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June 22, 2024

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connect with your child through play

You Can Connect With Your Child Through Play

Current studies show that kids desire meaningful interactions with their parents. Get ready ... it's play time!

Learning is everywhere when your child is little, so aim to connect with your child through play while they are young. According to author Sherry Turkle in her book Alone Together, kids are often hurt when their parents choose a device over interaction with them.
In her studies as director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Initiative on Technology and Self, Turkle conducted more than 300 kid interviews.
“Over and over, kids raised the same three examples of feeling hurt and not wanting to show it when their mom or dad would be on their device instead of paying attention to them. At meal, during pickup after either school or an extracurricular activity, and during sports events,” she says.
Distracted time is not high-quality time, Turkle says, while not trying to blame parents who are often charged with balancing way too much between work, home and multiple kids. But you can aim to carve a little quality time together by literally forcing yourself to play with your kids. You turn off the phone and get down on their level and … play.
Here are 50 activities to do together — with your phone turned off.

connect with your child through play

1. Make play dough and use it to make fun little things.
Play Dough Recipe: 1 cup white flour; 1/2 cup salt; 2 tablespoon cream of tartar (find it in the spice section); 1 tablespoon oil; 1 cup water food coloring

Directions: Mix first 4 ingredients in a pan. Add water and mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3 – 5 minutes. Dough will become difficult to stir and form a “clump.” Remove from stove and knead for 5 minutes – add food coloring during kneading process. Store after use in a plastic container.

2. Create a treasure basket
A small basket or box labeled “Treasures” can hold items that your child is fascinated by or that you want him to learn about. For instance, you can do a kitchen theme of different cooking utensils, or things that we use for hygiene … the sky’s the limit.

3. Window Art
Use sheets of foam for crafting and cut into all kinds of shapes or create a fun story scene — this stuff stays and is easily removed.

4. Make paint prints
Use broccoli, peppers, spaghetti, toy cars, cardboard tubes, egg cartons.

5. Make cloud dough (moldable sand!) to make fun shapes.
Cloud dough recipe: 5 cups plain flour; 1 cup baby oil. Mix and play.

6. Create shaving cream and finger paint shapes on a tray.

7. Mold small toys in JELL-O and dig them out; play and explore. 

8. Play “Can you guess what this smell is?” using items in your kitchen. 

9. Freeze some toys in ice and try and have a race to see who can excavate them the quickest. 

10. Paint each other’s faces with face crayons. 

11. Set up a role-play coffee shop.

12. Make clothing pin fairies using small pieces of fabric and a fine-tip Sharpie. Use the fairies to tell a story. 

13. Practice writing letters and numbers in salt.

14. Have fun finger painting. 

15. Act out Goldilocks and the 3 Bears.

16. Go on a nature walk and collect items for a collage.

17. Make ball catchers from milk jugs & play with a tennis ball.

18. Set up a reading tent and read a pile of books together.

19. Make a rock pool using a large roasting pan and tell seaside stories. 

20. Paint a table top with chalkboard paint then draw on it. 

21. Put together a sensory tub. 

22. Make macaroni necklaces. 

23. Make sandwiches together. 

24. Step in paint and make footprints on paper. 

25. Decorate coloring sheets with buttons & other items. 

26. Make edible fingerpaints.
Edible Fingerpaints Recipe: 2 cups corn starch; 1 cup cold water; 4-and-a-half cups of boiling water; liquid food coloring

Directions: Mix the corn starch with the cold water, and stir together. Pour in the boiling water, one cup at a time, and stir between each cup. Keep stirring as it melts into a pudding-like consistency. Separate into different jars or plastic bowls and add food coloring to make different colors.

27. Set up an outdoor messy area for making mud pies and grass soup. 

28. Make a pirate map, a treasure chest from a cardboard box, a sandy pirate island and go on adventures. 

29. Turn a box into a play car. 

30. Collect petals and mash to make perfume. 

31. Create a dinosaur land on a tray using small dinosaurs.

32. Make pictures with felt shapes. 

33. Use plastic bottles to make discovery bottles.

34. Paint rainbows together.

35. Create a giant collage version of a favorite book of your child’s. 

36. Scrape forks or combs through paint to explore texture. 

37. Hold a puppet show with sock puppets.

38. Sort tiny toys into an egg carton to practice counting skills.

39. Make a picture with cotton balls. 

40. Blow bubbles together.

41. Make giant chalk letters. 

42. Make a rain gauge to measure rainfall together.
Use a plastic water bottle; cut the top of the water bottle off and turn it upside down IN the water bottle to catch rain.

43. Play Bowling indoors with empty water bottles and a rubber ball. 

44. Use masking tape to create artwork.

45. Fold paper over paint.

46. Hold a dance party.

47. Put paper all over the floor and have a huge doodling session. 

48. Play “The Voice.” 

49. Play “Restaurant.”

50. Play “Store.” 



About the Author

Susan Swindell Day

Susan Day is the editor in chief for this award-winning publication and all-things Nashville Parent digital creative. She's also an Equity actress, screenwriter and a mom of four amazing kids.