The power of playful parenting

When children develop strong, playful bonds with parents and caregivers, the benefits last a lifetime. Here’s why it’s always worth getting more play in every day.

Father holding his smiling baby daughter into the camera

A child’s first playmates set the scene for a lifetime of learning

Over a little one’s first three years, their brains develop faster than they ever will again—making a million neural connections every second. They’ll supercharge that growth by doing what comes naturally: playing.

As parents and caregivers, you have a vital role in that process. By giving children space to play, you help them hone essential skills they’ll use forever: from problem-solving and physical co-ordination to managing their feelings. And when you play together, you take it to the next level. You create a loving connection that feeds their minds and feelings just like healthy meals build strong bones and muscles. Forming those bonds from their earliest days helps children become happier, healthier, more well-adjusted grown-ups themselves.


Playful parenting is a two-way street

The real magic happens when you respond to each other. When your baby smiles at your funny faces. Or you’re the first customer in your four-year-old’s make-believe shop. Child development experts call it ‘serve-and-return’—a back and forth that helps children know they’re safe, cared for, listened to.

And they’re not the only ones getting the benefit. As grown ups, you’ll get a great wellbeing boost from playing more regularly – and you’ll tune in more to your children’s feelings.

Just so you know: you don’t even have to be a parent. All the trusted adults in a child’s life can make a difference by playing with them: aunts and uncles; grandparents and godparents; and family friends, teachers, and community leaders.

You don’t need lots of time and toys

All you really need is attention and imagination. After all, if you’ve ever encouraged them to blow soap bubbles in the bath, skipped down the street, or made smiley faces out of a boiled egg and toast soldiers, you’ve already put more play in your day! But if you’re looking for inspiration, try some of out ideas!


Learn about the serious science behind playful parenting

We’ve put together a short pamphlet that gets into what makes play so powerful for children, especially in the early years. And all the ways it’s good for grown-ups, too. The pamphlet takes its starting point in the nurturing care framework, of which three of its 5 components are supported by playful parenting.

Playful Parenting explained - Download and read it right here

More playful parenting knowledge, thoughts and inspiration