I pinch her, why do I have to wait sometimes to get what I want? Of course, young children don’t use words such as cause and effect, rhythm and melody, or discovery and problem-solving. But they practice these concepts all day long. Cognitive learning is the foundation on which the more specific scholastic learning is based, such as numbers, letters, colors, and facts.

playful parenting image of father and daughter playing

Q: Would you say that there’s been a shift from cognitive learning to scholastic learning among parents today? If so, what’s the impact on a child’s development?
Absolutely yes. I think that once parents, educators, and toy companies “discovered” that children learn through play, they decided that all toys–and all play–should be educational. But that misses the point. By simply playing–through the kinds of fun and creative games that kids love–they will learn all that they need to know at this age. If we focus too much on learning to read (or getting into the ‘right’ school) when a child is two or three, they will miss out on what they really need to be learning at that age–namely, who they are, what they can do, and the worlds they can imagine. They’ll miss out on lots of fun, too–and so will you.

Q: Is it ok to be competitive when playing with my child? Should I let him/her win?
For very young children, focus on play where everyone wins, or where there is no such thing as winning or losing–it’s just all about fun. But when children first start to play games that have a winner and a loser, they need to build up their confidence and their feelings of accomplishment. So let them win most of the time at first, until they ask you questions such as, “Are you playing your hardest?” Then you can ask them if they want you to play harder so that they can test themselves and see how well they can play. This brings confidence and security that will help them handle competition once they leave the safety of your living room. Finally, when building things side by side with your child, don’t make yours bigger and better–that just makes them feel small and inadequate. Instead, be their trusty assistant.

playful parenting image of two children playing

Q: What’s the role of playful parenting and learning in discipline?
Families who share lots of happy fun playing time will have fewer power struggles. Setting aside some time each week to get on the floor and play whatever your child wants to play, without watching the clock or worrying about making dinner, will make your child more cooperative and prevent a lot of misbehavior. Also, when they spend lots of time playing what they love to play, they feel more confident, which means that you don’t end up fussing and nagging at them nearly as much.

Q: What do you think of toy guns and aggressive play?
All children naturally use fantasy play to work through feelings of aggression, and to deal with the images (or reality) of violence that they see around them. But they do this best with toys that are more symbolic or fantasy-related, like a paper-towel roll, or a toy sword or magic wand, than with realistic looking toy guns. With a realistic looking toy gun, all you can do is pretend to shoot at someone, but with a superhero cape and a stick, you can be anything and do anything.

tips for playful parenting two kids

Q: What’s the role of roughhousing with kids? Is it good or bad?
It’s great, as long as you follow a few simple rules. I call these Larry’s Rules of Wrestling, and they include: pay attention to basic safety, but don’t worry too much; take every opportunity to connect with your child (if they say “bang bang you’re dead,” fall over right on top of them in a silly way); remember that you are there to foster their confidence, not to compete with them or show them who is stronger; no holding kids down and tickling them–even though they laugh they may really feel helpless and powerless; and put up just enough resistance so that they can wrestle hard and then win. If you don’t like the idea of wrestling, try the sock game–everyone takes off their shoes and gets down on the rug and the goal is to take off the other people’s socks while keeping your own on. It’s a guaranteed giggle-fest.

Q: How can playful learning build confidence in my child?
Any time a child masters a new skill, builds something really cool, or figures something out, they get a wave of confidence. They may laugh out loud, or they may have a serious expression of intense concentration as they practice their new skill. I was playing once with a five year old boy, who was jumping up and down on his bed. He was a bit aggressive, and trying to punch me, so I made up a game where I moved my hands and he had to hit them as he jumped up and down. It was pretty challenging, and he said, “What will I get if I do it?” Obviously he had been bribed a lot in his life! I told him he would get “the satisfaction of accomplishing something really challenging.” He thought about that for a minute, and then he tried it, and he did, indeed, get a great satisfaction from practicing until he got it right. Then he wanted me to make the game harder and harder, and he alternated between intense concentration and wild laughter as he mastered the challenge.

tips for playful parenting two kids and a tablet

Q: Do you offer different playful parenting tip for boys vs. girls?

I think that in general in our culture we do a better job with girls of helping them feel connected and safe, while with boys we do a better job of helping them be adventurous and confident. But all children need both roots and wings–they need to feel that they have a secure home base and they need to be able to explore the world safely and confidently. So I try to make sure to connect with boys, like always having a handshake or a hug before and after a game, and with girls I encourage physical strength and adventure. With toys, however, I think that there has been too much of a trend to have distinct girl toys and boy toys. All children, especially young ones, have the same developmental and cognitive needs, so look for universal toys.


55 Ways to Be the Silly, Fun, Playful Parent

That You’ve Always Wanted to Be

We all have at least one characteristic about our mothering that would have many calling us a Super Mom. It could be your constantly cheery disposition even in the face of epic meltdowns, or your ability to potty train your child in a day, or getting your kids to eat their vegetables with a smile on their face. I tend to feel like a super mom for how I am not afraid of playing with my kids in public and being a goof.

Love this list of parenting tips on how to be a playful, silly, goofy parents! I totally need to have more fun with my kids.

Maybe it’s because I’m a young mom, am (relatively) fit, or my personality, but I love playing with my kids. Of course every mom does. But, I’m talking about active, wild, fun, silly play. And in public.

Kids are the best educators on how to be a playful parent, if only we’d follow our children’s prompts.

I think actively playing, joking, and having fun with your kids, create the best memories! My father did play with his kids and is very goofy. The way he talked, joked, teased, and added play into his parenting and his life have created some of my fondest memories of him. He would let me ride around on his back, bounce me on his knee, race me into stores, or sing some silly songs. I also have awesome memories from playing and joking with many of my older siblings. There is just something special about active play, about movement, that creates happy, genuine feelings toward other people. And there’s something endearing about those who can be playful, who don’t take life, or themselves, so seriously.

However, I am not saying you need to drop everything you are doing to play with your child that very second, every single time, or that you should be an immature adult. No, what I am advocating is infusing fun, play, life, energy, and silliness into your parenting, into your life. I’m suggesting you take advantage of everyday things you already do, like taking your kids to the park, the pool, and the grocery store, and imbue them with a bit of creative playfulness. It’s about forgetting the to-do lists momentarily and being silly. It’s about creating some levity into your otherwise stressful parenting. Being silly, goofy, and fun will release some of those good happy hormones and relieve some stress.

I want everyone to find ways they can become that silly, fun, playful parent they’ve always wanted to be (or that they should want to be!). I think as overworked parents and individuals, we need it. So, start embracing your inner child, your inner goofball, and have some fun with your child. Below will find 55 (or so) ways of being a more playful parent.

Ways to Infuse Fun and Play Into Your Parenting

Stop telling your kids to

Stop saying “Run along and play” and Play by Yourself

Don’t encourage them go ahead without you. Encourage them to beat you there. Stop taking your child to the park, and start playing at the park with them. I mean, fun is fun after all, so go ahead and play!

You don’t have to do this every time, as I do believe a child needs some space to be independent, but come on mom and dad! They want you to enjoy the playground too, and not because you got to check your phone for 30 minutes. So, don’t watch from the bench: slide down the slide or climb up it. Swing on the swings, independently or with your child on your lap. Show them how to jump off them; give your child an underdog, and when they are swinging, pretend like your child’s foot is kicking you.

Try to go across the monkey bars without touching the ground. Do some (fake) rock climbing. Show your child a cool trick like flipping over bars, and how you can talk through the “telephones.” Your kid will think you are so awesome. Bonus points if you start an imaginary situation for your child, preferably with pirates.

Come on. Be the fun mom and go ahead and jump in the pool with your kids. ALL the way in!

Get in the Pool. All the way in.

Not only should you go take your kids to the swimming pool, but you should actually get in the swimming pool! Stop ignoring your child’s pleas for you to get in the water, and stop worrying about improving your tan. Get in the pool, perhaps via an awesome cannonball, or an elegant swan dive. But, get your whole body wet, including your head. Don’t worry about your hair: worry about showing your kid how playing and having fun at the pool is done! Once in the pool, shoot hoops, dive for “treasures” at the bottom of the pool, play Marco Polo, host an underwater tea party, or flip your child off your hands and into the pool (assuming your child can swim for some of these). If you want your child to enjoy their childhood, occasionally you have to show them what being a child is all about.

Spinning child is a physical fun way to play with a child.

3photo credit: geatchy via photopin cc.

Get Physical. Be Active.

Obviously, some of us have physical health issues and we can’t be as mobile or flexible as we would like. But, for the majority of us, some of the following will still be very doable, and I highly recommend. Go get your blood pumping. Plus, sports are a huge part of our culture. They are a great way to have fun and be active, all while developing new skills (like hand-eye coordination). And even if you don’t play a particular sport well, most likely you can at least fake it. Don’t wait for a coach to teach them how to dribble, shoot, kick, throw, or catch. Do it yourself. If not, you can show your child how to handle being bad at something. But, sports usually only require a simple ball, glove, raquet, or bat to make happen. And you can have some great conversation as you play catch, and feel good knowing you are working to develop those large gross motor skills.

  1. Roughhouse and wrestle with your child. Steamroller them. Make a monkey pile!

  2. Tickle your child. Let them tickle you.

  3. Blow on each others bellies. I think it is hilarious to when my young children blow raspberries on my tummy. Fart noises anyone?

  4. Give your child a piggy-back ride or put them on your shoulders.

  5. Twirl, spin, or toss them, jiggling and bouncing them as you go. These can all be done anytime, anywhere. It can make a mundane trip to the store much more exciting if you give your child a little twirl to the music playing in the store.

  6. Show them how to do a handstand, headstand, cartwheel, or somersaults, then help them do one themselves.

  7. Get on all fours and pretend to be a horse (or other animal) and let your child ride on your back, neighing and rearing up on your back legs.

  8. Have a race! Chase them up the hill, to the playground, on your bikes, to the car, or wherever. Don’t let them win every time.

  9. Throw them onto the bed.

  10. Swing your child between you and your spouse, lifting them high above the ground.

  11. Help them climb trees, and climb it with them.

  12. Play tag, freeze tag, or monkey freeze tag.

  13. Play Duck, Duck, Goose.

  14. Roll down hills.

  15. Actually go sledding.

  16. Jump! As high as you can, as far forward and backward as you can. Now jump on one foot.

  17. Throw them up into the air and catch them.

  18. Lift them up on your legs or drag them around as they sit on your feet.

Go ahead moms and dads - be your child's first coach! Don't wait for someone else to teach your child how to play sports.
  1. Go play in the rain and jump in rain puddles.

  2. Play with a Hula hoop

  3. Jump rope or do a little double dutch.

  4. Play with Yo-Yo’s

  5. Blow or make bubbles. Look up recipes on how to make giant ones.

  6. Draw with sidewalk chalk.

  7. Play some T-Ball, Softball, Baseball, or catch

  8. Go shoot some hoops and play a little Basketball. Challenge your child to a game of Around the World.

  9. Play some tennis. Courts are plentiful!

  10. Practice serves, volleys, and spikes as you play a little volleyball.

  11. Throw around a Frisbee. Try throw it overhead and forehand.

  12. Throw a football around in the backyard. Do some mini plans. Practice kicking.

  13. Set up a 4-Square court and make up some crazy rules!

  14. Play a little dodgeball.

You can totally make your child think you are awesome by making chores and work much more fun and enjoyable. Here's some ways to do that.

Infuse Fun Into Work

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy, and chances are make him hate doing chores. The following are some great ways to get the job done and still enjoy and have fun in the process.

  • A great way is to play some music! Dance, bounce to the music, sing-a-long, swipe to the beat, or sing into the mop handle. Music is great for everyone, and helps put you in a better mood as you clean up some grime.

  • Or you can start some timers and make it into a race to see who can get their duties done first, or can be the first one to pick up X amount of items.

  • Or you can make it into a game, shooting trash into the wastebasket, toys into the toy bins, dirty clothes into the laundry basket. You can even pick up the baskets or bins and sway or move them around so your child has a moving target.

  • In the kitchen, don’t be afraid of a little mess, or a little food tasting, as you create a meal for your family. Throw a dash of flour into the air. Flip a pancake without the spatula.

  • Have water fights in the bathroom as you clean up in there, or outside as you wash the car, or do yard work. Or as you cook in the kitchen.

You can totally make running errands fun for you and your kids. Here are some ideas on how to do it.

Make errands fun in store and on the way there.

Errands with children in tow are not always so fun. That’s why you should infuse some fun into it! Race to the buildings. Pretend the shopping cart is a racecar and race it fast down the aisles, swerving the cart from side to side, making engine noises, and stopping on a dime. Obviously this works best with a young child in the seat of the cart, but I still think your kids will think you are pretty awesome, even without them attached to the cart (or horribly embarrassing, depending on your child’s age). You can can dance to the music playing throughout the store, giving your child a twirl or two, and maybe even doing one yourself. You can also let your child push the shopping cart, gently guiding it as needed. Maybe even see if you child can push it when you are standing on the front of it!

In stores you can also be a playful parent by pointing out some of the worst clothing, or trying on clothing that clearly won’t fit you (i.e. clothes that would fit your gradeschooler), or by putting on a silly hat. You could try out crazy colored makeup, put on loads of jewelry, and try on shoes that you would never buy.

And maybe, you could even play a game of hide n’ go seek among the racks of clothes, perhaps making it a bit like the Marco Polo game. Growing up, my sister and I would find each other in a store simply by baaing like a sheep back and forth. It was hilarious.

On your way to run your errands, there are so many fun ways to make that little car ride a little more fun. You can keep the windows rolled down on, even on the Interstate. You can blast music, sing at the top of your lungs, and do some serious headbanging. You can stick your hands out the window and wave to all the cars going the opposite direction, saying “Hi” as they pass. You can sing nursery rhyme songs, or ones you make up on the spot (I prefer making up songs about my children, or switching out words to a tune we all already know – my kids think it’s hilarious and then they make up their own in turn, which are even better). You can also swerve the car (small little twists of the steering wheel back and forth and of course only when safe to do so) on the road. My kids absolutely love it when I do this. You can also do fun things like lifting yours hands up as go over bridges, or holding your breath as you pass a graveyard. And honk the horn, and throw things like banana peels or apple cores out the window where they can biodegrade.

Have a silliest faces contest with your kids. Stop being so boring and add some fun, energy, and silliness into your parenting!

9. Other Awesomely Simple Ways to be a Playful Parent

  1. Laugh hysterically, obnoxiously, ominously. Have a laughing contest with your child.

  2. Get excited when you find a penny on the ground and have your child pick it up.

  3. Squeeze their hand when your holding it, just for fun.

  4. Don’t step on the cracks/lines when you walk.

  5. Have a funny faces contest.

  6. Make farting noises and burping noises.

  7. See who can hold out a sound/syllable the longest. (Kind of like the “Most Annoying Sound in the World.”)

  8. Scream. As loud as you can. Just do it while outside so as not to break your ear drums.

  9. Pick flowers (or flower-like weeds) with them!

  10. Lie down in the grass with your kid and look at the clouds rolling by, pointing out funny shapes.

  11. Pretend. Whatever your child wants to play and pretend, join in.

  12. Let your child brush your hair, put clips in it, mess it up, and put clips in it.

  13. Let your child paint your nails or do your makeup.

  14. Go wading in a creek.

  15. Throw leaves up into the air and jump into a leaf pile.

  16. Pick up rocks, and skip stones.

  17. Build a fort.

  18. Make something out of their LEGOs or Blocks

  19. Draw and Paint a picture with them

  20. Make up a story. Tell some tales.

Don't just set up craft time or art time with your kids. Do it with them! They will think you are a totally awesome mom.

Get Creative

This list could go on and on. I realize that many of these you may be doing these things already; or that these all just seem like fun activities to do with your kids. So, I want to emphasize that it’s not so much about scheduling in these activities, or making them happen, as I am not an advocate for forcing activities and events on your kid or over-scheduling “fun” times with them, all while saying “You will enjoy this!” (whether to yourself or your kid). Just keep some of these in mind and look for ways to incorporate play and fun in your life as organically, naturally, and spontaneously as possible.

Because, obviously you cannot do not do these things all the time,, and sometimes you may not want to: you may just want to have a moment to sit on the bench at the park and have a 10 minute break from your child. But, please, don’t remove the joy and fun out of your parenting, simply because it’s tiring, because you will feel foolish, or because you can’t stand certain activities. Try new things, be creative, embrace childishness occasionally, and you will inadvertently create some of the best memories you will ever have with your children, and likely an improved relationship.

Make a friend.

Summer is a great time to reconnect with old friends or make new friends. Bonus: socializing doesn’t cost an arm and a leg which means social activities are great low-cost or free summer activities for kids.

free summer activities for kids - make a friend like a pen pal

Write to a Pen Pal: If you Google “find a pen pal” you’ll find many sites where you can locate pen pals from all over the world to correspond with. Not only is this free summer activity for kids fun but it can also help them practice penmanship, spelling, and vocabulary as well as learn about different cultures.

Give back.

Looking for an inspiring free summer activity for kids? How about volunteering. Help your little one locate and sign up for a volunteer project they’re passionate about! is a great way to find volunteer opportunities for you and your kids.

volunteers or get a summer job - free summer activities for kids

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation: If your kids want to have a lemonade stand, encourage them to donate the proceeds to a charity such as Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation which helps children with cancer.

While volunteering is great, if you’re trying to teach your kids the value of a dollar and about the benefits of making and saving money, another free summer activity for kids is a job. Here are 15 ways for kids to make money!

Give your brain a workout

Printable mazes and coloring pages serve as free summer activities for kids to help them continue building their art and critical thinking skills.

educational free summer activities for kids

Printable mazesprintable travel games for kids, and free printable word searches: These free summer activities for kids are great for keeping the kiddos entertained with minimal interaction with you. In other words, they’re great for that summer road trip you’re thinking of taking!

Coloring: This activity is beneficial to kids and adults alike. Seriously, coloring has been shown to promote relaxation so perhaps you and the little ones should sit down and give it a try. Here are some fun and free coloring page options:

Indoor activities for toddlers: These free summer activities for toddlers are great when you’re trapped inside and need to ward off cabin fever fast!

REI Adventure Journal: Find a whole slew of fun activities in this printable journal for kids including games, quizzes, and “bloopers.”

Online: The Internet offers a plethora of free summer activities for kids. Be sure to check out:

  • – Play games, read books and comics, and more!

  • Nickelodeon website – Play games, watch FREE online videos, get kid craft ideas, find kid-friendly recipes, and more!

  • PBS Kids – Visit PBS Kids for FREE educational videos, games, and activities.

  • Disney Video – Kids can watch their favorite Disney shows here.

  • Kids National Geographic – Kids can watch videos, play games, and learn lots of cool stuff about animals and more.

Apps: Smartphones and tablets offer even more fun, high-tech free summer activities for kids. You can download FREE Android apps for kids on Amazon, head over here to check them out. For iPhone and iPad users, be sure to head to the iTunes store to download free apps.

Feeling hungry?

At many great restaurants kids can eat for FREE, making eating out the perfect free summer activity for kids.

Restaurants where kids eat free

Find out where kids eat FREE! You can also head over to KidsMealDeals for more places where kids eat free.

May I have this dance?

Dancing is a fun indoor or outdoor free summer activity for kids… so put on your dancing shoes and let’s boogie! 🙂

free summer activities for kids - dancing

Children’s music from Amazon – Head to Amazon to check out their selection of free music for kids.

How do you like to be a playful mom or dad? How are you infusing fun into your parenting?

If you still want some more ideas, check out Kids’ Activities Blogs post on 47 Ways YOU Can Be a Fun Mom!

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Wondrous Wanderings
~Playtime Out and About 


Kids find magic in ordinary places, and they're eager to unravel life's mysteries. When a place encourages exploration, discovery and imagination, it taps into kids' innate sense of wonder.

Play is a particularly powerful way to unleash kids' wonderment, which is infectious. Enabling parents and caregivers to see the world through kids' eyes can activate their own sense of wonder.

Infusing wonderment into an family outing takes a little planning and a little magic. We're all dreaming of an epic summer vacation right now. At the same time, you and your family may be feeling like it's an impossible time to get away. But don't despair—if you can't hit the open road for your annual beach getaway or car camping trip, the next best option is to simply open your back door.

That's right—turning your backyard into your own personal campsite is a fun and pretty easy way to experience the great outdoors without packing the car and the bags and (perhaps the best perk of all) no one will ask, "Are we there yet?" (Another bonus: indoor bathrooms. Are you sold yet?) Create a backyard camp by pitching a tent, setting up the best camping chairs around a fire or one of these best camping stoves, and cook up some delicious campfire recipes (s'mores are a must-have sweet treat while telling spooky stories!). And if bugs are a problem in your backyard, don't forget the best bug zappers that really work!

These 25 backyard camping ideas will make your summer staycation a fun family memory—and maybe even a tradition—for years to come.

Pitch a Backyard Tent

backyard camping tent


You can go two ways here: Grab your best camping tent from the garage and pop it open, or get crafty and create a teepee for the kids.

2 Build a Backyard Firepit

backyard fire pit camping ideas


Camping—even in the backyard—calls for a fire (you can't have s'mores without it, right?). To keep it contained safely, a sturdy flagstone firepit will keep the family warm and on a sugar high all night long.

3 Elevate Your S'mores Recipe

a stack of s'mores shown three ways

Next-level the regular s'mores trio of ingredients—graham cracker, marshmallow, and chocolate square—with these exciting combinations. We'll have one of each! Try these campfire dessert treats for a change of pace.

Get the recipe.

Have a Scavenger Hunt

backyard camping scavenger hunt


For a fun camping activity, take the kids on a backyard scavenger hunt. Write the names of insects, flowers, and trees on paper bags, and let them make a run for it. Collect each specimen in the bags.

Drink Hot Chocolate in Vintage Thermoses

vintage thermos backyard camping ideas

Add a sense of history to the campfire with a vintage thermos filled to the brim with delicious hot cocoa.

Get the recipe.

Play a Backyard Game

backyard game camping ideas


Sure, you could bring board games and cards outside, but if you're in your backyard anyway, why not break out some fun lawn games? All ages will enjoy a game of corn hole, washer toss, badminton, Frisbee, giant Jenga, croquet, and more.

Put a Spin on Campfire Hot Dogs

5 grilled hotdogs with creative toppings


Ketchup and mustard are classic, but if you have adventurous campers in your crew, add some creative toppings to those buns.

Get the recipe.

Hang String Lights in the Backyard

string lights backyard camping ideas


Simple string lights add a magical touch to backyard camping. Hang strands of lights from four poles—mapping out your campsite—or hang them inside your backyard tent. Check out backyard string light ideas for fun ways to light up your space all year long.

Are the kids bored? They won’t be after you peruse this HUGE list of FREE summer activities for kids.

HUGE List of FREE (Or Nearly FREE) Summer Activities For KidsWell, summer is almost here, and the kids will soon be out of school… you know what that means! Yep, brace yourself for choruses of

“I’m bored.”

Stave off the boredom by filling your calendar with cheap and free summer activities for kids.

This HUGE list of inexpensive and free summer activities for kids has something to offer everyone including indoor entertainment, learning opportunities, and outdoor adventures. Yep, no matter what the day is like, you’ll be able to find something exciting (and possibly educational) to keep the kiddos engaged (and out of your hair)! 😉

I’ve scoured the Internet, and here are the funnest, most awesome frugal and free summer activities for kids out there!

Let’s all go to the movies…

Movies are great low-cost or sometimes even free summer activities for kids. Plus, they offer mom a fantastic opportunity to kick back and relax for 2 hours! Here are some summer movie viewing options:

Movies can be great free summer activities for kids

Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse: Okay, while this isn’t technically a free summer activity for kids, it’s darn close. The kiddos can enjoy 10 movies for only $5 which works out to just $0.50 per movie! The 2018 summer lineup hasn’t been announced yet… but keep checking back.

Classic Cinemas: Check out the Wednesday Morning Movie Series happening June 6th through August 8th. You and the fam can see G and PG rated films for just $1.

Regal’s Summer Movie Express: This summer movie program is on both Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m. meaning if you can’t make one show you have a second chance. Admission is $1, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Will Rogers Institute.

Tip: Looking for a totally free summer activity for kids? Turn your home into a movie theater complete with nutritious and delicious coconut oil popcorn.

Get Up and Go!

Help the kiddos work off some of that energy with these active free summer activities for kids!

free summer activities for kids include bowling

AMF Bowling: Bowling at AMF locations is a frugal summer activity for kids that’ll allow you to beat the heat! Register your kids for the Summer Games program at AMF where they can bowl up to 3 games every day for one low price. AMF offers passes for kids AND Mom and Dad (if you want to get in on the fun). Kid’s passes are just $31.95 each and include shoe rental. The Summer Games program runs May 21st through September 3rd.

Kids Bowl Free: Find a participating “Kids Bowl Free” location and each of your kiddos can snag 2 free rounds of bowling each day. Please note that taxes and shoe rental fees apply and vary by location.

Kids Skate Free: Looking for free summer activities for kids that are guaranteed to wear them out? Look no further! Kids can skate for free this summer at participating “Kids Skate Free” rinks. Find a location near you now and sign your kids up to snag their FREE skating passes. Note: Fees (including skate rental fees) and age limitations vary based on location.

Tip: Need more outdoor free summer activities for kids? Here are 25 Awesome Outdoor Party Games for Kids of All Ages. Gardening can also be a fun free summer activity for kids. If you’ve got a green thumb and want to pass it along to your little one, check out the best plants for kids and get started now.

Be a book worm.

While it’s great to get outdoors and be active during the summer months, be sure to give your child’s brain a workout as well. Reading is the perfect free summer activity for kids.

free summer reading programs for kids

Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program: Free summer activities for kids can be fun and educational. (No, really.) Just take a look at this offer from Barnes and Nobles…. When kids in grades 1 through 6 read 8 books and answer questions (using the Summer Reading Journal) they can snag a free book! This program runs May 15th through September 3rd.

Scholastic Summer Challenge: The 2018 reading challenge kicks off May 7th. With the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge kids log reading time to earn rewards and unlock activities.

Sylvan Learning Book Adventure: This free summer activity for kids is great because it ensures they’re actually reading and absorbing the information. How it works is kids (K through 8th grade) select Sylvan approved books, read them (offline), and then take quizzes. Good “grades” on these quizzes can earn them cool prizes. Start this activity now as the book adventure is ending in June of 2018!

Half Price Books Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program: This free summer activity for kids is open to kids 14 and under (or 8th grade and under). During June and July, kids accumulate reading minutes (keeping track of their time using this reading log). Once they reach 300 minutes, they can turn their log in at participating Half Price Books® locations to earn Bookworm Bucks.

Pottery Barn Kids Book Club: Every Tuesday from 11 a.m. – 11:30 a.m., join Pottery Barn for FREE story time! In addition, kids will receive a special FREE gift after attending five sessions.

Tip: Looking for even more reading oriented free summer activities for kids? Don’t miss these:

A job well done….

Okay, so chores aren’t the most fun free summer activities for kids, but maybe a reward will make them a little more appealing!

free summer activity rewards for chores

Chuck E. Cheese Rewards Calendars: Reward your kids for great behavior, daily chores, reading, and more with the Chuck E. Cheese Rewards Calendars. Download and print the calendar of your choice and once your child has completed all the tasks on the calendar, bring it to Chuck E. Cheese to be rewarded with 10 FREE tokens.

Another fun way to keep encouraging the kids to do their daily chores is with this free printable chore chart. Motivate your kids to help out around the house by offering rewards like a gold star, a sweet treat, an outing to the park, or access to other free summer activities for kids they would enjoy.

Shop till you drop!

Uh-oh! Dealing with a sudden summer shower (or downpour) and need an indoor free summer activity for kids? Here is an indoor shopping option for those not so sunny summer days.

shopping: a free summer activity for kids and mom

IKEA: This is a free summer activity for kids AND mom! Head to Ikea where the kiddos can test out all the toys in the children’s department or hang out in the FREE supervised playroom while you shop. Note, contact your local Ikea to find out about any restrictions.

Have some DIY and high tech fun.

These hands on free summer activities for kids are so fun your little one won’t even realize he or she is learning valuable skills like coding, crafting, and cooking! 🙂

Free summer activities for kids like cooking at Whole Foods

Home Depot: If you want a DIY free summer activity for kids, head to Home Depot. They offer a variety of completely free workshops for do-it-yourselfers of all ages and experience levels.

Lowe’s: Bring the kids to a Lowe’s Build and Grow workshop where they’ll get to tackle all sorts of DIY projects. These workshops are free and take place on Saturday’s at 10 a.m.

Michael’s: Have a future DIY diva on your hands? Don’t want your own house to be covered in paint and glitter? If so, be sure to take advantage of Michael’s nearly free summer activities for kids! Sign your kiddos up for the Michael’s Kids Club where, for only $2 (which includes all necessary supplies), they can take part in a variety of craft projects.

Apple Camp: Sign your tech savvy kids up for a FREE Apple Camp at a participating Apple Store. At Apple Camp, kids ages 8-12 will have the opportunity to spend 90 minutes for 3 days exploring tech.

Apple also offers a variety of other free summer activities that can help the whole family hone their tech skills. For example, find a photo walk near you to learn to take amazing photos with your iPhone. There’s also Apple’s Kids Hour where kids can spend an hour learning computer programming, illustration, and filmmaking with Apple tools. Check your local Apple store for additional details.

Microsoft YouthSpark: Microsoft offers a variety of educational free summer activities for kids of all ages, both online and in person. One of my favorites is the FREE YouthSpark Summer Camp which offers computer science and coding courses for kids as young as 6 and all the way up to 18.

Lakeshore Learning Crafts: Every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., kids as young as 3 can participate in free craft classes. Find a location near you… classes are in progress now! Bonus: You don’t need a reservation so this is a great last minute or spur-of-the-moment free summer activity for kids!

American Girl In-Store Events: Have an American Girl store nearby? Head on over so your kiddo can participate in fun in-store events including crafts, movies, lessons on manners, tea parties, and much more.

Bass Pro Shops Family Summer Camp: Bass Pro Shop offers free summer activities for kids and the whole family! Dates and times for 2018 haven’t been announced yet so keep checking back. Past activities have included crafts, a casting pond, campfire s’mores, and the opportunity to earn merit badges.

Whole Foods Kids Cooking Classes: Do you have a little Iron Chef in your family? If so, then check out the Whole Foods Kids Cooking Classes for kids 5-12 years old. Prices vary depending on the class but the most expensive I saw was $20. Pre-registration is required for all cooking classes, so head over here to see what classes are coming up or contact your local store.

Tip: Cooking is a fun and free summer activity for kids that you can do together at home. Want to give it a try? Find kid friendly recipes by following Freebie Finding Mom’s Cooking With Kids Pinterest board.

Let’s go exploring!

Exploring parks, trails, and other outdoor locations are great low-cost or free summer activities for kids. Here are just a few fantastic options!

free summer activities for kids in the great outdoors

FREE National Park Days: Take the kids and head outside to explore America’s national parks for free on National Park Days. Go here to learn when you can snag FREE admission and plan your next trip.

Use Trail Link to Discover Local Trails: Don’t live near a national park? No worries, the great outdoors are all around you, and exploring them makes for fun and free summer activities for kids! Try using Trail Link to find local trails where you can go hiking, biking, and more.

Go Geocaching: If your kids love a good treasure hunt (and who doesn’t?) then try All you need is a GPS enabled device such as your smart phone and you can play a real-world treasure hunting outdoor game. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using their smart phones and then share their experiences online.

Tip: Don’t have a GPS or can’t find a geocaching adventures near you? Create your own treasure hunt for the kids to enjoy.

Make a friend.

Summer is a great time to reconnect with old friends or make new friends. Bonus: socializing doesn’t cost an arm and a leg which means social activities are great low-cost or free summer activities for kids.

free summer activities for kids - make a friend like a pen pal

Write to a Pen Pal: If you Google “find a pen pal” you’ll find many sites where you can locate pen pals from all over the world to correspond with. Not only is this free summer activity for kids fun but it can also help them practice penmanship, spelling, and vocabulary as well as learn about different cultures.

Give back.

Looking for an inspiring free summer activity for kids? How about volunteering. Help your little one locate and sign up for a volunteer project they’re passionate about! is a great way to find volunteer opportunities for you and your kids.

volunteers or get a summer job - free summer activities for kids

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation: If your kids want to have a lemonade stand, encourage them to donate the proceeds to a charity such as Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation which helps children with cancer.

While volunteering is great, if you’re trying to teach your kids the value of a dollar and about the benefits of making and saving money, another free summer activity for kids is a job. Here are 15 ways for kids to make money!

Explore the arts.

This summer, take your kids to community events, museums, or other local art exhibits. These low-cost or free summer activities for kids can help stretch their creative minds while school is out for the summer.

Free summer activities for kids - visit a museum

Target Community Events: Target partners with local museums to offer you and your kids FREE or nearly free entry to attractions in your community.

Bank Of America Museums On Us: Bank of America and Merrill Lynch is giving members access to over 200 free summer activities for kids! Yep, their credit and debit card holders can score FREE admission to over 200 museums the first full weekend of every month.

Printable mazes, printable travel games for kids, and free printable word searches: These free summer activities for kids are great for keeping the kiddos entertained with minimal interaction with you. In other words, they’re great for that summer road trip you’re thinking of taking!

Coloring: This activity is beneficial to kids and adults alike. Seriously, coloring has been shown to promote relaxation so perhaps you and the little ones should sit down and give it a try. Here are some fun and free coloring page options:

Indoor activities for toddlers: These free summer activities for toddlers are great when you’re trapped inside and need to ward off cabin fever fast!

REI Adventure Journal: Find a whole slew of fun activities in this printable journal for kids including games, quizzes, and “bloopers.”

Online: The Internet offers a plethora of free summer activities for kids. Be sure to check out:

  • – Play games, read books and comics, and more!

  • Nickelodeon website – Play games, watch FREE online videos, get kid craft ideas, find kid-friendly recipes, and more!

  • PBS Kids – Visit PBS Kids for FREE educational videos, games, and activities.

  • Disney Video – Kids can watch their favorite Disney shows here.

  • Kids National Geographic – Kids can watch videos, play games, and learn lots of cool stuff about animals and more.

Apps: Smartphones and tablets offer even more fun, high-tech free summer activities for kids. You can download FREE Android apps for kids on Amazon, head over here to check them out. For iPhone and iPad users, be sure to head to the iTunes store to download free apps.

How to Rock Your Next Family Road Trip

Family road trips are classic childhood and family experiences that provide memories to last a lifetime!

Our large family has traveled thousands and thousands of miles, in a car, across the United States over the last 11 years, sometimes for a major cross-country move, and other times to visit family, or to attend conferences, or to go on fun family vacations.

Through our many long family road trips, we have learned a lot about what works well to keep us safe, happy, healthy, and entertained. We’ve also figured out ways to make it more affordable too.

Be sure to pin this page, or bookmark it, as I continue to add more content to it over the coming months and years! We truly hope you’ll have great family road trips with your family, no matter how big or small that family is.

Things to Do During a Road Trip

With babies, toddlers, grade-schoolers, and teens trapped in a car for long hours, it’s good to have things to do so cries of “I’m bored” don’t have to grace your ears, or at least not too often on your trip.

And let’s face it. Adults get bored too and need distractions and things to help them stay mentally alert while driving and sitting for long hours too.

That’s why I put together an awesome list of the Best Audiobooks for Family Road Trips.

We’ve listened to several of these and love listening to audiobooks in the car on a normal basis too. Of course, you can listen to whatever you want, but my list should appeal to a wide audience of listeners.

Even kids as young as 2 or 3 can start to enjoy listening to audiobooks.

That said, toddlers are often the wild cards when it comes to family road trips, and can protest against audiobooks and just being in the car generally.

That’s why it can be super helpful to check out my list of Toddler Road Trip Games and Activities.

One of our favorite games to play, and a great way to work on those letter skills, is the Car Alphabet Game. If they are still a little too young for that, “I Spy” is good too, or just singing a lot of songs together.


Happy Kids by Using the 5 Love Languages

One of the top goals parents have is for their children to be happy. When children are younger it is simpler for most of us parents to reach this goal of happiness. Reasons for this include: cheaper toys, easier conversations, and smaller time demands (driving them to events, etc.) As it is with most aspects of life, things get more complicated the older we become. Therefore, we as parents need to work hard to love and teach our kiddos how to work toward that goal of happiness from the start. We want to build them a good base with love so that happiness can grow. Creating Happy and Loved Children Using the 5 Love Languages for Kids.

I have been, or can be if you click on a link and make a purchase, compensated via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value for writing this post. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. Please read my full disclosure for more information.

There is a great book called The 5 Love Languages. It is more about adult relationships, but it can be adapted to any human relationship. My Aunt gave me this book as an engagement gift and I refer to it often. The author, Gary Chapman, worked with Ross Campbell to write The 5 Love Languages of Children. Both are great resources and I will be using their 5 main ideas to give you some examples of how to build that loving base for your kiddos to grow happiness. I’ll give some examples of how we moms might relate to the love language and then some for the kiddos.


1. Words of Affirmation-

For a mom, this could be a loving Mother’s Day card, an encouraging text from a friend, or even that very first “I love you” from our kiddos. Ways you can give this to your child include an encouraging mantra before getting onto the bus in the morning, praise for learning a new skill or really any behavior you want to encourage, and even encouraging words of reassurance when they are disappointing us with their behavior.

2. Quality Time-

For a mom this could be: talking and walking with a friend, watching a movie with the hubby, or having a dinner date. Ways to give this to your child include family mealtimes, board games, bedtime stories, and asking questions about their day. Spending time to teach them skills for future independence could also be included in this category. Feeling proud of mastering a skill is a sure way to build happiness.

3. Receiving Gifts-

For a mom, this could include: “just because” flowers, a new box of wine from the hubby, or a new book you’ve been wanting to read. Ways you can share this with your child include: birthday gifts and other holiday treats, or really any other “just because” present you may treat them to. Just be sure to do this in moderation. Too much can result in dependence and negative behavior. If they get a new toy every time you go shopping, it will be expected and no longer a treat.

4. Acts of Service-

For a mom, this could be: hubby taking out the trash, cooking dinner, or doing dishes. Oh, I also love it when he pumps my gas for me! I hate that chore. It is harder to think of examples for our children that are outside of their normal everyday needs, like feeding, clothing, and sheltering them. Some extra ways to show acts of service for your child include: helping them with a special project or game and taking them to hang with a friend or other special event.

5. Physical Touch-

For mom, this could be a romantic time with your partner, a big sloppy toddler kiss, or a warm hug from a friend. Ways to share with your kiddos could be: a goodnight hug and kiss, a reassuring back rub or handhold, a congratulatory high five, or even a boo-boo healing kiss.

These 5 love languages for kids’ ideas are great ways to build the base for growing happiness in your children. As I mentioned under the Receiving Gifts heading, we as parents need to make sure we are giving a good mix of these ideas to our kiddos. There is a possibility of too much of a good thing. Moderation is helpful, and that is why it’s great to have 5 different ways to build that happiness.

Also, every kid is different. Some may really respond more to one type of the 5 languages than another. Some don’t like to be touched, so the hugs and kisses won’t have the same effect. In the books, the authors have included a short quiz to figure out which of the love languages is more dominant in a person. Go try out the quiz with your kiddo to see which language may work best for you both!

Take the Love Language Quiz Here!<———–

Quick Review
1. Words of Affirmation
2. Quality Time
3. Receiving Gifts
4. Acts of Service
5. Physical Touch

These kiddos of ours are amazing blessings, and it is truly overwhelming when I think of the responsibility that we must help make them the best they can be for this world. Using these ideas to spread love and happiness are helpful, especially when life throws difficulties and stress our way.

I have written two other blogs about connecting with your kiddos. If you want to check those out for ideas go for it!




Learning Style Quiz

By Savorthemomlife3 Comments


Children grow, FAST!

Before we know it, they are off to college and living their own lives.

It is imperative that we choose to be present and, in the moment, every single day.

Present parenting has the ability not only to allow us to enjoy our children but also to leave a positive impact on their upbringing.

There is nothing more important than raising children who feel loved, validated, important, and included…. And that is what present parenting is all about.

Remember, at the end of the day what makes them the happiest, is simply being with you!

Infant Activities

Try these for playtime with your baby! These infant activities are perfect for quick moments of interaction that are developmentally appropriate for infants.

The key for infant activities is a lot of communication and a lot of repetition.

 Research has shown that the neural pathways in the brains of infants light up when they hear familiar phrases! 

This list of activities are all created with simple supplies and will take minutes to set up. There is no need to be fussy and complicated to set up activities for babies. Simple is best. I have done these activities with all four of my children when they were infants.

Infant ActivitiesSensory Play for Babies

  1. Sensory bin exploring shapes with sand

  2. Cloth Napkin Sensory Bin

  3. Ice and Muffin Tin for Sensory Play

  4. Sensory Crawl for Babies

  5. DIY Sensory Bottles

  6. Painting with babies

  7. Simple Kitchen ingredients sensory bin

  8. DIY Sticky Ball

  9. Indoor Water Play Ideas for Babies

Fine Motor Activities
  1. Fine Motor Play with Cotton Balls

  2. Peek a Boo Boxes DIY Toy for Babies

  3. Fine Motor Play with Ice

  4. Finger Painting Tips

  5. Make Your Own Personalized Book

  6. Cloth Napkin Grab Bin

  7. Rainbow Ice Painting for Kids

Gross Motor Activities
  1. Floor exploration with animal pictures

  2. Crawling sensory activity

  3. Indoor “snow ball” toss game

  4. Build and Play with DIY photo blocks

  5. Outdoor Play Ideas for babies

Visual Stimulation
  1. DIY Contrast Cards

  2. Beach Towel Visual Stim Activity

  3. Infant Stimulation Activities

  4. DIY Photo Blocks from Milk Cartons

  5. DIY Books for Infants

  6. DIY Photo Peek a Boo Box Toy

Development Tips for Babies
  1. Favorite Books for Babies

  2. The benefits of reading to your baby

  3. Language Development Tips for Babies

  4. Infant Activities App

  5. Infant Development Overview

Favorite DIY Activities for Babies

Ice and muffin tin fine motor and sensory activity for infants that is a quick one to put together and clean up.

Sticky Ball Fine Motor Activity for Infants and Toddlers-takes 5 minutes to prep.

Super simple DIY toy for babies using a wipes container or small cardboard box.

Sensory crawl infant and toddler activity to encourage crawling and walking children to explore safely-and get moving indoors!

Make your own photo blocks from a milk carton. These are fun building blocks for kids personalized with family pictures.




Spark your infants language development with tips and activities shared by a speech language pathologist.


You can find even more activities for infants HERE!For more developmental information on Infants, check out:Crash Course in Child Development: Infants.

These infant activities are featured in A Complete Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms: Kids Activities.View all of the simple activities to do at home with infants, toddlers and preschoolers.This page was included by on their list of the
Top Sites for Toddler Activities!

Why it is Important to Become One of Your Childs Favorite Playmates

The benefits of play as an adult an why you need it. 

The benefits of play as an adult an why you need it.

It’s no secret that play is an incredibly important part of any child’s development. It’s how they explore the world around them and how they practice using both their motor function and their imaginations. We know there are many benefits of learning through play as a child, but how often do we appreciate what play does for us as adults?

Being involved in your child’s playtime can be incredibly rewarding. You are able to spend quality time with your kiddo while witnessing firsthand their learning and imagination. Not only that, but taking the time to play can be beneficial for adults as well. 

Studies show that adults with higher degrees of “playfulness” often have less perceived stress — meaning that the same stressful event would have a lesser effect on someone who has a higher degree of playfulness and adversely would have a greater effect on someone with a lower degree of playfulness. 

Benefits of play in adults


As we grow up, though, play is no longer the main event in our lives. Older kids start having to focus more of their attention on school and chores — and eventually, those kids become adults who have work, bills, and kids of their own to focus on, and play gets moved to the back burner. 

So, how do we learn to become more playful?

Learn how to play from the pros

wooden puzzles for kids

The best way to re-learn how to play is by watching the experts — your kids. They already know what they’re doing when it comes to play, and they know what works best for them. 

Independent play is an important practice for kids. When your child is the director of playtime, they feel more in control of their environment and it helps increase their confidence. It promotes their creativity and imagination! You can find independent play ideas for preschoolers here

Try to pick up on what they like to do. Does your kiddo like to play pretend? Is there a lot of physical play going on? Maybe your little one is doing a lot of exploring their environment. All of these types of play serve different purposes, and observing what kind of play your kiddo gravitates toward can help you meet them at their level. 

Learning through play

For example, if your kiddo likes to spend their time role-playing and doing dramatic play, then join them in their make-believe world. Join them in what they are already used to doing. 

This also helps you learn how to engage with them. By taking your kiddo’s direction, you are showing them that you trust them to make decisions and helps foster a sense of independence and leadership. 

Engage by asking questions about your kiddo’s choices in play — allowing them to explain their choices fosters a sense of confidence. 

When engaging in child-led play, be sure not to introduce new ideas. You are there to learn and take direction, not direct. Allow your child to make the rules on their turf, so to speak.

Remind yourself how to play by taking a walk down memory lane

Though we don’t want to interrupt a child-led play session, beginning a play session is a great time for you to show what you know when it comes to play. 

Pulling out a childhood toy or game and sharing your memories is a great way to help you access the playfulness you had as a child. This can help you refresh your memory on what it’s like to be playful and what you loved to do as a kid.

How to play


By sharing memories of you playing as a child, it can also help your kiddo see you as an actor in their play space, not just as their grown-up. This fosters a sense of trust and makes your child much more likely to ask you to join them when they’re playing. 

Sharing games or other play activities that are new to your kiddo can help them broaden their horizons when it comes to play. And, for all you know, you may be introducing them to their new favorite game. 

If it doesn’t seem to be piquing their interest, however, don’t force it. Play is your child’s thing, not yours.

Become more playful by being in the moment 

While play may not be the most important thing to us as adults, it is for our kiddos. Children mirror their adults, so it is incredibly important to prioritize play. 

This can be hard for us to do, especially when we have other things we think are more important than play, so we multitask.

I have a tip for you — no one is good at multitasking, even though we all think we are. When our attention is not fully on one thing or the other, we lose out on both. Anyone who has tried to get work done while trying to calm a screaming baby can attest to this. 

Sometimes, we need to put down the phone or turn off the TV and focus on the task at hand, whether that be playing princesses or making a sandcastle. This shows your kiddo that you are prioritizing their play — and, in turn, them.

This also helps you engage completely in the play, and therefore, helps you learn more from your kiddo. 

Make it a goal to prioritize play

Prioritizing play doesn’t just mean putting down the phone. Prioritizing play means setting aside dedicated time in your week to play and sticking to it. This looks different for all families. 

Maybe it works best to schedule a family game night or to play together on Saturday mornings. For other families, maybe it looks like setting aside a half-hour per day to play. No matter what it looks like, what’s important is sticking to your plan. 

By making it a goal to play, you are reinforcing the idea that your child’s play is important to you and that it deserves your attention and time. 

Related Articles


CHILDREN: The Ultimate List of Fun Garden Activities to do this Summer

Summer is well and truly here, which I for one am so thankful for! Parenting two children while being stuck indoors thanks to the rain is hard work, so we are truly making the most of being able to be outdoors all day long. As the UK summer holidays are quickly approaching I thought I'd put together some of our favourite garden activities that will keep children of all ages busy for hours and hours. There are activities for children that love being creative, sporty and/or imaginative, so hopefully something for everyone. 

1) Create a fairy garden - If there's a way of adding a sprinkle of magic to your garden and child's fay it's putting together a fairy garden. This set from Hobbycraft (£15) is perfect for easily creating a little fairy garden because it contains everything you'll need other than soil. Isabella absolutely loved adding all of the little accessories, including the washing line, toadstool and fairy house. Once everything is in place you sprinkle over the grass seed and within one to two weeks your fairy garden will come to life. It's a great way to give children some responsibility and allow them to help keep the garden growing. Isabella has made up an imaginary world with the fairy (that comes with the set), including taking her out on adventures around the garden. 

2) Make a kite - Decorate a toilet roll tube with glue and tissue paper, then cut long strands of tissue paper and glue them around one end of the tube. Fix a string loop on the other end and let your child run around the garden with it, watching the tissue paper flapping around as they run.

3) Make an outdoor cinema - Going to the cinema in our house is a firm favourite, but in the summer it seems a shame to sit inside for hours. This is where the idea to create our own outdoor cinema came from; now if you had a projector and a suitable wall outside that would be perfect. But, if you're like me and that's only ever going to be a dream, then a tablet with a downloaded tv show/film from iPlayer or Netflix works really well. Pair a good film with a bag of delicious Portlebay Popcorn, which come in an interesting range of flavours including Lemon Sherbet and Crispy Bacon and Maple Syrup. Their popcorn is seriously crispy, packed with flavour and each packet is the ideal size for a snack 

4) Play Frisbee - get increasingly further apart while throwing the Frisbee between you. It is a different technique to throwing a ball, so it can take a bit of practice but a lot of fun once they've mastered the skill.

5) Make an obstacle course - use any play equipment you have in your garden already to create an obstacle course. Give your child directions of what to do and then countdown until they can begin, for example go down the slide, run around the swing, kick the football and throw me the tennis ball.

6) Mess free painting with Paint Sticks - Yes, you read right. Painting no longer has to be messy, thanks to the Paint Sticks from little brian. A revolution in our house and something that both girls love playing with. There's no need for water or brushes, you just twist up and down (like a glue stick) to reveal the vibrant, solid  colour of a Paint Stick. Once your piece of art has been created just pop the lid back on and you're done! No need to wait for the picture to dry either, as it dries in seconds allowing your little one to proudly show-off their piece of art straight away. They can even be used on windows, if you fancy adding a splash of colour to your view. The Paint Sticks are available in a wide array of colours, finishes and sizes, something for all works of art. The Mini Paint Sticks are perfect for little hands or adding detail to paintings, whilst the Fabric Paint Sticks allow you to customise your clothes too. 


7) Giving yourself wings and crowns using chalk on a patio area -  Using Chalkriffic Glitter Pavement Chalks from Hobbycraft draw crowns, wings or superhero caps on your patio/side of the house or one of these chalkboards from Hobbycraft if you don't have anywhere suitable. Show your little one where to lay/stand to make it look like they're wearing the item, photograph and show them their transformation. Take it in turns to create different chalk wardrobe additions for each other.  

8) Have a picnic - An obvious, yet essential one. Invite friends over or just enjoy a quiet family picnic outdoors. The key is lots of delicious food, a picnic blanket and sunshine. Isabella has been really enjoying the new Cheese & Onion Lentil Hoops from Organix (suitable from 12 months+), which is perfect because they are baked with over 65% lentils and have no added salt/sugar. Picnics can be a tempting place for little ones, but those tasty treats for us adults are potentially dangerously high in salt for toddlers and children. Giving Isabella a bag of the Lentil Hoops means she doesn't feel like she's missing out and reassures me that she won't be consuming too much salt/sugar. We can't forget that babies love a good picnic too and with the new Organix Cheese Baby Biscuits (suitable from 10 months+) they are catered for. Poppy has been a big fan of their Strawberry and Banana Baby Biscuits from the moment she turned 10 months, so it's nice to add a savoury variety to the range. They're the baby version of crackers and cheese; a picnic essential. The ring shaped biscuit makes it easy for babies to hold and as with all Organix products there isn't any sweeteners, flavours or salt added. 

9) Painting with water - the cheapest and mess-free way to let children loose with a paintbrush. Give them a pot of water and a paintbrush and let them 'paint' the house, patio or playhouse. You could also draw pictures using chalk and let them watch in fascination as it disappears when they paint over it.

10) Make a quiet area - Fix a long piece of material (could be an old curtain) around a hoop, tie strong to create a hanging loop and then hang it from a strong tree branch in your garden. The material provides a quieter area for children to cool down or relax in during a hot summers day. It would also be the perfect little reading nook. 

11) Eat homemade ice lollies - I have a recipe for 3 Ingredient Mango and Strawberry Ice Lollies, which aren't just easy to make but also good for you too! Blitz up your favourite fruit, pop into an ice lolly mould and enjoy a few hours later once frozen. The perfect way to cool down on a hot summers day.

12) Do a Mud & Bloom Gardening Box Mud & Bloom is a gardening and nature monthly subscription box (£7.95 a month), which include a range of fun activities to do in the garden/outdoors. Activities include seeds to sow, flower crowns, bug hunts, flower looms and best of all pretty much everything you need it included. The only thing left to do is to use the nature around you to create the different activities. It is inspired by Forest School and run by a mum of three young children; I always find it so inspiring when fellow mummies start up their own businesses.

13) Make a Peanut Butter Toilet Roll Bird Feed Tube - spread smooth peanut butter on a cardboard tube, roll it in bird seed mix, thread some string through the tube to create a hanging loop and place on a branch in your garden.

14) Paint a Bird Box - encouraging wildlife to your garden is a fun way to educate your little ones all about what animals eat and where they live. Painting their own bird box helps them to feel like they're personally contributing to

15) Do a big Art Attack - This one is so much fun for adults and children alike! Hobbycraft have recently launched this Kids' Outdoor Paints in a range of colours, including whitepinklilac and sky blue. They are washable paints that you can spray all over pavements/walls (or a big roll of white easel paper if you're feel slightly less brave) and then wash it away when you're finished. The fact they're spray adds a fun twist and means they create beautiful pieces of 'modern art' in seconds. 

16) Toast marshmallows - Who doesn't love toasting marshmallows and having a BBQ? The lightweight VonHaus 2 in 1 Copper Folding Fire Pit (£34.95) is perfect for this because it folds up and fits into a convenient carry bag (provided), so it can easily be moved around your garden or even taken on holidays/days out. It also comes with a removable bbq grill, mesh lid spark guard and poker, which is very handy. The fact that it is both a bbq and firepit makes it appealing to the marshmallow roasting supervised children, bbq fans and adults who want to enjoy a glass of wine by the fire in the evening. Isabella has loved toasting marshmallows (and then squeezing them between two biscuits) on it with adult supervision; the ultimate treat. I've also enjoyed relaxing next to the fire in the cooler evenings. 

17) Plant seeds - look up what is ideal for planting at this time of year and get planting. Most plants need to spend the first month or so indoors, so save your yogurt pots/egg cartons to plant them into.

18) Washing line badminton - two badminton rackets, one shuttlecock and one washing line (drying washing optional); everything you need to play a game of badminton in your own back garden.

19) Make a barefoot sensory walk - take some paper plates/large Tupperware boxes and fill them with different textured items, such as stones, water, jelly, leaves, feathers etc. Put them together to make a sensory path and then children walk barefoot carefully between each texture.

20) Press flowers - go around your garden together picking pretty flowers (be careful of spikey or poisonous ones), then use this Instant Flower Press to press them in seconds. You just pop them in-between the layers of felt and cotton, pop in the microwave with a cup of water and then the flowers come out dried! Once pressed you could use them to make cards, crafts or frame them for your little ones bedroom.

21) Make a bug hotel - There is a really easy to follow tutorial on the RSPB website all about how to make a bug hotel if you want to have that addition to your garden. 

22) Create a Fort - Use a washing line, play equipment or even sticks to create a structure. Then throw over old bed sheets, throws, curtains etc. to make a den. A good way of keeping unwilling children in the shade and with the imagination of a child the den can become anything.

23) Treasure hunt - Hide little toys, signs or messages around your garden without your child seeing. Give them a bucket and tell them to go and see if they can find everything you've hidden. It could be timed for an added bit of competition. If your child is older then each hiding spot could have a clue to the next one, which they need to read.

24) Go on a minibeast hunt - On a piece of paper draw or write the names of various minibeasts you are likely to find in the garden. Draw a tick box next to each one and go off on a minibeast hunt. When you find one tick it off; can they find them all?

25) Make flower 'perfume' - Using a selection of different jars, water sprayers and flowers children can mix the flowers and water together to make their own 'perfume'. Alice from NewYoungMum has a lovely blog post showing how she did something similar with her daughter.

26) Create a pouring station - this is ideal for doing on a patio area or in an empty paddling pool. Collect together a range of jugs, tubs and plastic cups, then let your little one pour water between them all. You could take it one step further a have jugs of different coloured water, using food colouring, to add a fun twist.

27) Fill the paddling pool - a summer garden essential for cooling off and hours of fun. Fill the paddling pool then pop in bath toys, balls or even reposition a slide to land in the paddling pool.

28) Open a sand ice-cream shop - Use damp sand, an ice-cream scoop and either plastic cones or tubs to open an ice-cream shop. Your child could make a sign with prices if they're a bit older and then invite everyone to come and buy an ice-cream of their choice. A good one for combining play and maths, in fact I have written a blog post featuring 10 numbers and counting activities for the garden if this is something your little one enjoys.

29) Play hide and seek - a childhood classic. As long as your garden has safe places for your little one to hide then this game can be played over and over again. 

30) Catch the bubbles - blow loads of bubbles (or put on a bubble machine) and let your child/ren run around trying to catch them.

31) Have a water fight - Take it to the extreme with water balloons or keep it tame with the garden hose, either way it is a guaranteed way to get everyone smiling. Why not make an assault course they have to try and get through during the water fight?

32) Make a mud pie - Mix mud and water together to create an almost 'dough', then let your child make a mud pie. Use old baking trays, wooden spoons and rolling pins for that authentic 'baking' feel. 

33) Dolls bath time - Take out a bucket of warm water, add some bubble bath to it and let your child wash their dolls (ensuring they're suitable for being submerged in water). They can wash their hair, get them dry in the sunshine and all dressed again. The same idea can be used for muddy plastic animals or construction vehicles.

34) Do a bark rubbing - take some paper and a wax crayon outside and collect some different bark rubbings. Place the paper onto the tree trunk (you could sellotape it for younger children), keep it still and then rub the wax crayon on its side across the paper to reveal the bark rubbing.

35) Water balloon catch - fill up water balloons with water, then stand opposite each other and throw the balloon between you. The aim of the game is to not burst the balloon! You could make teams with family and friends; who can last the longest? Add an extra challenge by taking a step further away from each other between each throw.

36) Do a jumbo puzzle - Orchard Toys are well known for their impressive and comprehensive range of games for children of all ages. New to their range is this One Dog, Ten Frogs Jumbo Game (£10), which is perfect for playing in the garden with anywhere between one and four players. The aim of the game is to create a giant 1-15 number line and to do this you have to turn over matching cards. It's such a fun way to get children counting, as they have to work out how many animals are on the cards they pick up. There is a number line included, which children can use to help them compile the jumbo number line at the end of the game. I like that you can add your own twist on the game, for instance hiding the pieces around your garden for older children or focusing on certain numbers your child finds difficult. 

37) Outdoor Pictionary - Using a chalkboard or easel outside, create teams that have to use the chalkboards to draw a given 'thing'. The rest of their team has to guess what it is, as soon as someone guesses correctly it is their turn to draw something. You could either have a person whispering what to draw to the team members or cards with different words/pictures (depending on the age of the players) drawn on.

38) Sponge catch - Two teams (or people) each have a bucket filled with water and sponges. The aim of the game is to throw the wet sponges to the other person/team, they have to catch it and then throw back a new wet sponge. The person with the most sponges in their bucket at the end wins. 

39) Make leaf people - I've already done a step-by-step guide on how to make these leaf people, which you can find here. These are ideal for children who enjoy putting on puppet shows or creating imaginary worlds. 

40) Blanket run - Sit your little one (as long as they are big enough to hold on to a moving blanket) on a blanket, you grab the other end and tell them to hold on tight. Pull them around your garden on the blanket for a fun ride or compete with other family members/friends to cross over a finish line. 

41) Rainbow nature hunt - Colour in a variety of different coloured boxes on a piece of paper and go on a hunt to find things that match those colours. This could be leaves, flowers, plants, herbs, vegetables etc., anything you find outdoors. 

42) Make plant labels - Ask your little one to draw pictures of different fruit, vegetables or plants you have growing in your garden on a piece of card. Laminate it, sellotape to a lollipop stick and then stick in the ground next to the plant.

43) Make a flower crown - Cut out a crown shape from card (could even be cardboard that would otherwise be recycled), hole punch a hole on either side of the crown, thread through a length of string and tie into the place. Ensure it is the right size to sit on your child's head comfortably. Go and collect pretty flowers together and then use PVA glue to stick them into place.

44) Animal leaf pictures - Collect a variety of different shaped leaves, arrange them on a piece of paper to make different animals and stick them down. Then add googly eyes to bring them to life.

45) Make your own bouncy balls - This is such a fun and surprisingly quick activity that children can have endless hours of entertainment with. The Make Your Own Bouncy Balls Kit from Hobbycraft (£3) allows children (3 years+) to make their own bouncy balls seemingly from coloured 'sand.' You get four different coloured sachets inside (pink, green, blue and purple) and an orange mould, in which you pour layers of the 'sand' until it is full. You then immerse it in water for 10 minutes, remove for 30 minutes and you're left with a bouncy ball that really does bounce. So much fun and Isabella was truly fascinated! There is enough 'sand' to make more than one bouncy ball, so ideal for siblings too. 

46) Make a nature loom - Collect sticks and tie them together into a triangle or square shape using wool/string. Next, tie the string/wool to create rows going upwards and sideways. Then you can go on a nature hunt and slide in your finds into your nature loom. 

DIY nature weaving

47) Plant some seeds - It could be fruit, vegetables or flowers, but either way it is a great way to show children how plants grow, what they need and where food/flowers come from. 

48) Paint rocks - A current craze is decorating rocks and hiding them in different places, which makes for a rather fun large scale game of hide and seek. Chloe from Life Unexpected has a really helpful guide on how to paint rocks using acrylic paint pens, which you can see here. You could decorate the rocks and hide them in your own garden or find safe places in your local area; we've found one in the sandpit at a farm near us. 

49) Rainbow nature hunt - Draw squares in a variety of colours on a piece of paper and challenge your child to find things around the garden that match the colours. They could be leaves, flowers, play equipment, even washing on the washing line!

50) Shadow drawing - This one needs to be done on a sunny day because you need to create some shadows. Ask your child to choose their favourite model animal/person/figure from their toy collection and take it out into the garden along with a piece of paper and pencil. Sit somewhere where the sun will create a shadow on the paper when you place the animal/person/figure on the bottom of the page. They can then try and draw around the shadow, which is perfect for practising their fine motor skills.