Parenting with Presence
Susan Stiffelman : Inject More Fun; Mindful Drawing; Storytelling

Tools, Tips, & Strategies

Inject More Fun; Mindful Drawing; Storytelling

By Susan Stiffelman, MFT | Updated 6/28/15
a selection from Parenting with Presence

Inject more fun

The Fun Factor seems to be seriously missing in many children’s lives. Below are a few ideas for injecting more playfulness into your daily routine. I highly recommend making it a practice to play more with your children!

  • Chase your kids around the house.
  • Blow bubbles.
  • Roughhouse with them regularly.
  • March around the table before everyone leaves the dinner table, accompanied by tambourines and kazoos.
  • Play hide-and-seek.
  • Have a pillow fight.
  • Have each member of the family bring a joke to share at the dinner table.
  • Sing a song of thanks before you eat.
  • Plan a karaoke night with your neighbors.
  • Have a family disco party, or learn square dancing together.
  • Cook together. Be your child’s sous chef, letting him plan the menu as you do the chopping and slicing.
  • Play marbles (still one of my favorite games).
  • Have a riddle contest.
  • Stage a neighborhood talent show, with your family joining forces for an act.
  • Speak in a foreign accent when you ask your kids to clean up their toys. Whisper. Command them as though you’re the Queen of Lala-land.
  • Schedule a monthly date night with each of your kids. Go somewhere you’ve never been.
  • Have breakfast for dinner. Eat out on the grass, or have an old-fashioned picnic at the park, replete with egg tosses and relay races with friends.
  • Swing on the swings together.
  • Play horseshoes, beanbag toss, darts.
  • Do calligraphy (a very mindful yet creative activity).
  • Splash in a wading pool.
  • Draw on the sidewalk together with chalk. Make a family masterpiece!
  • Have a staring contest — no one blinks! Or a smiling contest, with each of you trying your best not to smile.
  • Stage a family drum circle. Bongos, pots and pans with wooden spoons — anything will do. If you have a dancer in the family, he or she can move to the beat.
  • Play hooky with your kids once a year: drive toward school, then drive on by and head out on an unplanned adventure for the day. “Shall we turn right or left?” Make it up as you go.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It is a happy talent to know how to play.” Having fun with your children is one of the quickest ways to change the pH of the relationship and restore connection. Enjoy!

Three Pleasures a Day

This is a fun activity to do with your children. It will help shift the focus from mental activities (often involving something with a plug, screen, or battery) to the pleasures that come from simply inhabiting a human body. It is adapted from Martha Beck’s The Joy Diet.

Invite each person in the family to complete the following sentences aloud by listing five things that they enjoy in each category. One of you can take notes. Then, enjoy at least three of these pleasures a day!

  1. I love the taste of:
  2. I love the sight of:
  3. I love the feel of:
  4. I love the smell of:
  5. I love the sound of:

What you discover may steer you all toward wonderful activities that have long been ignored. Remembering that you love the smell of lilacs might remind you of how much you enjoy visiting a florist — an easy way to uplift your spirits. Or you may recall how relaxing it is to listen to the sound of the birds, sending you more often to a park bench to drink in their song.

Mindful Drawing

Drawing with a child is a great way to settle into the present moment together. Have your youngster choose a simple object and share the instruction to simply draw what you see. Allow the left, language-based, analytical side of your brain to quiet down as you simply draw what is in front of you. Notice details. Walk around the object to see it from different angles. This is a great activity to do with children to awaken awareness to the “what is” in front of us.


In this era of digital overload, many children are losing the ability to form pictures in their mind, contributing to a decrease in their willingness to enjoy the pleasures of a good book. Storytelling entertains, activates the imagination, and calms children down. There are a variety of ways to engage children in the timeless art of telling stories. Cuddle up, invent an unusual character, and see what happens as you start weaving a tale. Don’t worry about whether you’re “good” at storytelling. Your kids will be entertained by your effort.

Another option is to create “take-turn” stories. Offer an opening sentence and then have each of your children add a line or two as you go around in a circle, developing the narrative. Their participation ensures that they will stay alert and engaged. You may also choose to listen to stories. There are gifted actors who deliver dramatic audio performances for children. One of my favorites is Jim Weiss, from Great Hall Productions.

Telling (and listening to) stories is relaxing, builds connection, and develops children’s ability to stay focused. Have fun with it! •

Next: Living with Passion & Fostering Curiosity »

Susan StiffelmanSusan Stiffelman, MFT is the bestselling author of Parenting with Presence and Parenting without Power Struggles. More »

Excerpted from the book Parenting with Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids ©2015 by Susan Stiffelman. Printed with permission of New World Library.

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