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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 wonderful in concept.

But let’s get real.

How can we be fun when we have a ZILLION things on our to-do list AND our kids aren’t cooperating?

I know, this seems really hard when you’re exhausted and the kids are driving you crazy. Or worse, when your toddler is about to meltdown and your strong-willed child pushes back even harder.

But being playful actually makes things better, especially since kids love to play.

My parents had a clever way to make parenting easier and more fun. They created games to deal with everyday challenging situations. Say goodbye to power struggles. Instead of nagging and yelling, they were like Mary Poppins.

With some imagination and playfulness, my mom and dad turned frustrating moments into family fun.

“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

Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? Well, it doesn’t have to be.

You can even use playful parenting during stressful times, like this coronavirus crisis. If you need help keeping your family sane and maintaining peace inside the house, read my article featured in a parenting magazine: Keeping Your Cool During Coronavirus Quarantine.

Let’s explore some quick to implement ideas, so you too can become a fun, playful parent in less than a minute. And your kids will cooperate willingly!

10 Tips How to Be a Fun, Playful Parent

image how to be a fun playful parent

To make it easier for you, I created a free printable tips sheet. Hang it on your fridge or carry it with you as a playful parenting reference when you need some “you got this!” support. As you read these ideas, think about what resonates with your child. You’ll want to focus on what they like to do.

1. Play Music

Next time you want your kids to put away toys, clean up their room, get ready in the morning, or do chores, play their favorite songs.

It’s like magic!

Music energizes tasks, sets a positive mood, and gets people moving faster.

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

Don’t be surprised if suddenly your kids start dancing and singing while they work.

2. March, Hop, or Dance

boy running towards his fun playful parent

Why simply walk when you can bounce like Tigger?

When you want your kids to do something, make it more active.

“Let’s march to the sink with dirty dishes.”

“Try skipping while bringing items to your room.”

“Go ahead and wiggle your body while setting the table.”

3. Guess

Here’s one of my favorite tips for how to be a fun, playful parent: turn the tasks into a guessing game.

“How long will it take to put away the toys?”

“Guess how many songs until you get ready for bed?”

“How many things do you need to collect that belong in your room?”

4. Talk Silly

With a big smile, say in Pig Latin, “Ick-pay up-ay our-yay oys-tay. This will surely catch your kids’ attention and set a playful mood instead of merely demanding, “Pick up your toys!”

This is especially true when you wave your arms, use exaggerated facial expressions, and include dramatic gestures.

Or try speaking like you’re from another planet, using some made-up gibberish. “Adelinkapooly your toys wigglepiggly in your room.”

Whatever you do, just be silly.

5. Sing

Girl with mouth open singing with her fun playful parent
To be a fun, playful parent, try singing like an opera singer.

“Brush your teeeeth! Wash your faaaace!”

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!”

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

6. Toss

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

Now suggest that they play a tossing game. They stand a few feet away from their hamper and throw the clothes like a basketball. Score!

You can also toss nonbreakable toys into the toy chest. Or pass an item from one person to the next, all the way to where it belongs.

Cleaning up is WAY more fun with this parenting tip.

7. Use Letters, Numbers, and Colors

Make 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.

8. Race

Set a timer and race.

You can race while everyone gets ready in the morning…

When you want your kids to clean their room…

Or whenever.

9. Modify Favorite Games

Kids love playing games, so modify popular ones, like “Follow the Leader,” “I Spy,” or “Simon Says.”

Ooh! Who wants to be the first leader and choose what everyone picks up?

Or, how about “I Spy with my little eye something red that needs to be cleaned up.”

Or, “Simon says to wash your face.” “Simon says to brush your teeth.” “Stick out your tongue—wait, I didn’t say ‘Simon Says,’ so you can’t do it.”

Related Post: 10 Playful Tips When Your Child is Sick

10. Play Bingo

Kids love Bingo, so play Bingo next time you drag your child somewhere. This is a great way to avoid complaining kids and dreaded meltdowns. And Bingo is so versatile you can do this when grocery shopping, driving in the car, waiting in lines, or whenever.

You don’t even need an official Bingo grid. Just ask your child to look for certain items or colors. What do you see that’s red? How many yellow items do you see?

If you want a physical grid, search online for pre-made Bingo grids based on a theme or create your own. Here’s an example of my Travel Bingo Grid, which made long drives not only tolerable but also fun!

bingo grid to help be a fun mom

Put the Fun in Parenting

Wouldn’t it be amazing if your kids willingly helped with chores, got ready quickly in the morning, and went to be on time?

With a playful parenting approach, your children are more likely to cooperate. They may even smile and laugh while doing the task. This parenting style was a lifesaver when my kids were young, especially as a stressed-out mom.

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

Of course, who doesn’t! I want you to also benefit from this playful approach, but I realize that you, like most parents, don’t have much time. And while learning something new, it’s good to get an enjoyable break from everyday stresses.

That’s why I share this approach through a collection of whimsical, easy to read stories that entertain and inspire playful parenting.

Instead of the traditional how-to parenting book, Parenting—Let’s Make a Game of It uses a “show don’t tell” storytelling style. You’re immersed alongside the mom, hear her frustrations, and see how she playfully problem-solves. The book’s down-to-earth tone leaves you feeling encouraged and the ideas spark your own playfulness.

The results? You’ll make parenting more fun. You’ll empower your kids. And your family will spend more time connecting.

You can read a sample story, Pumpkin, Pumpkin Drink. In a few minutes, you’ll see how a playful game encourages cooperation. This game can be used for toddlers, school-age children, and even strong-willed kids.

“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

If you’re interested, you can find my book on Amazon and read the 5-star glowing reviews.

Here’s to playful parenting! Do you have any fun mom and playful parenting tips? Please share your ideas by commenting below.

Related Post: Thank You Coronavirus… Parenting Just Got Even Harder

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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