Intentionally reaching for a playful mindset is crucial to unlocking the mystery of play in the day to day. Most of our children highly value play and are excellent at spending time doing it. Their mindset is naturally playful. As time goes on, many of us lose our playful mindset. Play becomes less important and we “forget” what it is like to allow ourselves the freedom to play with ideas, objects and one another. The loss of this playful mindset is tragic for with it goes our creativity. So how do we help our children hold on to their playful mindsets and maybe even bring back our own?

– Variation: Anyone else have days that all look basically alike? Our house is terribly guilty of this one. And while routine can be a good thing, now and then you need to break the routine to add in some variation. Take the school work outside or to a coffee shop. Ditch all of the “normal subjects” and dig deep into a particular curiosity. Try something new or try something in a new way. Variation helps our brains to see things differently, from new angles and therefore cements learning deep into our neural paths.

– Imagination: What are the options? How can we solve this issue? Imagination gives us the opportunity to reframe difficult ideas and concepts. Imagination show us solutions we’ve not seen before. Think about your child and how when he/she is playing imaginatively. It is a constant struggle to solve the problems of the character. Playing house? Need a broom? Can’t find one? No problem! We have a pool noodle. Off he or she skips to grab the pool noodle so the “kitchen” can be “swept.” Are your children “beyond” imaginative play? No worries. Take some time and work through Destroy the Box challenges. You can find such challenges at or you can create your own like we did. The point is to dig for different. To expand what your brains says is possible – to imagine.

– Spontaneity: Bring in the unexpected! Being spontaneous and having spontaneity thrust upon you keep us from rigidly going through the motions of our days. People with playful mindsets jump at the chance for the unexpected. So what does this look like in our homeschooling? For our family, this means chasing the squirrels, going on the tangents, wildly chasing the geese. Though our day is always planned out ahead of time – hello, type A mama – we practice spontaneity by saying yes to topics and concepts that pull at us. There are days you will find us setting aside our entire plan and all our school books to chase after an interest. Is this easy for me – NOPE, but it matters so we do it. The last thing I want to squish in our boys is their ability to be spontaneous and to dig in when your heart and mind are pulling you in a particular direction.

– Wonder: Slow down and sit with your awe. Wonder is more than a curiosity. Curiosity will hold your attention of a moment while wonder will stop you in your tracks. Busyness gets in the way of wonder. Is there enough space in your day to stop in your tracks? Or have you filled your days to the point of having to run from thing to thing to get it all done. Take a look at your calendar and build in some white space. Time is the greatest way to increase wonder in all our lives. Sharing wonder is another way to encourage wonder. Whenever someone sees or hears something incredible, after spending some time with it alone, our family encourages them to share what they’ve seen so the rest of us can come and see or hear as well.

– Humor: I’m not naturally funny. Maybe you are blessed with that gift and this one is easy for you but for the rest of us humor can be some serious work. Is it worth the work? Yes, a resounding yes! You see “joy, pleasure creativity, and critical thinking are connected” (Dearybury & Jones, 2020, p. 15). Increase joy and pleasure, increase creativity and critical thinking. Think back to your education. Who do you remember most? The dull and serious teacher or the one that was willing to laugh along with you?

– Sociability: Let’s think WE not us and them. Break down the barriers, gather together and build one another up in love. Being playful is showing love. Playful people love people.

According to DeBenedet in Playful Intelligence, people with these skills live lighter and smarter (Dearybury & Jones, 2020). Isn’t that what we all want for our children? And for that matter, ourselves. So go out there, keep it smart, keep it simple, keep your mindset playful.

Dearybury, J., & Jones, J. P. (2020). The Playful Classroom. Jossey-Bass.