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How to Be a Fun, Playful Parent… in Less Than a Minute (Like Mary Poppins!)

Wonder how to be a fun parent? Sure, being playful sounds great in concept, but let’s get real.

Being playful is the last thing you want to do when you’re exhausted, your toddler is melting down, and your strong-willed child refuses to listen.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, life is even more stressful. You’re stuck at home with your family. You have a never-ending to-do list. And you’re trying to work remotely with attention-demanding kids.

Playful? Yeah, right.

Playfulness Encourages Cooperation

Kids love to play, so when you’re playful, you work with your children rather than against them. Being playful actually makes things better.

Playfulness doesn’t mean spending hours playing games and running around outside with your kids.

It’s an attitude and how you relate to your children, especially when you want them to cooperate. You can even use playfulness to reduce power struggles and discipline your kids.

My parents had a clever way to make parenting easier and more fun. Instead of nagging and yelling, they were like Mary Poppins. They embraced a “can do!” spirit, used their imagination, and playfully dealt with everyday challenging moments.

If this approach helped me as a stressed-out parent, it can help you too. You’ll enjoy parenting. You’ll empower your kids. And you’ll connect with your family.

Let’s explore some quick-to-implement ideas, so you too can become a fun, playful parent—in less than a minute. Soon you’ll discover that even the most strong-willed kids will cooperate willingly.

“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and—SNAP!—the job’s a game!”
—Mary Poppins

10 Tips How to Be a Fun, Playful Parent

Mary Poppins umbrella how to be a fun parent

Remember these 10 tips with a free printable tips sheet (download now).

1. Play Music

If you want to be a fun parent with a playful attitude, play your children’s favorite music. It sets a positive mood and can quickly turn unpleasant tasks into fun activities. And energized music gets your kids moving faster.

Think of “Hakuna Matata” from The Lion King. This upbeat song will make anyone smile.

Turn on music when you want your kids to put away things, get ready in the morning, or do chores. It works like magic! Don’t be surprised if while working they start singing and dancing.

2. Sing

Girl with mouth open singing with her fun playful parent
Kids love singing so transform your request into a song.

Sing like an opera singer, Brush your teeeeth! Wash your faaaace!

Or create a rap with a funky beat and different rhythms. Encourage your child to join in and improvise with you. 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4. My name is mommy and I see things on the floor. 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4. Gotta pick up, gotta pick up, gotta pick up your stuff.

Also, you can modify a popular song, like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” Clean, clean, clean your room, and then we’ll have some fun. Remember to put away your toys, and then you’ll be all done!

When you relate to your children through singing, you’ll quickly become a fun, playful parent. And they’ll enjoy helping.

3. Talk Silly

To instantly set a playful mood and get your child’s attention, use a silly voice. This is especially true when you emphasize words, wave your arms, exaggerate your tone, and make funny faces.

When the room is a mess, you can demand, Pick up your toys! But that’s stressful for everyone and doesn’t yield the best results. Instead, with a big smile, ask in a silly way.

Pretend to be a puppy dog, barking your request. Woof, woof. Pick up your woof toys.

Speak like you’re from another planet, using some made-up gibberish. Pick up your wigglepiggly toys and ooglebosh put them in your room giddleip.

Or invent your own language.

Whatever you do, just be silly.

Related: How to Enjoy Parenting With 46 Tips

4. March, Hop, or Dance

boy running towards his fun playful parent

Incorporate movement into tasks since kids like being active. When you march, dance, or skip, anything becomes more fun. It also uses up excess energy.

Let’s march to the sink with dirty dishes.

Go ahead and wiggle your body while brushing your teeth.

Hop like a bunny picking up your toys.

Why simply walk when you can bounce like Tigger?

5. Gamify It

You can create playful games for just about anything.

Want your kids to clean up the living room? Take turns rolling dice to determine how many items to pick up.

Is your child sick and not drinking liquids?  Have them take a sip whenever they hear a word or name on TV.

Need help putting away the groceries? Play a scavenger hunt looking for specific items (fruits, veggies, etc.). You can even have them count the items for each category.

You can create many different types of games. Keep reading for other ideas.

Related: 10 Playful Tips When Your Child is Sick

6. Guess

Kids love to guess. So if you want to be a fun parent, turn tasks into a guessing game.

Guess how many items are in the dishwasher? Let’s count while we unload it.

How many songs will it take to put everything away?

How many things in this clean clothes basket are yours?

7. Race

Racing is another way to integrate playfulness into activities. Just set a timer, play music, or race against each other.

You can race while everyone gets ready in the morning.

When you want your kids to clean their room.

Tidying up after dinner.

Or whenever. It’s incredible how much can get done in a little amount of time.

Related: How to Make Chores Fun for Kids… and Adults

8. Use Colors, Letters, and Numbers

Create a game using colors, letters, or numbers.

For instance, pick up everything that’s red. Then have someone shout a color and gather those things.

You can also collect items that start with the same letter. With older children, say the first letter of each item, which is a great way to turn the task into a playful learning opportunity.

If you prefer numbers, you can count aloud the number of books you collect. For instance, look for things that are red… start with the letter “B,” etc.

9. Toss

Ugh, dirty clothes are scattered everywhere. When you ask your kids to clean up, you merely get scowls and grunts.

Instead, make it fun with a tossing game. Grab the hamper and have your kids throw their clothes like a basketball. Score!

You can also toss nonbreakable toys into the toy chest.

Pass items from one person to the next, all the way to where it belongs.

Now cleaning up is fun!

10. Modify Favorite Games

You can also modify popular games.

Let’s play “Follow the Leader!” Who wants to go first and choose what everyone picks up?

I Spy with my little eye something red that needs to be cleaned up.

Simon says to wash your face. Simon says to brush your teeth. Stick out your tongue—wait, I didn’t say “Simon Says!”

The biggest motivating trick is to focus on what your child likes based on their age and preferences. They’re more likely to listen and follow directions when the task is tied to something they enjoy. Here’s to playful parenting!

This article was published on Medium.

Want More Parenting Tips?

How to Enjoy Parenting with 46 Tips

Working From Home with Kids (Toddlers!)- 13 Quick Tips

10 Playful Tips When Your Child is Sick

Learn How to Be a Playful Parent

Want to learn how to be a fun, playful parent?

I share this playful approach in an entertaining, easy to read book, Parenting—Let’s Make a Game of It. Written for busy parents, learn how to playfully stop struggling with your toddlers and school-age children. The how-to messages are shared through amusing stories, and the down-to-earth tone leaves you feeling encouraged. Turn everyday frustrating moments into fun learning experiences.

The results?

You’ll make parenting more fun

You’ll empower your kids

Your family will spend more time connecting

You can find my book here. An Amazon #1 New Release in 7 parenting categories with glowing 5-star reviews. Look inside for a sneak peek.

“Wonderfully written and so witty! I am usually skeptical of parenting/self-help books, but I could not be more impressed with this book! It is broken down into easy to read chapters and every snippet is so applicable to many aspects of parenting.”
–Brittney, “The Honest Mom” mommy blogger

Here’s to playful parenting!

Posted in Parenting Tips


  1. Andrew

    Great tips, practical and helpful. Very specific and detailed instructions on how to generate playful strategies.

  2. Michelle

    Thanks! I didn’t realize this could be that easy. My favorite ones are singing, dancing, and playing music. Very clever!

    • Karen

      Hi Michelle, I’m so glad you found this info helpful! I also like the same ones, but I’ve done them all (and still do!). Thanks for reading and sharing a comment.

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