15 Playful Tips To Help ‘Shy’ Children Shine

iStock Shy

Shyness is a label, often put on children, but actually it’s just a set of reactions to a certain situation. Who has a ‘shy’ child who can act totally confident and extrovert in some situations but not others? Have you noticed that sometimes it’s more about adults not knowing how to react to our children? They might try talking them and then label them shy when they don’t respond in the way they expect.

In her Ted Talk Susan Cain explains the distinction between shyness and introversion. How shy people have anxiety around social situations, whereas introverts naturally gravitate towards being alone. She explains that there is a bias towards extroverts in our society, and that we need to redress this balance to allow introverts the downtime they need. She talks about the creative gifts that introverts have to offer the world and why they need time alone for these gifts to flourish.

Our children’s early experiences and hurts can cause shyness as Patty Wipfler explains in her article here. So while we can embrace our child’s natural tendency to be introvert we can also help with any feelings that cause shyness.

 Playlistening is the perfect way to build our child’s confidence and help to release stress and anxiety around social situations. Below are 20 fun playlistening games that help our child release feelings of shyness. In playlistening your child gets to be in the more powerful role, the confident one instead of the shy one. Play these games for a long as the laughter flows  and watch shyness melt away as fun and giggles take over.

  1. Running away – In this classic game from Patty Wipfler we pretend that we are the shy one. We can pick up our child and run away from the situation, then slowly creep round the corner and have a look, with lots of exaggerated talk about how scared you are.
  2. Crazy Wind – In a variation on the first game, we act shy of a social situation and then a crazy wind comes along and tries to blow us there. We take our child’s hand and ask them to hold us so we don’t blow into the scary situation, then we can fling ourselves inside with our child and complain, ”oh no! Now that crazy wind has blown us here! Lets try to get back out. I hope it doesn’t blow us in again.”
  3. Shy Ladybug From Hand in Hand instructor Emily Gray Murray. A friend did an awesome game with a puppet – a shy ladybug. She and her daughter would help the shy lady bug explore the play space. If her daughter wasn’t feeling ready to try something or play with someone it would be the ladybug who wasn’t ready. Then her daughter got to show the ladybug how to do it.
  4. Pillow Fight or Roughhousing – Hand in Hand instructor in Romania Otilia Mantelers recommends doing something physical before a social situation because physical play with laughter is a great way to release stress and anxiety.  So grab your pillows for some fun pillow fighting or roughhousing. You might want to invite your child to knock you over, by saying, ”I really need to get up to go and see our friends now, I hope you don’t knock me down.” Or say, ”these pillows are stopping me from going to playgroup/school etc.”
  5. Silly Songs – If your child is getting nervous about going out somewhere you could try a few songs with actions as part of the getting ready process. The songs with physical movement can help your child build confidence and release feel good endorphins. For example here’s a list of silly action songs you could try with your child. Getting the moves wrong could give your child the perfect playlistening opportunity.
  6. Hit The Road Jack – My daughter was ill and missed her playgroup for a few weeks in January. Then she felt a bit nervous about going back. I put on the song Hit the Road Jack while we were getting ready and as the song was playing I would complain that it was making me put on my coat/scarf/hat etc, except that I would get everything wrong, I would put my daughter’s waterproof trousers on my head, my coat on backwards. I would go into the hallway complaining ”oh no! What’s this song going to make me put on next?” Then I’d keep dancing and running across the living room with new items of clothing complaining about how the song had made me put them on. I’d end up with hats on my arms and three coats on. My daughter laughed and laughed and got more connected and happy about going.
  7. Too scared to go in – We pretend to our child that we’re too scared to go in and invite them to push us into the room by saying, ”I really don’t want to go in there. I hope no-one pushes me in.” This game also encourages our child to release tension, by feeling physically strong and confident.
  8. Who are we going to see?  – This came from a discussion with my daughter about going back to the UK in the summer when I was telling her about all the places we were going and all the people we were going to see. My daughter told me, ”that’s too many people, and that’s too many places!” so I began to make up more places we were going. I’d say we were going to Spiffleland to see Oogalog and Bifflebosh, and Snookokland to see Bigabob and Hoodlebip. My daughter was in fits of giggles. This one might be good to try on the way to a new friends house or social engagement. We ask our child. ”Now, hmmm, who are we going to see?” I remember, it’s Kittlecop in riffraff land, is that right?” Then when our child corrects us we can say ”oh okay, I think I’ve got it now, it’s Miffmop who lives in Skinapland, is that right?” Our child will grow in confidence as they correct our mistake.
  9. Who’s Calling on The Phone? – Your phone rings, and you pretend to answer a real call. Act all shy and scared that someone you don’t know is on the phone. Say ”oh dear, it’s loola, oh I don’t know anyone called Loola, goodbye!” And ‘hang up’ the phone.  Repeat with different made-up names.
  10. Who’s Emailing Or Messaging? You could also play a similar game with receiving text messages, or emails, telling your child, ”I’ve just got a message from someone called Jigjog. Jigjog? I don’t know anyone called Jigjog. I’m going to delete this message right now, goodbye!” Or when you are writing out an email, say, I’m just going to write an email to ”bumbum,” and then catch yourself, ”oh bumbum! I don’t want to write to bumbum! I need to delete this right now.”
  11. Hands over eyes – From Otilia Mantelers. If you are in the middle of a social situation and your child feels shy about joining in then try this. Put both hands over your eyes and tell your child that you don’t want to look. Encourage your child to pull your hands away by saying, ”I hope you don’t pull my fingers away. I really don’t want to see anything!”
  12. Are they here now? – The following two games can help with shyness, or that kind of half-excited half nervous feeling that arises when we are expecting guests. They are lots of fun even if your child is rarely shy. Tell your child you thought you heard a knock and go and answer the door. Then say ”oh nobody’s there. Lets just look a little further.” Go outside on the front door step/garden/hallway, and tell your child you just need to take a look, and then walk along for a bit looking for them, then suddenly act all shy and say quick, lets run inside, they might be coming and see us!”
  13. Someone’s Knocking On The Door song – This morning we were just getting ready for our friend John who was coming to stay. I began making up a silly song, that went like this, ”someone’s knowing on the door now, is it John knowing on the door now?” Then I’d run to the door and open it and nobody would be there. My daughter would laugh and think how silly I was then.”Then I began singing, ”Someone’s knowing on the fridge now, is it John’s knocking on the fridge now?” and I’d open the fridge door. Then I’d sing that ”somebody’s knocking on the balcony door, John must have jumped off a cloud and landed on our balcony.” I repeated it with cupboard doors, the oven, dishwasher, freezer. My daughter found this very funny. You might even be able to try it without singing!
  14. Wild Teddy – We went on holiday recently with a wild teddy. The ‘wild’ teddy would do things like try to go up to the ticket collector on the train to get his own ticket, or try to check in at the hotel, or order drinks in a cafe. My daughter had a lot of fun chasing wild teddy to stop him from taking over and doing things for himself. This is a fun game to release tension if your child feels edgy around strangers who might interact with your child. Perhaps wild teddy can say, ”I’m just going to talk to the lady at the check in desk.” You can act all flustered and say, ”Oh no wild teddy! You can’t talk to her,” and then you can involve your child in chasing after him to stop him.  This can release some of the tension and embarrassment that occurs when strangers try to interact with your child.
  15. Wild Imaginary Friend – You can try a similar thing with your child by inventing a ‘wild imaginary friend.’ This gives you lots of scope and freedom as the wild imaginary friend can do pretty much anything. So perhaps the wild imaginary friend starts dancing at a playgroup or goes into a shop and tries to buy a new pair of shoes. You can have lots of fun and giggles chasing the imaginary friend and getting them to stop, and be more ‘sensible.’ This can help your child relax and feel safe to step out of their comfort zone.

I hope you find this list useful. For many of us parents using fun games in social situations can be a little nerve-wracking, especially if we’re on the shy side too. Listening time can  help us talk about what makes it hard, and our own chilldhood experiences of being shy. Then we can grow in confidence together with our children. If you’d like to share how you get on with these games I’d love to hear from you!

For more playful solutions to family challenges check out my Giggle Parenting Archives.

Playful Parenting by Dr. Lawrence Cohen is also packed full of ways to transform our parenting with laughter. 

The Real Reason Our Children Misbehave


A few weeks ago my daughter had to go to the doctor to get a blood test. A receptionist came to hold her arm as the doctor took the blood. He kept telling my daughter how ‘good’ and ‘strong’ she was because she didn’t cry.

All the while I was looking at her face and seeing the fear, confusion and pain she was feeling. I knew that she wasn’t keeping quiet because she was ‘strong’ but because she was too scared to express herself. I also knew that those cries that we weren’t hearing in the doctor’s surgery were going to come out later.

A week or so passed and my daughter started randomly just coming up to me and pushing me. It happened a few times before I thought ”this is different.” She’s been through a few aggressive phases, which I’ve always been able to help her out of thanks to Hand in Hand Parenting. Where had this one come from?

Then one day we were playing doctor, and she started pinching me and telling me it wouldn’t hurt. Suddenly I realised where the pushing had come from. This was her way of telling me about the fear and upset she’d experienced in the doctor’s surgery.

In all the parenting information out there, we hear a lot about setting firm limits so our children learn right or wrong, about using time out, or teaching consequences. However as much as children need limits (set in a compassionate way) they also need us to look a little deeper at the real reasons behind their behaviour.

Thirty years ago Patty Wipfler, the founder of Hand in Hand parenting made a revolutionary discovery. Guess what? Our children are born, naturally good, loving and co-operative, they don’t want to hurt each other, fight or have trouble sharing. It’s just that sometimes their hurt feelings get in the way.

When children experience hurt or upset, they need to process the fear and helplessness they feel. They have a natural healing process for doing so. When children cry stress hormones are released through the tears. Laughter, and connection, also play an important part.

Nowadays Patty Wipfler’s discovery is supported by the latest brain science. When children get upset, or disconnected their limbic system – the emotional part of the brain senses an ’emotional emergency.’ In those moments the pre-frontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for rational behaviour, and reasoning, just can’t function well.  In these emotional moments they lack the ability to control their behaviour. When children are upset they literally forget that it’s wrong to hit, or to snatch toys from another child.

This is the real reason behind children’s ‘misbehaviour.’ The hurt feelings that get in the way of their thinking. It’s why time out and giving consequences are ineffective because they don’t get to the root cause.

Toddler aggression, or sharing struggles are often thought of as being normal developmental phases that we can simply wait for our children to grow out of. However this actually does our children a great disservice. My daughter pushing me wasn’t simply ‘normal.’ It was part of her way of telling me, ”hey, I got hurt, and I’m not thinking well now. I need to tell you a story about what happened through play, and I need to laugh and cry with you to get it out of my system”

Think of all the times are children get persuaded or distracted out of their tears by well-meaning adults before they’ve finished crying. Think of all the little, and big moments in their lives where they got scared, or confused. Stress in pregnancy, a difficult birth, or just the everyday experiences of being in this world. For a baby even a stranger picking them up, or coming close while they are lying in pram can be frightening. All these experiences can gather up and manifest as behavioural difficulties.

So when we set limits with our children on their behaviour, lets do so gently and compassionately. We can be firm about keeping everyone safe so siblings or friends don’t get hurt. We can also understand the brain science of why our children can’t control their behaviour, but that we can do something to help them out of it. We can tell our children, ”I’m sorry you feel so bad. I can listen to you if you need to cry.”

Need more help with aggression? Check out Hand in Hand parenting’s online self study course No More Hitting.

5 Sleep Secrets For Peaceful Nights


Sleep advice for babies and toddlers usually comes in two forms. There is the strict ‘cry it out’ approach where we leave children alone till they learn we won’t respond at night, or the more gentle ‘wait it out’ approach where we simply wait until they naturally start sleeping through the night.

Neither of these approaches tend to be that affective. If we ‘cry it out’, research has found it’s simply a short term fix that results in more sleep disturbances further down the line. If we ‘wait it out’ our babies may also continue to wake regularly into the toddler years and beyond.

Most of the sleep advice out there doesn’t mention the major reason babies, and toddlers (and adults too!) have difficulty sleeping – stress and emotional tension. This unspoken cause is the reason that so many parents struggle with sleep.

Here are the 5 sleep secrets that most sleep advice doesn’t take into account. Follow these tips for peaceful nights.

  1. Children need a close sense of connection in order to sleep well. Children experience sleep as a separation, even if they sleep right next to us. They need a strong sense of connection in order to feel safe to let go into sleep. Try some special time as part of your evening routine. Spend 10-15 minutes 1-1 one with your baby or toddler, doing something of their choice. Whether it’s simply lying on a playmat together gazing at the ceiling or joining them in their explorations, being there while they take the lead helps them internalise a sense of connection to you, that keeps them feeling safe to sleep through the night.
  2. Upset feelings can cause babies and toddlers to wake – The emotional part of our human brain is fully formed even before a baby is born. So babies fully feel a wide spectrum of emotions, and experience stress and tension, during pregnancy, birth, and in the early days of their lives. Babies, and children have a natural healing process for releasing stress and tension through crying and stress hormones are contained in tears. When babies or toddlers  cry or tantrum for what appears to be no apparent reason, (or a very small reason!) they are often releasing stress and upset. Because the healing power of tears isn’t widely understood many parents try to stop their children from crying, through distraction, ignoring, or ‘shhhing.’ Sometimes there are times your baby just needs you to listen to them, and stay close. Doing so can help them release the feelings that cause them to wake at night.
  3. Laughter is the best natural sleeping pill – Laughter has been found to cause the brain to release melatonin – the hormone that induces sleep. It’s also nature’s way of releasing the stress and tension that interfere with sleep. Most sleep advice focuses on ‘winding children down,’ and this is where we make things much hard for ourselves. We actually need to ‘wind children up!’ and get some laughter and fun flowing so that they can naturally regulate their own sleep. If you don’t have giggles in your bedtime routine you should add them now!
  4. Early Waking isn’t inevitable – Early waking is so common for babies and children that many parents feel it’s just an inevitable part of parenting. Ever woken at 4am in the morning with your brain whirring and being unable to get back to sleep? This happens with children too. Listening to their feelings whenever they arise during the day can help them to process them so they don’t interrupt their sleep in the early hours.
  5. You don’t need a strict routine for your children to sleep well – Routine is often presented as the most important factor for getting children to sleep well. However as much as we have a natural rhythm to our days it’s not the ‘be all and end all’ when it comes to sleep. Connection and listening are much more important factors. When we connect with our children, and listen to their feelings on a regular basis both in the day and night, they will naturally sleep well.

Would you like to learn more about the Hand in Hand parenting approach to sleep struggles? Check out the online self-study course Helping Young Children Sleep 

Laughter Lists


Are you looking for a laughter-solution to your family challenges? Below are the lists I’ve come up with so far for playful solutions to our everyday parenting solutions.

Have you got an issue you’d like to dissolve with fun and laughter? I’m taking requests for future lists so just leave me a comment 🙂

10 Ways Laughter Can Transform Your Day 

20 Playful Ways To Heal Aggression 

20 Playful Ways To Heal Separation Anxiety

20 Playful Ways To Help Picky Eaters 

25 Tips For Having Fun Tidying Up With Kids




How Giving Up Caffeine Transformed My Parenting


The first time I gave up caffeine it was by mistake. I’d bought a jar of instant decaf and didn’t realise till weeks later. It’s funny I hadn’t noticed any side effects apart from being slightly slower to get going in the morning. Without the awareness I was actually giving up it was relatively pain free.

That was over ten years ago, and when I suddenly realised I rushed out to the shop to get some proper caffeinated coffee. After drinking some I felt jittery and nervous, and realised that this was what caffeine was doing to me. I was so used to the feeling I had never even noticed till then. Anyway I decided to give up properly considering the placebo effect had worked so well for me and I didn’t like that anxious feeling now I’d become aware of it.

A few years later I moved to Vietnam where I enjoyed lots of real, strong green tea. Pretty soon I was upping my dosage, and getting that nervous, jittery feeling again. When I left Vietnam I decided to give up. I didn’t have any caffeine until I became a new mum and would have tired days, days where my daughter was napping and I’d suddenly have the chance to write but wouldn’t have the energy without caffeine. Or days when I’d go and try a new baby-group and felt like I needed an energy boost to cope with a room full of parents I’d never met before.

Then I started my training to become a Hand in Hand parenting instructor and tried listening partnerships for the first time. I found that they were such a powerful way to restore my energy that I didn’t need caffeine anymore. Since talking about my emotions was a natural boost I also began to wonder if my caffeine addiction was about giving me ‘energy’ or more to do with masking my emotions so I could get through the day. Now I had an outlet I could finally let them go instead of simply managing them.

A year or so later my grandmother died and my caffeine intake rose again. Even with lots of extra listening time, I needed something to keep my emotions under control so that I could cope with looking after my daughter and get through the day. Shortly after that I got a book deal and I became completely focused on meeting my deadline. I tried writing without caffeine, and couldn’t cope with all the anxious feelings about getting it done on time, or if it was any good.

When it was finished the time seemed right to give up caffeine. I was aware that it was much easier for me to be in the moment, to play with my daughter, and do playlistening with her, when I wasn’t all revved up with caffeine. But could I really write without caffeine? The clincher was meeting a friend who told me there was a  study that showed that people on caffeine are no more productive than those who are not.

So I gave up just after Christmas. I was lucky that we had a few days extra holiday so we could have a mini ‘staycation’ where I could completely rest, and listen to my body. And though it was hard at first it got easier. And I began to notice all sorts of surprising benefits.

  1. I had more energy – I could actually jump out of bed in the morning and do some pilates or meditation to give myself a natural energy boost. (I must admit though, after a stressful few weeks this benefit is wearing off!)
  2. I was much more relaxed – Before giving up I’d had this sense that I just wanted the world to slow down. Then I suddenly realised that I was speeding up my body with caffeine to try and keep pace with the busy world, and that actually the first step to slowing down, was simply to give up. I felt like I could never really deeply rest, until I got rid of this substance in my body that was revving me up.
  3. I could be in the moment with my daughter – I could play with my daughter much more easily, without dashing around thinking about cooking, tidying or my facebook notifications. I could just chill out, and lose myself in play with her, slowing down to her pace.
  4. I could think up lots of playlistening games – When my grandmother died I kind of lost touch with my natural instinct to play. I couldn’t think of fun games that made my daughter laugh. Giving up caffeine helped me recover it. Instead of focusing on ‘doing’ I was in a intuitive creative state of ‘being’ instead. Fun and laughter naturally followed.
  5. I was much happier – When I was addicted to caffeine, I had this sense that life was hard and a struggle and I needed this substance every day just get through. Now I don’t feel that desperation. When I stopped artificially trying to alter my mood I was able to figure out ways to manage the real feelings that I was now feeling. I got listening time. I started swimming a couple times a week which before I didn’t even have the energy for. My natural wellbeing started to shine through.
  6. And I could write – After the initial detox period it didn’t effect my writing. I had built my confidence by finishing a book and without those anxious fears in the way, I could just get on and do it. I think I’ve been even more productive as I’m sleeping slightly less, and able to write in the evening, when before I was always too tired.

I hesitated to write this post for a long while. I didn’t want to sound puritanical, that caffeine is a bad substance that we should all give up immediately! I actually think that like many of the naturally occurring substances on this earth, it’s here for us to use when we need it, and enjoy guilt-free! Life is too short for either internal or external guilt about for what we put into our bodys. I wonder if the guilt we feel is worse for our health than the substance we are consuming.

The time won’t always be right to give up caffeine and we may not want to. I think our attempts to give up have to come from a place of desire rather than deprivation. If we desire the substance more than we desire giving up, maybe the time just isn’t right? Maybe we need to get our emotional needs met first, so we have the strength and the inclination? Addictions expert Johan Hari, says that ‘the opposite of addiction is connection.’ In our busy stressful lives, we don’t always have our own connection needs met so it’s no wonder that we are trying to mask our feelings with addictive substances.

I may not have completely given up. I will sometimes grab a few squares of dark chocolate if I’m having a hard day, and notice the next day, I’m craving it again. If next month ends up being overwhelming stressful perhaps I will end up being addicted again! Still my intention is to be caffeine free, at least 99% of the time!

However, I did want to share some of the benefits, of giving up caffeine, slowing down, and letting our body naturally rest. We parents are doing one of the most challenging jobs in the world, for no pay, often without the benefits of having sick days or rest. If there’s a chance for you to drop the non-essential items off your to do list, and let your body relax and find it’s natural energy, there are a myriad of benefits.


5 Ways To Get Started With Giggle Parenting

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For two years I struggled with play. First of all my grandmother died, and it took me a long time to be able to recover my own sense of joy. I got through the day with caffeine. Then I got a book deal, and I simultaneously dealt with my grief, and became preoccupied with meeting my writing deadline.

I knew that writing a book was a wonderful opportunity, but somehow in my panic and nervousness to get things done on time, (with tea and chocolate to help!) I wasn’t really relaxing and being in the moment with my daughter.

When I finished the book I finally felt like I could stop and breathe a bit. I could relax and give up caffeine, along with that wired anxiousness that came with it. And what I found is that my natural instinct to play came back to me.

We’re all born able to play, it’s something innate to all of us. Sadly though we lose pieces of our playful selves along the way to adulthood. When we were young the adults didn’t always play with us when we wanted them to, or in the child-led way we loved. As we grow older and have more adult responsibilities we can lose touch with our fun selves. In last weeks blog post I talked about 5 tips for having fun with your kids.

Now I’m going to focus on how to get laughter flowing, and all of that giggly fun Hand in Hand parenting calls playlistening.

  1. Make a mistake – Whether it’s when we’re tidying the house, or playing with our kids, or trying to get them to do something, making a mistake is guaranteed to get the giggles flowing. So tidy something away into the wrong place, and act all surprised saying, ”I didn’t mean to do that!” or pick up a book to read, but ‘read’ a teddy bear instead. As you exclaim ”whoops,’ and acted shocked your child will delight in you being the one getting things wrong. It’ll even help to build their confidence and make them feel more comfortable with making mistakes.
  2. Do something that you are sure is so silly it couldn’t possibly be funny!  I think sometimes we forget that our children are so young that silly stuff will be funny. I know I’ll often do something silly like pick up a banana instead of answering the phone or put some socks in a saucepan instead of pasta. These things will often get a laugh, diffuse tension, and are ideal for those moments when you can feel stress levels rising.
  3. Recover your own sense of joy – I’ve heard this quote many times; that in Shamanic societies if a person was feeling depressed the Shaman would ask one of these four questions, When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence? If we’ve lost touch with what brings us joy, then it’s hard to bring joy to others. Remembering  or discovering what we love can really help us to feel more able to spread joy with our children.
  4. Have a lazy day – Modern life goes at a rate that is not really compatible with our deep emotional well-being. Most of us probably need some time to unwind. Most of the laughter play I do with my daughter happens when we’re at home not thinking about what we have to do or where we have to go. Playlistening is about intuitively sensing what will make our children laugh. It’s a creative skill, and rest and relaxation is one of the things that can help to nurture our creativity.
  5. Follow your child’s lead – When we’re deeply attuned to our child we’ll notice that they often set up situations to make themselves laugh. So do some special time, and pick up on what makes your child laugh, repeat it for as long as they’re still giggling.

I hope this list helps to bring more laughter into your family life! What makes your children laugh? I’d love to hear what works for you, so please leave a comment 🙂

25 Tips For Having Fun Tidying Up With Kids


Hand in Hand instructor Skye Marilyn Munroe‘s family in playful tidying up mode! Her son throws items of wet washing to his dad, and he then hangs the on the line.

We all want to live in a tidy house but it’s not easy with kids around. We have a lot of responsibilities in our busy lives, and it’s hard to enjoy chores. They probably didn’t seem fun when we were young, and we can pass on these negative associations to our children.

In her article about chores here, Patty Wipfler explains that we often assume children should do their chores alone as most of us had to do when we were young. However work is so much more fun, and enjoyable when we can work together. So put the emphasis on fun and connection, and the chores get done as if by magic!

Here are 20 fun tips for tidying up with your kids. Thanks to my friends, Hand in Hand instructors and and parent educators who have shared what works in their household.

  1. Do special time beforehand. Connection breeds co-operation so our children are much more likely to enjoy helping us out if we’ve spent some time doing what they love.
  2. Have a clean up song, Deanna and her son sing this together, ”Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere. Clean up clean up everybody do your share.” I sang this with my daughter and also added in some silly verses, like ”put mummy’s clothes in the bin” and then I would say in a playful horrified tone. ”Oh dear! why I did I sing that. I don’t want my clothes in the bin!” My daughter found this hilarious. Laughter is a great way to increase co-operation, and all the giggles release tension and grumpiness.
  3. Song Race – Ariadne Brill from Positive Parenting Connection says, ”We like to race against some of our favourite songs. One of our favourite chore songs is a astronaut and space song so sometimes my youngest will also put on a space helmet to put her laundry into her closet or to dry dishes.
  4. Playlistening – The art of getting our kids laughing while we’re in the less powerful role, is the perfect way to get the chores done. There’s lots of possible ways to incorporate playlistening into your tidying up fun. Stephanie Parker, Hand in Hand instructor in the UK recommends saying in a loud, playful voice, ”there is so much to tidy up, but there’s no way I am going to do it. I am going to sit here and do nothing instead.” Then get your child to force you to tidy up, with lots of giggles to release any tension about tidying!
  5. Making Mistakes Tidying – Playlistening is all about making mistakes and doing so while tidying is a recipe for a giggle fest. So put away your forks in the fridge or your milk in the dishwasher, and then exclaim, ”oh no! I didn’t mean to do that.” This even works for the under two’s  and is ideal for clingy little ones that won’t let you tidy up. This can make tidying up take a little longer, but in the long run it can build the close connections children need to play independently while we got on with tidying.
  6. Soapy water mop up Julianne Idleman says, ‘My daughter used to love to be given a dish pan of soapy water to splash around with on a floor that needed mopping. Then she would happily mop up all the bubbles and all I had to do was the final sweep through to get the corners and make sure the bulk of the water was up.”
  7. Shower or Bath Clean With Colourful Sponges ”My daughter would also happily scrub the (bottom half) of the shower glass as long as she got to be in there naked playing with colorful sponges while she did it. Drawing soapy pictures on the shower walls was always a good way to get them an eventual clean.” – Julianne Idleman
  8. Shoe Mops. Parent educator Sarah MacLaughlin recommends these fun shoe mops, to give mopping the floor a bit of novelty value.
  9. Tidying Emergency – We have a toy ambulance with a siren, so sometimes I turn it on and say, ”emergency! There’s a giant mess, somebody save us now!”
  10. Tidy up your child – If you’re tidying up, pass by your child and say, ”hmm what needs tidying up, perhaps this”’ and start to pick up your child, and then say ”oh whoops! sorry, that’s (insert child’s name). I don’t need to tidy you up!” The laughter and connection can help your child feel upbeat about helping.
  11. Have some sort of vehicle that can deliver objects. My daughter has a scooter with a small basket that hangs on the handlebars. She loves playing ‘tidying up scooter’ where I search for objects and put them in her basket while she delivers them to the right place. My daughter will even stop watching TV to play ‘tidying up scooter.’ It has been a tidying miracle for us.
  12. Reverse Psychology – Roma Norriss, Hand in Hand instructor in Bristol, UK says to her kids – “I’d be SO shocked if some elves came and tidied up this room… I’m just going upstairs for a minute.” And then I come back and fall over with surprise.”
  13. Gadgets and Spraying, Anything that involves spraying and my kids are in. Also the mini-hoover is a huge hit at the mo. It is all about the gadgets for them, says Hannah Gauri Ma, from Loving Earth Mama, in the UK.
  14. Animate Objects – My daughter is much more likely to put things away if I animate them asking to be tidied up. For example when she takes her shoes off and throws them down in the middle of the floor, I pick up the mummy shoe, and say, ”Oh where are my baby shoes, I want them close to me on the shoe rack!”
  15. Dirty Laundry Basketball – ”We pretend that the dirty washing is the basketball, and the laundry basket is the hoops,” says Deanna Lobbi
  16. Have A Tidying Up Party Parenting coach Torsten Klaus of Dad’s Talk Community says, ”Turn the music up, have a dance with the vacuum cleaner and wear the kitchen apron on your head. In no time your offspring want to join in and help. Believe me. Yes, you look silly. But that’s part of the parenting, isn’t it?”
  17. Fairies For Extreme Mess – Skye Marilyn Munroe of Nurturing Connections says, ”If things are out of control messy in my home I do mock gasp “oh nooo the mess monsters have been again , please please cleaning fairies come & help us ! We pop on some wings and clean together.” 
  18. Vacuum Kids Suzy says, ”I used to “plug” my kids in like they were a vacuum and send them off to pick up toys. Also pretending that the bag or box is hungry for the toys and say “yum, yum” when things are put in.”
  19. Tidying Up Cupboard Monster – (or other less scary animal) – Pretend there is a very hungry monster living in your cupboard/draw that needs to be fed with the right things , says Jessica.
  20. Jigsaw Puzzle  ”Some toys (like blocks) actually become an interesting puzzle to put back into a box in a way that fits and we often comment how that is the best bit.” Says Hannah Gauri Ma of Loving Earth Mama
  21. Setting Limits – Okay so setting limits might not sound like much fun, but with Hand in Hand parenting, it can be a way to build closer connections and actually can involve some fun and laughter! When we see that our children are old enough to take responsibility for helping with chores there may be times that they can’t get motivated. Sometimes it can help to set a limit, and listen to the feelings under the surface that make it hard for them to find the joy in daily tasks.
  22. Washing Delivery – My husband gives my daughter clean washing bit by bit and she delivers it to the right bedroom using her tidying up scooter. Yesterday evening, I was in our bedroom feeling really tired and she kept coming in with more washing for me to put away. I kept playfully complaining, ”oh no, please, I’m so tired, please don’t bring me any more washing,” and of course this only encouraged her to bring me more and more washing while laughing with delight!  I hid under the covers and told her I was hiding so I didn’t have to do anymore, and she threw washing on top of me and ran away laughing. The play got a bit wild, but this isn’t a bad thing. Giving our children the freedom to be ‘naughty’ in a controlled way, while we are there to connect with them and get the giggle flowing, helps them get behaviour out of their system and get back on track.
  23. Recycling Team Ariadne Brill from Positive Parenting Connection ”We build a chain passing paper and bottles for example from the storage area to the front of the house on pick up day. Working together like this keeps everyone motivated and more likely to play along.”
  24. Laminated Cards. Hand in Hand instructor Sabina Veronelli from Melbourne Australia says, ”We use a Montessori inspired idea. We have created sets of laminated cards, every set has one task broken down into steps (eg for doing laundry: carrying laundry basket, loading washing machine, the cycle to choose, the amount of laundry liquid in its dispenser, close door, press on. ). So, when it is time to clean, we divide numbers of chores equally. My son is able to be independent, while I don’t need to repeat how to do things, which can trigger me. This gives me the energy, to staylisten, playlisten or set limits if I need to, to get the chores done.”
  25. Tidy up for them.There will be times when we just want to get the job done, and that’s okay. Children love to imitate us. Tidying up for them can actually be a great model. And if do have the energy to do it in a fun, joy-filled way, they may just want to join in too!

I hope this list inspires you. If you try them out please let us know how you get on in the comments below, and If you have any other playful games that worked for you we’d love to hear them!

Run Jump Scrap!


Home Etc

10 Ways That Laughter Can Transform Your Day


In our lives with a young child there may be many challenging moments, that make us feel stressed out, serious and frustrated, getting locked in a power struggle with our kids. A lot of these occur when we want our child to do something that they don’t want to do. The more we try to force the issue the more our child resists.

Hand in Hand parenting, is all about redistributing the power balance, being flexible with our kids, and then seeing their own flexibility and natural co-operation shining through.

Playlistening is what we call it, when we put ourselves in the less powerful role, to get the giggles going. Laughter releases the tension our child feels and builds connection between ourselves and our child. After a bit of laughter our child is often much more likely to co-operate with us. It’s a powerful effective way to get out of a power struggle and on with the day.

Here are ten awkward moments where laughter can save the day. Repeat as necessary until the giggles (or you!) are exhausted.

  1. Getting Dressed – If you’re toddler’s refusing to get dressed it can leave you feeling irritated and impatient, but luckily there’s plenty of fuel for giggles in the dressing process. Try putting on a ‘serious,’ voice and say, ”come on now lets put these trousers on’ and end up putting them on their arms. Put their socks on their hands, or their pants on their head. Put their cardigan on back to front, or their feet in the arm holes. Children absolutely love it when we make mistakes. It helps to build their confidence when they can be the competent one, telling us that we are getting it all wrong. And then they’ll be sure to tell us the right way to put on their clothes, and maybe even co-operate!
  2. Brushing Hair – When my daughter refused to let me brush her hair she would instantly change her mind if a teddy or doll wanted to do it. Somehow the teddy was always much more gentle than me, and never accidentally pulled too hard. If a bit of laughter is needed try brushing your child’s hair with other household objects like a spoon or a sock, and then exclaim, ”Oh dear! That’s not a hairbrush, I keep getting it wrong.”
  3. Getting Out of The House – Grab a teddy or doll, and try to put your child’s coat and shoes on. Take them to do the door, and say ”come on (child’s name) it’s time to go,” then suddenly realise your mistake, and exclaim, ‘oh dear, that’s not the right person! Let me try again.”
  4. During Mealtimes – Toddler’s can be fussy, and often their fears and anxieties can be projected onto food. Put yourself in the less powerful role, by being playfully afraid of your food. Pick up a fork of food, scrunch up your nose and ”oooh I don’t know what this strange food is.” Or try picking food up with your fork, and keep dropping it by ‘mistake.’ Or try feeding your ears or nose, and then exclaim with mock frustration that you keep getting it wrong. After a few giggles your toddler may forget all about being cautious and get on with the meal.
  5. If your toddler is having trouble sharing – then grab an object and say invitingly, this is my car/doll/toy, and I don’t want anyone to take it off me. Let your child creep up to you, grab the object and run away. Chase them but always let them win, so they are the powerful role. Repeat with another object or the same one if they put it down. This and similar games help your child to release competitive feelings and be more generous with friends.
  6. When your toddler’s being clingy – Say, ”oh there’s a baby stuck to me, how did she get there? ” Try to unstick yourself but always let them win. As you shower them in playful affection, they can release their clingyness with giggles.
  7. If your toddler is aggressive – then turn the tables around, and let them fight you. Playfully catch their kicks, or punches, have a pillow fight, or try some roughousing which has been shown to reduce aggression in children. Giving children an outlet for their feelings in play with you, means they don’t need to bring them up with other children.
  8. When your toddler is whiny or moaning, or complaining abut being bored – Have a clothes fight! Grab some clothes, and divide family members into teams. Have one team on a bed trying to throw clothes onto the floor, and another team on the floor trying to throw the clothes onto the bed. This is a great mood shifter. Let the fun and giggles commence!
  9. Cleaning Teeth – Pretend to clean your kids ears, or nose, and keep exclaiming that you are getting it wrong. Or try to brush your kid’s teeth and end up with a flying toothbrush that keeps landing in surprising places like the bath, sink, or even another room instead of your child’s mouth.
  10. Bedtime – When there’s still time to play in the evening, put your child into their bed, and then say invitingly, ”I hope you don’t get out of bed ” and leave the door open, as you leave. Let them run out of the room and appear. Act all surprised and then say, ”oh dear, I better get you back to bed again.” Repeat until any excess energy or tension has disappeared, and your child is happy to go to sleep for real. Laughter induces melatonin the sleep hormone, so this is the perfect way to end the day.

I hope this list makes your day go more smoothly. Are there any other scenarios that you’d like a ‘laughter cure’ for? Leave me a comment, and I’ll try to think up some games!

For more info about the Hand in Hand approach to aggression check out their online self-study course, Help Your Child With Aggression

Diary of an imperfect mum

10 Ways To Use Special Time To Transform Your Day



Special time is a simple yet powerful tool that can transform family life. Simply tell your child they have 10-15 minutes to do whatever they like with you there to shower them with warmth love and attention.

Set a timer so you and your child has a clear idea of how long it will last. Don’t skip this step! There’s something magical that happens when we put the timer on, and set the intention to really give our child our complete  attention. No mobile phone checking or dinner preparing allowed!

Here are ten ways that you can use short bursts of special time to transform your day, and make things go more smoothly. Even 5-10 minutes can make a difference.

  1. First thing in the morning – If we have to rush out of the house to go to daycare and school then our focus can be on results rather than connection. But before trying to persuade our child to get dressed, brush hair and clean teeth, it can be really powerful to start the day on their terms instead. Connection builds co-operation with our children. It’s been scientifically proven. So if we spend 5-10 minutes doing special time, we’ll often find that it’s an investment of time that makes our kids more likely to co-operate when we tell them to get dressed etc. I love this story of how just 5 minutes can make a difference.
  2. Before doing household chores – When we do special time with our children something magical happens. They begin to internalise that close connection with us, so that after special time is finished they’ll be more likely to be happy to continue to play independently while we get on with a bit of cooking and tidying up. You can read more in  this story. This isn’t 100% guaranteed to happen all of the time. Sometimes our kids might be upset that special time has finished. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After soaking up our warm attention often children’s feelings of upset bubble up to the surface, and crying can be a healing process to let them go so they feel better connected to us. Staylistening through the upset can help us stay calm until we get to the other side.
  3. Coming home at the end of the day After a busy day out of the house, whether or not that involves being separated from us, our children may hunger for some warm 1-1 time with us. Special time can act as a bridge between the outside world and home life, helping our child to relax, and get connected to us again.
  4. When your child is whiney, moany or acting off-track – The brain science behind children’s ‘misbehaviour’ points to the fact that they don’t want to act in ways that drive us crazy. It’s just that when children feel disconnected from us, they literally can’t think. The emotional part of their brain, the limbic system senses a kind of ’emotional emergency’ so the pre-frontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for rationalising and reasoning can’t function well. When children act off-track it’s like they’re sending a red flag saying, ”hey I can’t think I need some connection!” Giving special time during these moments is the ultimate unconditional connection, so our children know we will be there for them no matter how off-track they are. They can soak up our connection, and that along with the other Hand in Hand parenting listening tools is how their behaviour gets back on track.
  5. When you are feeling slightly off-track If you are not having a good day, and are feeling a bit low yourself, but still have a bit of attention to give, then special time can help the parent too! Just like our children long for deep, quality attention with us, we also of course long for those deep, connections with our children. It’s just that sometimes our own responsibilities, and stress can make it hard to give. If we take a leap, and offer a short 1o minute special time, then we get to soak up that warm sense of connection too. If even a short special time feels like too much, then we have a tool that can help!
  6. Before a playdate or when company are coming over Does your child have trouble sharing when their friends come over? Or do they struggle to let you have an adult conversation when extended family or your friends are round? Special time can help to give your child the warm sense of connection they need to be able to share you with others. Also when children are well-connected they can think well, they’ll be more likely to be able to share their toys naturally without us having to persuade them to do so.
  7. Before bed – Children experience sleep as a separation, and often it’s late at night that feelings bubble up that they need our help to deal with. Adding 5 or 10 minutes of special time to our evening routine can be really helpful for children who take a long time to fall asleep, or wake in the night. They internalise a close connection with us, so don’t wake in the night feeling disconnected and needing us.
  8. When you need your child to do something and they aren’t co-operating – If you need to leave the house, or brush your child’s hair and they just aren’t co-operating then special time can help you both take a breather from a frustrating power struggle. After a short special time, they may be feeling more connected and be more able to co-operate with you.
  9. If your child has been watching TV or using electronics – Sometimes the lure of a screen can make our children feel disconnected from us. They don’t seem to ask or need our connection as much while they’re having screen time, but later they may need an extra dose of connection with us. If I’m worried my daughter’s been glued to the screen a lot. I’ll offer her special time, and she often prefers this to TV! I just need enough energy myself to be able to give attention rather than rely on an ‘electronic babysitter.’ Listening time is essential!
  10. If you need to go out – So if you’re lucky enough to have the time and energy for a date night, or night out with friends, then special time can be the perfect way to say goodbye. A 5-10 minute dose of quality attention, can help your child to internalise that deep sense of connection with you, so even if you’re away for an evening or a night, they feel safe and secure.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of ways to make special time a part of your daily life.  Feel free to comment if you have any stories or questions. I’d love to hear how you get on with this wonderful tool!

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Tiny Tips Tuesday: 19 Tips for Taking Care of Yourself While Also Taking Care of Your Loved Ones

great tips for parents to build support for ourselves and each other. We need it!

Teacher Goes Back to School

Dear Friend,

I am not going to lie. This past week was HARD. Quite possibly one of the hardest of my life. Something about parenting a small child while being far away from my own ailing mama plus the reality of our situation settling in and really making itself known. And let’s not forget the seemingly never ending cold virus.

Today I offer you some tips on taking care of yourself while in the middle of taking care of the people you love.

[DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional and if you are in crisis please seek immediate medical attention from a medical professional.]

A vast majority of these helpful ideas were crowd-sourced from my Facebook friends, many of whom have experienced parenting while caring for their own parents through long-term illness and transitioning into end of life.

I offer these tips to you because they’ve already begun to…

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