Healthy parent-child relationships are built through PLAY

More cooperation and connection are around the corner.

Healthy parent-child relationships are built through PLAY

Playing with your child isn't a luxury—it's a necessity.

Children thrive on that juicy energy.

In fact, the human race is still here because children are genetically programmed to demand our attention, so their emotional as well as physical needs get met. If they don't get positive attention, they'll find ways to get negative attention.

If you think your child gets plenty of attention and she's still acting out, consider that maybe what she needs is a different kind of attention—help with her emotions. Children often end up stuffing lots of tears and fears. Keeping all that down makes them difficult, demanding, even explosive. They need to cry, but they can't quite get there, so they get angry instead.

The best way to dissolve that chip on their shoulder? Get them laughing.

Kids who are being difficult always get easier when they have regular opportunities to laugh with us.

That's because laughter transforms the body chemistry, reducing those neuro-chemicals associated with anxiety. The way I see it, laughter empties the whole top layer of tears and fears in the emotional backpack.

Laughter also floods the body with hormones like Oxycontin, which promote connection and well-being—so when you laugh with your child, you're bonding with each other. And when kids feel closer to us, they cooperate more.

I know, it's hard to find time to play when you're just trying to get your child through the evening schedule of dinner, bath and bedtime routine. But you don't need a lot of extra time to make the evening playful. Just find ways to connect warmly and be silly as you go through the routine.

Does that sound like too much work? Consider that...

Play strengthens your relationship with your child and helps him WANT to cooperate with you, which makes the whole evening go more smoothly.

Feeling safely connected makes it easier for your child to let you go when he's finally sent off to dreamland (which to us is sweet liberation, but to kids feels like being sent alone to Siberia.)

A stronger bond gives you more influence with your child on an ongoing basis, so things will be a lot smoother when she's 14.

More connection puts the joy back into parenting.

Daily life with children can feel like a thankless, endless, grind. But when you create more sweetness with your child, suddenly it becomes the most rewarding, meaningful thing you could be doing.

This is your official reminder that your inbox will never be empty, but your children will grow up. Sooner than you think, you will be the last person they'll want to spend time with. I know, it seems a long way off. But if you have an 8 year old, you only have 3650 evenings left together—and that assumes you'll spend every evening together between now and the time your child turns 18, which is unlikely. What's much more likely is that by the time your child is 14, you'll rank pretty low on her priority list.

So if your child is still young enough to want your time in the evening, why not give it to him or her in a whole-hearted way?

Why not turn off the computer and your phone while you're with your child? Why not leave the clothes unfolded? (Kids can wear them wrinkled right out of the laundry basket, right?) Why not chase them around the house with a diaper on your head, and roar at them like a tiger? Why not have an extra long story hour tonight?

I guarantee you'll see the benefits in the form of more closeness and cooperation tomorrow.

This article was orginally published on Aha! Parenting.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


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