June 2023

5 signs you’re (already) a playful parent

Around the world parents experience increasing pressure to go to new heights to prepare their children for the future. Is all the stress and guilty conscience necessary? Our research suggests that with a caring and playful approach to parenting you are likely already doing what is needed to set your child up to thrive today and in the future.

The LEGO Foundation

You are your child’s first playmate, but that doesn’t have to be a cause for stress

A mother soothing her crying toddler offers a live demonstration of how to create a safe space – a chance to reinforce calm in what might seem like chaos to the young child. When a father builds a sandcastle with his child, he is modelling sharing - a beautiful back-and-forth engagement that is a bedrock for learning. Parents travel through these mini engagements multiple times per hour, rarely mindful (understandably!) of the lasting impact that they are having on their child’s life trajectories.

A sensitive and joyful parent is a critical piece of a child’s ecosystem. Yet the current culture puts constant pressure on parents to find new opportunities and activities to prepare their child for academic success. Today, a simple Google search of ‘parenting books’ yields over 200 million results! And that count does not even include the handouts, blogs, newsletters, advice columns and parenting sections online. Telling parents what to do has become a multibillion-dollar industry, with investors ‘capitalizing’ on the ‘economic opportunity’ offered by millennial parents.

Our research suggests that as a caring and responsive parent you are very likely already doing the right things to nurture your children’s 21st century skills and boost their wellbeing.

Here are 5 signs you’re already a playful parent

From our research we know that only 5 characteristics for parent-child interactions are needed to be full of playfulness and learning – ultimately setting your child up for success today and in the future. And none require expensive toys, structured learning plans or overly full schedules.

Joy is your secret sauce
Doing things together has priority
You link new experiences to something already known
There is room for deep engagement and immersion
Let’s try again, and again and again!

Playful parenting benefits the entire family

Research tells us about far-ranging benefits for child development, child and caregiver mental wellbeing as well as the development of important 21stcentury skills.

Let’s start with the benefits for your child

  • nurtures ability to experiment, test, discover and explore questions to get to a solution
  • invites children to be curious and creative explorers
  • fosters independence and intrinsic motivation, thereby making learning stick better
  • better emotional regulation and less aggressive behaviour
  • better attention and executive function
  • nurtures collaboration and communication skills
  • joy and laughter boost wellbeing
  • teaches life skills


The benefits for the parent (you)

  • happy and thriving children
  • being an active part of your child’s development
  • more content and joyful family life from sharing interests and exploring the world together
  • more opportunities for bonding and understanding each other
  • laughter and rediscovering your inner child can relief stress and anxiety

Important disclaimers:

We define a parent as any family member, caregiver or guardian who plays a lead role in caring for a child.

Dive deeper into playful parenting