An invitation to play

i hope no one... play challenge playlistening Apr 05, 2021

Fancy a 7 Day Play Challenge?

This week my dear colleague Stacy Wilson (a fellow Hand in Hand Parenting Instructor) is bringing a welcome boost of play and laughter into the world of Instagram with a '7 day play challenge'. 

We're all invited...

Yip, you read it here first - modern society is finally catching up with the age old wisdom of galloping around on your knees pretending to be a horse!

In recent years the importance and sanctity of play has been endorsed from all angles; from neuroscientists, therapists, business gurus, policy makers and educators (albeit packaged up in 'play-based learning' outcomes, not quite play for playing sake yet but it's definitely a welcome shift in emphasis!). But where do parents fit into the play revolution? Isn't this just yet another thing we get to feel guilty about? Another thing we have to fit into our day! We've surely got enough to do without also setting up educational, meaningful play-based experiences. When you're up to your oxters in 'messy play' art materials, someone just kicked a cup of milk over with a football and someone else is screaming "Mammy, be a Honkydon!" (a colloquial term for a pachycephalosaurus) it is easy to feel less than light and playful. 

The good news is that some of the best things we can do to build strong connected relationships with our children, regulate their nervous systems, boost their confidence AND get everyone in the family laughing are actually easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy simple.

An invitation to play

Stacy's Day 1 challenge is such a lovely reminder about the invitation to play.

I hope no-one . . . 

That glint in the eye or a little cheeky smile that can turn a grim, gridlock of a day into a whole-hearted laugher fest. Admittedly, when we're relaxed and well-resourced ourselves then such an invitation can bubble forth more naturally but even when we have to dig deep to find that playful tone - it's so worth it. What a precious gift to bring to a child in a tricky moment instead of shame, blame or retribution. And under the invitation is a much deeper message:

I'm up for it and I can handle it

I'm with you

I see you are good

I have time for you

What you don't need: equipment, preparation, reward chart, glitter

What you do get: endorphins, connection, laughter, regulation, more co-operative children...  what's not to like? 

Example 1:

a) pretend to be a horse*

b) say, in your best playful tone: '"I hope nobody jumps on my back..."**

b) let your child do the rest :) 

*robot / tiger / hapless parent 

**"steals my batteries" / "escapes from my den" / "pinches my socks"

Top tips:

  • If something gets them laughing, do more of it! 
  • Follow their lead, let them take charge and take the powerful role (without tickling) 

But what happens if they cry? 

Yip, someone may well get a bump or get hurt.

It'll end in tears

It'll send them high and they'll never settle 

Laughter and connection build safety, and with that safety comes a fabulous opportunity for our children: the chance to offload and release  tensions and strains that have been stored up over time. So guess what the perfect way to release emotional tensions is - crying! Other great ways are talking, laughing, sweating, trembling, tantrums, yawning. The thing is, we don't have to panic when the tears come or feel like we've failed because everything has spiralled out of control. 

We can just  listen

We don't have to fix anything.

Trust the process.

Trust the wisdom of the laughter and the tears. 

'Easier said than done' I hear you say! And yes I totally hear you. I used to seize up entirely when I was playing with my children. I would reach my capacity and freeze. Enough of the fun. Back to something more containable. It's gone too far! Over the years, I started to experiment with staying with it just a little bit longer. I ramped up my own support. Once I realised I could handle any big feelings that might get thrown at me, playing became much more simple... and I even started to enjoy myself! 


Hand in Hand Parenting is a paradigm shifting approach to parenting based on five simple tools. The beauty of the Playlistening tool is its simplicity. 

  • Role reversal (put up a good fight but don't overpower) 
  • Follow the giggles
  • Delight in the moment with your child

Join Stacey (and me in places!) this week for the 7 day Play Challenge

Or why don't you just pretend to be a horse and see what happens ...