You know that little Elf on The Shelf or my personal favorite alternative, The Kindness Elves? Part of the phenomenon of these little characters is because it helps the parents play and dive into the holiday spirit. But I want to encourage you to think about how you can cultivate this playful home atmosphere year round.

Children have a way of bringing us parents back to a more playful nature. Their true delight in the squishy feel of play dough or their fascination with how the tree branches blow in the wind allow us to channel our inner child. But sometimes, in the mix of work, laundry, cooking, finances and the less than glamorous aspects of adult life, we lose this playful attitude towards life. But, having a home full of play is so important for a child’s creativity and stress relief. So how do you cultivate a playful home?

Invitations to Play are simple little set ups with toys that you can surprise your children. This is one of my favorite parts of being a mom. When my little one falls asleep for a nap, I sneak around her room and set up little play situation with her baby dolls. Some days they may be building with blocks, other times they may be reading books. Sometimes her dinosaur figurines are holding paintbrushes for an invitation to paint upon waking up. Maybe you have a car lover? Grab a roll of painters tape and make a road down the hallway and have the cars waiting for him to drive down that fantasy lane. Have an animal lover? Take the plastic dog toy and rub a bit of dirt on it and place it next to a washcloth and bowl of water for a dog washing station. These little Invitations to Play only take about two minutes to set up but the absolute joy on her face when she wakes to find her stuffed animal wearing sunglasses is priceless.

Children are good at play. By simply following your child’s lead, you are able to see genuine learning happen. So when your child asks you to play with them, agree and be the second-in-command. My daughter had her baby dolls in our bedroom when she asked me to play with her. My original thought was to walk across the hallway to her room to play with them in her baby doll bed. Luckily for both of us, she had something far better planned.

She immediately took my husband’s shoe and pushed her dolls into them. I watched her little eyes twinkle with delight as she starting zooming them around. After sitting on the floor and watching her for about 30 seconds, I tucked a doll in his other shoe and we drove around the room. After about two minutes of driving our shoe cars, she started pushing her shoe to her room. I zoomed behind her. Turns out, her baby dolls wanted to drive to the zoo so she asked for her animal train set out. I pulled it out and the cars turned into strollers as they looked at the animals. I simply was there as company, not the play director.

So as summer comes to a close and we welcome fall into our days, I challenge you to take some steps into cultivating a playful home.

About the Author:

Natasha, Founder of Playful by Design

Hello there. I am so glad that you have come into my playful, simplicity seeking space. I have always had an entrepreneur’s mind with an educator’s heart. I am a nature loving mama of a sweet little girl.  I am also a lucky wife to my hard-working college sweetheart, Zach.

When I’m not playing with Lydia, I sneak in some work. You see, I’m a self proclaimed child development nerd. I love learning about developmental levels and how the activities and environment that we create effects our brain function.  I believe that childhood should be cherished, dirt is meant to be played in and songs are meant to be sung.

I research, I consult and I pour my heart into helping others learn  mindful ways to help their little ones play and grow. My focus is on helping families create a happy home through gentle habit formation, family rhythm and minimalism.

And just in case you were wondering… I can be bribed by black coffee, raspberries and salvage wood furniture.

Here are links to follow Natasha’s blog, Facebook and Instagram!

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