Play is a wonderful way for children to become immersed in the moment and build capacity. Their minds and bodies lose track of time and new ideas and thinking can be explored in exciting ways. Ensuring children play with purpose allows them to develop communication skills, empathy and relationship building, to explore new ideas, develop thinking and build curiosity.

Here are 5 easy ways to encourage playing with purpose in your family:

1) Ask curious questions

Questions where children have to genuinely explore for an answer help develop an interest in what they are doing. A few examples are:

  • That looks amazing, tell me about that?
  • Can you help me understand what you have found interesting?
  • How did you do that? Look at that, I wonder what is it?

These kinds of curious questions always build opportunities into play to draw thinking and develop your child’s capacity.

2) Break learned helplessness

To break the child’s habit of learned helplessness try changing your approach to collaborative curiosity. Here are a few examples of questions I consistently use because they have a big impact on children in a short period of time. They build upon the opportunity offered, cement your child’s capacity and strengthen self-perception:

  • What if we tried to solve this problem together?
  • Let’s try your idea and see what might happen?
  • It’s frustrating when things don’t work the first time isn’t it, what didn’t work so far so we don’t repeat them?

3) Remember to laugh

Remember what it was like being young, the laughter and the accompanying feelings.  Remind yourself of the absolute fun you had in the creative spaces you made like cubbies made of blankets, climbing a tree, riding a bike or the feeling of glue squishing between your fingers. These same thrilling adventures and empowering relationships are exactly what we want for our young minds.

Science research tells us that laughter has a big impact on our bodies, minds and relationships. Laughter changes thinking, feelings, attitudes, stress levels and physiology. In fact, when laughter is mixed with play muscles stretch, blood pumps faster, we breathe faster, our immune response is boosted and our organs relax as our whole body is energised. So laughter matters in play!

4) Embrace their passion

We need to find out what matters to our children, what inspires them. Then use this natural source of inspiration to filter in learning through their play ideas. Let’s face it, when we are passionate about something we are absorbed by it! I like to think of it as a consuming passion. Consuming passions are wonderful and have an incredible impact upon us. They draw us physically in, impacting upon all our senses. They shift our thinking and perspectives, helping us see old things in a new light. Play combined with consuming passions gets the creative juices flowing, giving us inspiration to innovate. The idea is to actively filter new thinking into the consuming passion.

5) Celebrate play

It is so important to get enthusiastic about your child’s play adventures because you matter so much to them. Ask them to share and get excited about their experiences. This will elicit more of their creative thinking enabling you to join in their capacity building and celebrate the joy of their growth through play with purpose.

There is no time like the present to embrace a new opportunity in order to see your child succeed in life. Your child’s life habits are formed in their youth, which means we have to be purposeful now. Play with purpose has the strength to set them up with life long skills such as creative thinking, problem solving and the ability to take initiative when they feel ‘stuck’. With their parents inspiring and celebrating their every success, any form of challenge is less daunting and even a road to triumph.

Rod Soper is the cofounder of Thinkers.inq Consulting and Principal at Thinkers.inq. Rod’s expertise and research interests include teacher education, creative and reflexive thinking, transformational learning environments and leadership. Rod is also published on topics such as mindful leadership, organisational change and play with purpose. Visit www.thinkersinq.com

Main image source: Shutterstock

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  • my gosh, i have started trying to laugh at mess instead of thinking “oh i have to clean that up” my kids know that it’s ok to spill things because they are still learning. change your thinking :)


  • Very important tips, Thanks for the reminder to get in there, have fun & be a little kid again. ????


  • I think asking questions is really valuable for play and developing minds.


  • great advice, sometime I find play so boring


  • Great concept I really like it


  • Ugh, learned helplessness can be SO hard to get past. Tips on that one please!!


  • Great tips. I always did structured play as well as stimulating independent play as I think it\’s important that kids can play on their own.


  • These points are so important, thanks for sharing.


  • We used to dance, sing, and talk all the time. My Mum used to take my son for long walks and talk to him constantly about his surroundings, and she used to take him on her everyday errands so he understood what normal life looked like. We swam, visited the park regularly, crafted. I feel I gave my son a very well-rounded playful life before he started school and needed less of that from me.


  • While my children were still babies, I used to dance with them – they are all great dancers now and say they have innate rhythm. Maybe??? But I used to play with them as youngsters and make sure their co-ordination was there, or work a bit more on it if I felt there was a lack. Kids love being played with and beating an ‘oldie’ and it gets them away from the electronic doodads too.


  • Fantastic ideas; thanks for sharing. My child loves music so we try and integrate it into as much playtime as possible.


  • I would add not offering too many toys at once. Just let the child play with one and find different ways to enjoy himself. And play together as much as possible when they are young. :-)


  • Fantastic ideas here. I love hearing of new strategies for play. Thank you


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