15 Playful Ways To Get Children To Walk


When our kids first learn to walk, they may be so determined it’s hard to stop them. However once the novelty wears off there may be moments when we’re on our way somewhere and they get grumpy, whiney and don’t want to walk.

Sometimes it could be that they’re just genuinely tired. At other times they may simply get bored. Walking in a straight line can be pretty boring for a child! It could also be that they are feeling disconnected,  or are experiencing upset feelings. They may start telling us about their feelings through being grumpy and whiney, and wanting to be carried.

Ariadne Brill of Positive Parenting Connection shared with me that we can become aware of when children are using the movement from the walk as a means of letting us know they need to be listened to. Sometimes we can use staylistening, to help them through these difficult moments. At other times laughter and playlistening will seem more appropriate.

If we need to get somewhere, and our child just doesn’t want to walk, or we are physically exhausted and just can’t carry them anymore, a little bit of play can help give children the burst of energy they need to keep going. Some of these tips can be used for when you just want to get home from the supermarket. Others can help everyone enjoy family hikes in the countryside. Repeat each one as long as the giggles are flowing, and you are going in roughly the right direction!

  1. Mummy limpet and baby limpet – In this game. We pretend we are the mummy or daddy limpet, and our child is the baby limpet. We tell our child in a playful tone that they must stay stuck to us the whole time and we really hope that they don’t get unstuck and run away. This is the ideal invitation for them to do just that. We can chase after them saying, ”oh no! My limpet’s running away, I need to catch her and get stuck again.” We can also play when we get unstuck from our child, and go forward a metre or two. We can then call out to our child, ”Oh no, I got unstuck! Quick catch up with me!”
  2. Runaway Buggy – Exercise keeps me sane and as we live in the countryside, I like to go on a walk most days. I have encouraged my daughter out of the house by taking a buggy where she can sit and eat snacks. Eventually she gets bored and actually wants to walk. Sometimes she needs a bit of persuasion, so we play runaway buggy, and I ask for her help to chase it.
  3. Buggy Races – I sometimes pretend to speak in the voice of the buggy, and ask my daughter to race her. Then the buggy makes the mistake of starting to race even though she’s still sitting in there. This makes her laugh. Eventually she’ll get out and want to do a real race.
  4. Make it Fun Melinda Taylor Shoutens of the website More 2 Explore says ‘ We bring loads of snacks. The children collect sticks. We bring bubbles and stop for breaks. We also search for treasures along the trail and seek out wild life. ”
  5. Go Somewhere Fun And Child Friendly – Choose somewhere with interesting things to look at along the way, for example this Adventure Dwarf trail in Muggenstutz, Switzerland was recommended to me by Melinda Taylor Shoutens. It has been designed with little hikers in mind.
  6. Try A Treasure Hunt – Ariadne Brill  says, ”For a simple scavenger hunt, for example, we have drawn pictures of things we think we might be able to find along our walk. Sometimes we even draw super silly things like a purple elephant, and then of course I get to pretend to just have seen it and spark up more curiosity and the need to keep walking.”
  7. Bring Binoculars and Magnifying Glasses My friend Karin recommends bringing along these gadgets to make exploring a bit more interesting. You might also want to try books in the I-Spy Series where you go into nature and tick off the thig
  8. Try Geocaching – Geocaching is a real life treasure hunt, with lots of tiny boxes hidden in millions of places all over the world. Walking to get from A-B may not be fun, but hunting for treasure is! For more info see the Geocaching website.
  9. Runaway ball- This one is good for the countryside, but not so good on a busy street! Have a ball in your bag, and when your child starts complaining about being bored or tired get the ball out and throw it down the path. Then you and your child can chase after it. Repeat!
  10. Silly Legs – Have your legs suddenly walk backwards, or sideways, or in zig-zags and then tell your child, ”oh dear! My legs have started going all wrong. Can you help me please?” They will enjoy being in the more powerful role as they sort your silly legs out. If you try the sideways walk you might want to tell your child that you have turned into a crab. Say, ”come on baby crab.” If they’re still going forwards you could say, ”hmm. This must be a human child, she doesn’t seem to be walking right for a crab.”
  11. Crazy Wind That Blows You Along The Road – Ask your child if they can feel the wind blowing. Tug at your child’s hand and tell them that there’s a wind blowing your down the road. You’ll get where you need to go much fast with a crazy wind blowing you.
  12. Silly Scooter – If your child has a scooter with them that they no longer want to ride you could turn it into a silly scooter. Have it jump down the road, or land in funny places, or go backwards or sideways, and ask your child to help catch the silly scooter.
  13. Pull Along Stick – If you’re in the countryside, find a stick and pretend it is a train, or bus, that will pull your child along. Have the stick go really fast to add excitement. Or have it go really slow, and start complaining to the train saying, ”Excuse me train. I need you to go a bit faster than this!” This put you in the less powerful role, so is likely to get your child giggling.
  14. Fast Bit – When you are walking along the street, and your child is complaining about being tired tell them that you think you are coming up to a fast bit. Then pull your child’s hand and start running. Build your child’s sense of anticipation, and put yourself in the less powerful role by saying, ”I hope that’s the end of the fast bits for now. Oh no! There’s another fast bit.”
  15. Jungle Walk – From Hand in Hand instructor Skye Marilyn Munroe of Nurturing Connections.We live at the top of a hill ( the things you do for ocean glimpses !)
    At the bottom of the hill is a playground. Mr 4 is super keen to walk TO the playground, and does it without a worry.The walk home is not always as pleasant. Mr 4 has been VERY interested in jungles of late…”Oh no!” I exclaim “We are stuck in the middle of the jungle, how will we ever get out of here & home?! Please help me Mr Explorer!” “FOLLOW ME!” He cried, immediately buying into it.We trekked through the arduous jungle, fighting through tangly vines, dodging coconuts thrown by the cheeky monkeys and freezing like statues anytime a dangerous jungle animal ( aka car) approached. We even had to do a tricky river crossing (zebra crossing) We ran, we stalked, we crawled our way to safety (home).It was super fun and we made it home in record time!

I hope these ideas making walking with kids more fun and playful. To read more of Ariadne brills wonderful tips check out Fun Ways To Motivate Children To Take Long Walks. You might also like, Sensory Walk: A Sense Of Touch Walk

Diary of an imperfect mum

A Mum Track Mind

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 Tips For Having Fun Playing With Your Kids


A few weeks ago, some friends came over who have a ten-year old daughter who my daughter loves playing with. Watching the two of them play together made me reflect on just how much stamina children have for playing with each other. They could carry on for hours. For me on the other hand, after a while I get drained and ‘bored’ by play. I desperately want to do something other than play, like tidy up the house, clean the kitchen, or zone out on my computer.

But I also know that deep down my feelings are not really because I find my daughter’s play ‘boring’ or because I can’t play or don’t like to play. Actually I love spending her time in her imaginary world, sharing her joy and creativity. But I do get drained after a while.

Why is play so hard for us? Is it because we know we’ve got a million and one jobs to do in our busy lives? For sure. but there’s more to it than that.We all have moments in our days when we get triggered by our children. Play can often be one of those times. We start to feel exhausted, we start to feel stressed, we find it hard to muster the enthusiasm.

Play is hard because when we were children our parents may not have spent hours playing with us. They may have been busy just getting on with things, and may not have understand how important it was simply to be there with us. There may have been times when we wished they could give us more quality attention. We may have given up even expecting it.

When we spend time with our children, it’s as if we have an invisible river of our own childhood memories running through us. We not be conscious of these memories, but they are there, beneath the surface, often getting triggered when we are stressed or overwhelmed. So when our child says ”play with me,” we can often feel reluctant to leap up and join them because we have our own hurt child inside of us who didn’t get all the play and connection we needed.

But there’s nothing innately non-playful about any of us. We can recover our natural joy and have fun playing with our kids.

Here are a few things that you can try.

  1. Have some grown up fun! Recovering our own sense of fun, can be really helpful. Go to a live music or comedy gig. Have drinks with friends. Dance to the songs you loved when you were younger. Life gets pretty serious sometimes for adults. But it doesn’t have to be.
  2. Have some listening time – Exchanging time talking and listening with another parent about how parenting is going Tell your listening partner how much you ‘hate’ playing with your kids. Talk, moan, even scream into a pillow about how hard it is. Have a laugh or cry if you need to. After expressing your feelings with a partner you may find that these feelings are not your thoughts, and that you actually don’t hate playing. Yo may just need to release some of your own emotional baggage to find the joy in it.
  3. Play in short bursts. Don’t give yourself a hard time, or pretend to enjoy playing when you aren’t actually in the mood. Your child will pick up on your feelings, and it’s likely neither of you will have much fun. Instead try shorts bursts of special time, (1-1 time with a child doing something of their choice) that feel manageable to you. Even 5 minutes can deepen the connection with your child, and make you both feel better. You can gradually extend your capacity for play, as you get listened to, and work through your feelings about play.
  4. Let your agenda slide. If possible try to have some lazy days where you aren’t running around, and can just hang out and enjoy the company of your children. Is there anything non-essential you can leave off your to-do list? Get some ready meals in and leave the washing up till tomorrow. I always find I’m at my most playful when we’re at home with little to do. After I’ve nurtured myself with adult company, and my cup is full I’ll try to have a mellow day at home where we just chill out, connect and play.
  5. Have some adult-to-adult special time – The first time I tried special time with another adult I was amazed how much fun it was, and how novel it felt to have someone shine their attention on me while I got do whatever I wanted. You can try this with a friend or your partner, so that you can nourish yourself with the deep sense of connection that you want to give your children.

I hope these tips help you to enjoy playing with your kids. I love hearing from you, so please feel free to leave a comment about how you get on.

For more tips on play and connection with your kids, check out my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children


20 Playful Ways To Help Picky Eaters



When it comes to picky eating it can be hard to find a solution that is fun, connected and playful. On the one extreme we can simply let our child survive off yoghurt and spaghetti with tomato sauce, with underlying worries about their nutrition. On the other extreme we can try the ‘threat of starvation’ approach where we just put their dinner down in front of them and refuse to give any other options.

In desperation we may have tried either or both of these approaches, but never felt completely comfortable with them. Luckily there is is a third way that can help with the underlying root cause of picky eating.

Often when children are experiencing fears or anxiety, they may project it onto food. So when a child scrunches up their nose at broccoli, and seems fearful, it may not be the food that is the ultimate cause of their fear.

Children gather stress, and tension from the early experiences in their lives when they felt small and helpless. They use little everyday moments, to try and ‘tell’ us about these feelings through their behaviour.

When we learn to listen to our children’s feelings, we are doing the most compassionate thing possible, allowing them to express their upset so that they grow in confidence. That plate of peas won’t look so scary when it’s no longer clouded by a mind full of upset.

I remember one time listening to my daughter cry about separation anxiety. After that we had dinner, and she started eating potatoes and cheese, two foods she had never tried before!

It’s not just about the food. When we help our children with feelings in life in general we can help them be more adventurous with their food, and when we help our children with food we may see leaps and gains in their lives.

Where the laughter comes in. Laughter is one of the ways in which children (and adults!) release the stress, tension and fear that can get in the way of them enjoying food. We also want to give children a sense of freedom and choice in life. We don’t want to set limits every single dinnertime. which might quickly lead to powerlessness and resentment. We want to warm up the connection with our child through special time and playlistening so that dinner time is fun, and so they feel safe to tell us about the big feelings that can also get in the way of enjoying food.

Listening to big feelings can be challenging, and coming up with fun, playful ways to deal with it can be even more difficult!

So I asked my friends and fellow Hand in Hand instructors to contribute to this list of fun playlistening ideas to help children with their fears around food. These are a great starting point to follow your intuition, and see what makes your kids laugh while they are in the more powerful role. Your dinner might get a bit cold while you try these out, and if taken to extreme some of these can get a little wild.

But there’s a big advantage. When we invest the time to listen to feelings and fears, it means that in the long run, dinners go much more smoothly. Your child doesn’t need to have a gigantic play every dinner time, (thankfully because I wouldn’t have the energy!) but laughter sprinkled here and there helps a lot, and perhaps you can have a bit of extra fun at the weekends.

Sometimes as my daughter laughs and play games, she ‘forgets’ to be afraid of the food, and ends up eating it. We get closer to the food together in a connected, fun way that takes the pressure off. I wish you many joyful, laughter-filled dinnertimes!

  1. Special Time – Roma Norriss Hand in Hand instructor in Bristol, UK  recommends doing it before dinner. In the rush to prepare food we probably aren’t thinking about connecting with our kids. If you can keep the dinner warm and then spend 10-15 minutes doing special time then this can give children the close connection they need to feel safe to try new food. Roma says, ”My very fussy daughter has been known to tuck heartily into her food and even exclaim “Mmmn delicious Quinoa!” when she has had a good dose of Special Time.”
  2. Yuck – In this classic game we simply reverse roles and pretend that we are scared of the food. Bring our fork up to our mouth, and make a suspicious face. Try it and make exaggerated yucky sounds. Run away from it. We might even encourage our child to feed us this disgusting food by saying, ”I hope you don’t make me eat this horrible food.”
  3. Mmmmmm Take bites of your food while looking a bit sceptical that it’s going to be tasty. As you chew it say ”mmmmm.”Gradually ramp up your surprise and delight at how delicious the food is with a big long ”mmmmmm” sound. Make some animated movement to express how tasty it is. Perhaps you run around around the room in a crazy manner, and then come back and say, ”oh sorry, that food just sent me a bit crazy for a moment.”
  4. Escaping Food. Roma Norriss says, ”One day my daughter wouldn’t eat her food, so I put some on her spoon and then zigzagged it away from her plate saying ”Help! Some of our food had escaped from our shopping basket. It’s rolling down the hill and I’m afraid that little stray dog is going to eat it. Quick save the tomatoes.” She immediately took me up on the game and started woofing after the food and trying to eat it. Then I changed tack and said, “Oh she’s a nice doggy shall we just feed her, I don’t think she has any owners, we could take care of her.” Soon she had eaten up all her food.
  5. Seat Glue Hand in Hand instructor Sarah MacLaughlin has a fun suggestion for children who are finding it hard to sit still. Pretend to spread glue on the chair before they sit. When they get up; act confused as to why your glue is not working, “that is so strange! I guess I’ll put some more glue on here…. Hurry, see if you can eat a bite of food before that glue wears off.” Lots of laughs, smiles, and “phooey” and “oh darn it,” when they get up again and again. Add “stronger glue” each time.
  6. Run Away From Your Seat Katalin Hidvegi, says, ”My eldest son is constantly running away from the table with food in his hands. One day we were playing, and he shared some “cakes” with me from his toys. I pretended to eat my cake, and hubby came to ask us to go to the table. My son and I started running away from him together. We pretend to sit on the coach eating together as allies. Hubby played his part well, complaining and insisting that we move to the table, then taking our cakes away. We would obediently sit down at the table but then jump up and run to the couch again. It was hilarious. My son laughed heartily and I enjoyed it too. Great healing laughter and togetherness. Great autonomy(rebellion) experience for both of us too!
  7. Missing Your Mouth I have to thank my mother-in-law for this one! Try to put food in your mouth but instead, ‘feed’ your ears, your armpits, the top of your head, your foot. Keep saying, ”oh no! That’s not right, let me try again.”
  8. Mis-serving Food. If the food is in the middle of the table to serve out, try mis-serving it by nearly putting a spoonful into your water glass. Catch yourself, ”oh whoops! That’s not right.”
  9. Flying Food – The food gets on a spoon or a fork (with a little help from us) and says, ”This is my aeroplane and I’m flying to Australia/America/Europe, and I’m not coming back!” We mock panic, and say ”oh no,” and ‘chase’ after it.
  10. Food Stealing – From Hand in Hand instructor Muftiah Martin in Santa Rosa California, I’ll say, “Ooh, I love eggplant (or mushrooms or beans) so much. I hope no one takes my eggplant when I’m not looking.” And she snatches it up!
  11. Food Robbers – Jessica says, ”I tell my kids that a robber is coming to steal their food. Then we look away and then they quickly take a piece and eat it really quickly.”
  12. Secret Eating From Hand in Hand instructor Skye Monroe in Australia.  Put their plates down with food at the table and say “ok I don’t want ANYONE to eat ANY of this food .. Please do NOT eat this.. I just want you to look after it for me for a bit while I grab something from the bedroom.” Walk away for a bit and come back and see they have eaten and with mock horror exclaim “oh no it looks like someone has eaten this food ?! That can’t be right ?!”
  13. Doll Roleplay – Stephanie Parker, Hand in Hand instructor in Stroud UK.says, ”I pretend Innes’s dolls and animals don’t want to eat their dinner and then Innes steps into being the parent and setting the limit and encouraging them to eat. She loves this.”
  14. Food Race – From Muftiah Martin, ”We do “who’s going to get this bite of food first?” as I lean in toward my daughter and pass the spoon near both of our mouths. She is always faster!” .
  15. The Wrong Seat – If each family member sits down in a regular seat, then you can get a few giggles flowing by sitting down in the wrong one. Take a fork and start to eat a mouthful of dinner then stop saying, ”hang on, something’s not quite right here. This is not my dinner. I’m in daddy’s seat!”
  16. Random Objects Instead Of A Plate – Lay the table, and put everyone’s dinner out. But put a funny object in your place. Then when everyone’s come to dinner and you sit down, say ”hmmm, why have I got a magazine for my dinner?” Try to eat it, and then act all disappointed, ”hmmm that doesn’t seem very tasty! I better go and get my proper dinner.” Repeat with objects, the more outlandish the better. Putting some toothpaste on your placemate, or a (clean!) potty, is bound to get your child laughing hysterically. You can even ask them to join in the fun by saying, ”Would you mind getting me my proper dinner?” And then mutter to yourself, ”I hope they don’t bring me anything silly,” literally inviting them to join in.
  17. Funny things on my spoon – I started this game when I was eating Minestrone soup, and every spoonful  would have a different variation of food. So when I got a spoonful of green peas, I would say to my daughter, ”oh dear. What’s this on my spoon. This looks a bit strange,” and pretend to be afraid of it. Then I would eat the spoonful and it would have a funny effect on me, making me jump around, or swing back on my chair, or make my face go into a funny expression. Then I’d say ”oh sorry, that strange spoonful turned my face funny,” and straighten it out again.” My daughter kept encouraging me to keep taking spoonfuls saying excitedly, ”go on, see what’s on your spoon next!” I tried this the other day when I was eating curry, and there was a green bit of coriander on my fork. I looked at my fork and said, ”what’s that? A leaf? Why did daddy put a leaf in my curry?” She laughed a lot.
  18. Eat me. Eat me. Have the food say  ”eat me! eat me!” to your child says Hannah Gauri Ma From Loving Earth Mama. Then the food pretends to get all sad if it doesn’t get eaten. I have also tried with this one with food that wants to get eaten by me instead. If you have some small items, like nuts or raisins, or peas, then have them come near your mouth, and then you take them away and put them down again. Act all annoyed and frustrated in a playful way, telling them that you’re not hungry, or don’t want to eat them, and then have them try to be eaten all over again.
  19. Aeroplane Game – This is a variation of the traditional aeroplane game of feeding your child. Load up a fork with food and have it take off to your child’s or your own mouth, But instead of landing there it lands in your mouth instead, or it flies and lands on top of the fridge, in the fruit bowl, or the kitchen counter. Act all muddled and confused and say, ”oh no, that’s not where I meant to land,” and try again, failing every single time.
  20. Food that doesn’t want to be eaten – Serve out your food, and then have it say, ”I don’t want to be eaten, I’m going back in the saucepan/fridge, etc.” Have the plate or individual pieces of food jump off the table, and jump back into the saucepan. Say ”hey, that’s my/my child’s dinner, come back here, we need you,” and act all befuddled as you keep trying to serve it but it keeps running away.

I hope this list bring lots of laughter and joy to your dinner table. If you try them out feel free to leave a comment and let us know how you get on. If you come up with any games of your own, we’d love to hear them!

Diary of an imperfect mum

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

Special Time Solution For Screen Time


Screen time is an ongoing dilemma in our family. How and when, and if to set limits. When to allow my daughter the freedom to explore and enjoy screens and everything they offer so that she feels that her own desires and choices are respected. How to manage my own fears and anxieties about screen time. (listening time helps with that!).

One thing I’ve realised is that I’m no expert when it comes to having a one-size fits all approach to how to deal with screens, I’m more likely decide moment by moment, how to handle the issue. It often depends on what my daughter’s done that day, if she seems disconnected, or has been acting off-track, then I usually try and offer some connection using one of the Hand in Hand parenting listening tools.

Today my daughter was watching her ipad, and I could feel myself getting into a kind of downward spiral in my mind. I felt upset that she was watching the screen, but after a late night watching the fireworks for new year, I didn’t feel like I had the energy to offer much in the way of connection.

Then I remembered the blog post I’d written the day before. 10 Ways To Use Special Time To Transform Your Day. It was time to take my own advice! I didn’t have much to offer in the way of energy, but I could spend 15 minutes of my time, knowing that the timer offered me an escape route so it didn’t seem too foreboding!

Often my daughter will turn off a screen if I offer special time, but not today. She was pretty tired as well. So I snuggled down next to her, and we watched her favourite you tube videos where a mum makes some Lego Friends sets.

As I watched the videos, talking about the sets with her, and seeing how they were built I realised the importance of not just using TV as an electronic babysitter, but also of going into our child’s world. The joy and interest they have in the programmes and videos they love is real. I think we create a disconnect when we try to always to get our kids off screens to do something else, they want to feel like we are their ally, on their side, and facilitating their interests. And as I stepped inside my daughter’s world, we could share connection, and I realised that perhaps the screens aren’t the real problem.

Perhaps the problem is that we were born into this world longing for a deep sense of connection that our parents weren’t always able to provide. Perhaps it’s that we are trying our hardest to parent, in busy, stressful times, when we have to juggle so much, paid work and housework, often without extended family near us. Perhaps it’s because it’s hard to meet our children’s deep, emotional needs, all of the time, because our needs weren’t always met when we were young.

We are doing our best to work it out, to heal our lives, and keep striving for connection with our children. We have some wonderful tools to help us to be the parents we want to be, even when times are hard.

So this New Year’s Day, give yourself a break and snuggle up in front of a screen, if that’s what’s going to work best for you and your family!


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

Feeling and Thinking


A few weeks ago my daughter R started at a German speaking forest playgroup. It’s a lovely group where they walk into the forest, build a fire, sing songs, and make crafts out of clay and natural materials. She looked happy setting off on the adventure for the first time without me, and returned happy and excited to see me again.

A few days later, my English friend told me she would be visiting the playgroup with her daughter K, (R’s best friend). They were thinking of starting in the next school year in August. A few days after that R said she didn’t want to go back to the playgroup. I wondered why as she’d seemed so happy with the whole experience. For a few days I talked about it with her from time to time, and she seemed adamant she didn’t want to go back, that she didn’t like the things they do there.

Although I was loving the time to myself, I didn’t want to go against my daughter’s wishes, so I sent a message to cancel her place. She had tried one forest playgroup before, that she hadn’t liked. It had been very different and much longer, but I became resigned to the fact that she just didn’t like forest playgroups!

I didn’t want to cancel the place entirely, as it really is a lovely group. So I asked R if she wanted to start in August instead when her friend K was starting, and she said yes. I then sent a message to the playgroup leader.

An hour later my daughter was swinging on the swing in our garden. I was pushing her really high, and she was having fun. Suddenly she said, ‘’I do want to go to the forest playgroup on Thursday!’’ I told her that I’d cancelled the place, that I wasn’t sure if she still could. She started to cry.

I’m so glad to have discovered the Parenting by Connection approach, and to know that when she does get upset, it’s a natural healing process, that releases stress and upset, and that it helps so much just to listen rather than fixing things immediately. So I hugged her and allowed her to finish crying, and said I was sorry I cancelled the place, I just thought she didn’t want to go. I didn’t rush off to sort out the issue immediately. In that moment I just concentrated on listening to her, as I felt that would help release whatever feelings were tied up in her indecisiveness about the playgroup. My mind was focused on listening rather than ‘’fixing’’ so it took me a few minutes to think about the fact that since I’d only just sent the message I could probably ask for the place back and it wouldn’t be too late, and Ruby was happy with that.

She finished crying, and as we walked back inside, she said to me, ‘’I think I should listen really carefully to what M says.’’ M is a German speaking girl she knows well from her dance class, and another playgroup they go to together. They seem to like each other a lot even though they can’t communicate verbally.

It always amazes me just how the brain works. That when we can release our emotions, in the natural process of crying, then we can often come up with new solutions to the problems we face. This was a perfect example of this. That the root of my daughter’s indecisiveness, was her feelings about being in an environment where she didn’t speak the language. The disapointment about the playgroup was like a trigger which seemed to release some of those feelings, so she could think more clearly and come up with a new plan – to listen carefully to her German friend, and start learning German.

Our children are amazing! They can often figure things out for themselves and come up with their own solutions, provided we are there, to help them through their emotional upsets.

After that my daughter was completely sure that she definitely wanted to go back. She enjoyed her second week at forest playgroup, and I’m so glad to have these tools, to help her overcome her anxieties, and worries, so that she can build confidence and resilience as she explores the big wide world.

Remembering the language of children


Yesterday morning we were due to leave the house and go to visit some friends. My daughter didn’t want to go and was quite adamant about it. I was surprised, as she normally loves visiting her friends, and enjoys going out. She’d had plenty of downtime at home this week, and I felt like we both needed to get out and be sociable. I was concerned that there were some upset feelings, making her feel like she didn’t want to leave the house. Should I listen to her, and just stay home like she appeared to want? I wasn’t sure I could face a long day at home without adult company!

I started explaining to her, explaining that we’d already said we would go, explaining that I didn’t want to let my friend down as she was cooking lunch for us, and explaining that needed to get out of the house. I started trying to persuade her to do the things she need to leave the house, like go to the toilet as she hadn’t gone all morning. No response.

Then I snapped out of lecture mode.  I held her hand and found myself leading her into the bedroom, saying in a mock serious voice, ‘we need to go to the toilet,” and then ”oh no that’s not the toilet!!’ She laughed. Then I would lead her to the sofa, and say the same thing, then to the balcony, a cupboard or outside. She laughed and laughed at my inability to find the toilet, and then when we went into the bathroom. she was happy to go. Five minutes later we were out of the house! She had a great time with her friends, with much laughter and giggling, as they all jumped on the beds together. By the end of the visit she was asking if she could stay there for a sleepover!

We adults can get serious sometimes. We have a lot of responsibility and weight on our shoulders. It can be hard to meet everyone’s needs at the same time. But when we can find the laughter, play, and connection, we can often find co-operation and a solution that works for everyone.

So if you find yourself slipping into lecture mode, just remember the language of children, and put on your clown hat instead!

The Wrong Way



I went to the supermarket with my daughter, and it was so frustrating! She was constantly picking up things from the shelves, and running away from me, which she found hilarious. I was not so amused, although I tried to let her have a good laugh about pulling some toilet rolls off the shelves, because I know that she needed to release some emotions. But my self-consciousness was getting the better of me, and I quickly rushed us away to pay.

We hadn’t been laughing much together recently, and I was wondering when my ‘laughter inspiration’ was going to strike. It seemed like I just couldn’t seem to think of anything to get her laughing, and it was showing in her behaviour. I felt like I was constantly being serious, and setting limits, which wasn’t making us feel very well connected. I was feeling stressed by her whining, and other off-track behaviour, such as shouting ‘bum bum’ and ‘poo poo’ very loudly when we were in public!

On the way to catch the train home, my daughter started complaining that I was going the wrong way, because I’d chosen to go a slightly shadier route to stay out of the sun. Suddenly I had an idea, I saw a flight of steps, and turned her buggy, so we suddenly stopped in front of them. ”Whoops! We went the wrong way.” I said, and she started giggling. We carried on walking for a bit, and I saw an alleyway, so I turned down there, ”oh no, the wrong way!” I said, and she was giggling again. We carried on the game for the whole journey, bumping into lampposts and fences, spinning the buggy round in a circle, or tipping it up as we made a sudden turning and went the wrong way. My daughter joined in pointing out ways, and saying ‘lets try this way,” and every time I exclaimed, ‘whoops, it’s the wrong way!” she laughed and laughed. When we got home, we were still going the wrong way, bumping into the wall in the basement, and stopping suddenly in front of a doorway instead of the elevator.  We felt much more happy and connected.

Laughter is such a vital connection tool, and I’ve seen time and time again, that after my daughter laughs a lot, tears will come later. Like the rain after the sunshine, it’s all part of our innate natural healing process, to get rid of all the yucky feelings we can get filled up with. I’m not always filled with laughter inspiration, and it can sometimes be emotionally exhausting listening to my daughter’s upsets. But it’s a million times more rewarding than having to deal with the kind of behaviours that drive me crazy, and leave me feeling stressed and exhausted anyway! Listening partnerships help a lot, we need to release stress, with laughter and tears too.

If you have a toddler, and want to brighten up your day a bit, why not try going the wrong way? I’d love to hear how it goes. A variation of this game is if you are walking on a shopping street, holding hands with your child, you could try going into the wrong shop, turning and then stopping outside different shops. It’s even more amusing and a bit naughty if the shop has automatic doors, and the benefit in a bit of ‘prescribed naughtiness,’ is that it improves our child’s co-operation the rest of the time. So maybe next time that trip to the supermarket won’t be so frustrating after all.

And if you’re stuck for laughter inspiration too, then check out this list of laughter games, which is fantastic for young children.