Attachment parenting

Playful parenting with a baby- 5 ways

28 August, 2013

My eldest daughter, Ramona, talks a lot. She said only 7 words or so until her second birthday, at which point the flood gates of speech opened and they haven’t stopped since. Most of it is either hilarious or insightful, and the rest of it involves a variation on “LET’S PLAY!” (spoken exuberantly, in caps, just like that.) She wants to play ALL DAY (spoken aggressively, like Schmidt.)

It is only right; play is how children discover, process and communicate. Play is a crucial way that kids let us know what is going on, and one of the primary ways we can build a strong connection. So I want to nurture that, to be a playful parent. (Most of the time. Sometimes I want to curl up in a corner with a good book while she unravels the toilet roll, puts it in the sink and makes papier mache. Sometimes I think 70p spent on a wasted loo roll is the best 70p ever spent.)

My second child, Juno, is only 4 months old so has no words. But I feel she is communicating the same thing- she’ll shoot me a mischievous look, an invitation; “Let’s play!” She’s been doing it since she was a few weeks old, I’m sure they are born with the same playful ways, and we’ve been playing since. I figure many of the benefits of playful parenting can be ours even now, and it is a habit we can form together that will stay with us for her whole childhood. Here is how we play…

Follow the giggles!

In his book, Playful Parenting, Lawrence Cohen suggests that playful parenting can be led by the children, that their laughter will show you what they are enjoying so simply go with whatever that ridiculous thing is. Ramona’s first giggle came at 12 week, as Tim danced with her in the loung. It poured out of her like a waterfall- probably one of the best sounds I’ve ever heard in my life.

Noises and expression combination

Juno’s first laugh came when she was lying on my lap looking into her face and doing a PAH! sound with a crazy open mouthed face. There is no diginity at all in playful parenting- the more expressive your face is and the more unnatural the noise is the more your baby will be delightes!

Baby roughhousing
At the International Gentle Parenting Conference I had the privilege of hearing Larry Cohen (it’s Larry to friends, yeah) speak. He spoke about the importance of rough play for kids- how wrestling with us physically helps them work out extra energy, anger, big feelings, and explore new strength and physical potential in a safe place. He described how it can be done with babies too and Juno loves it! I push her around with my head, rolling her over. She grabs my nose and ears and pushes at me.

Nuzzling kisses
This is a softer version of the above, and just as mammal- like! It is simply tickly kisses all over and growls in to her neck. A few parenty authors talk about the danger of tickling (you never thought you’d see that sentence in your life, eh?) and it is true, we must be so sensitive. Tickle fests can be hard to communicate within, kids can like it, but very quickly not. And if we go too far it can be a real invasion of physical boundaries and incredibly disempowering. Tickling babies must be done in tiny doses, softly and with great sensitivity.

This is the most natural game we all play with babies. At the conference, Laz Cohen (just what his best mates are allowed to call him) discussed a study of Peekaboo. Parents are instinctively amazing at it- knowing exactly, by the milisecond, how long to stay hidden for to get the best response. Beginning to play Peekaboo early is amazing because you can see a babies sense of object permanence develop right in front of you. One day is is like “Boo!” “Whatever, mum.” The next it is like “Boo!” “HAHHAHAHA YOU ARE BRILLIANT MUM! HAHAHA! BRILLIANT I TELL YOU! YOU WERE THERE, THEN NOT, THEN THERE AGAIN! GENIUS!”

How do you engage in play with your babies?

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  • Rebecca Rogers 28 August, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    I really enjoy reading your blog…always learn something new! I’ve really been on my soon-to-be 4 year old’s case about “playing rough” and how dangerous it is, but this makes me realise that maybe it’s an important part of her development…maybe a bit of horsing around with her will be good for me too 🙂

  • Jo 29 August, 2013 at 11:27 am

    No babies here anymore, not sad though, because big kids are brilliant too!
    I read The Continuum Concept when my first baby was five months old, and the author claimed that the south american babies she observed like acrobatic play – being swung around upside down by their heels… our baby loved it! Ok, that sounds a bit wild. It was gentle swinging upside down, gradually moving to holding him by his heels after first being fully supported. And we were very careful of his little head and neck. But the happy gurgling from a tiny upside down person!

  • LondonHeather 29 August, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    We’re into nuzzling, gentle-wrestling, ridiculous faces/voices, turning upside down – whatever makes our five month old giggle. Lately he loves exploring faces with his hands, which I also love, provided I take my glasses off first. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know what he loves in terms of play, and it’s pretty cool how he moves from one thing to another (things can become passe so quickly) as he develops as it means I’m constantly looking to him for cues rather than making assumptions on his behalf.

    Oh, and loved the New Girl ref. I could listen to my son’s chuckle ALL DAY. 🙂

  • MsXpat 30 August, 2013 at 10:10 am

    LOL cute pics. I like all 5 and we’ve done most except rehousing but then again baby girl’s big bro does alot of that with her, enough for all in the family. Sometimes she likes it other times she doesn’t and she makes it known :0) I have to say its interesting to know the benefits of rough play though. Thanks for sharing.

  • Eeh Bah Mum 31 August, 2013 at 7:43 am

    Glad to know that rough play is a good thing! We are raising two future olympic wrestlers…

  • Kellpops 2 September, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    I always learn something new reading your blog… My little boy loves rough play! His current favourite is to charge across the room at you as fast as he can and chest bump any of your body so hard he falls backwards onto the floor.

    The laughter that errupts is the most delicious sound ever!

  • Spielgaben 5 September, 2013 at 5:10 am

    I love reading your blog, it gain a lot of tips on how to make by boy happy. It also makes me happy when i see my child smiling and laughing. All your tips helps on making my boy active. When my boy is crying, I apply all of these to make my boy smile again. Thank you very much on sharing.