Looking back to my early childhood I couldn’t tell you how many times a week my Mum vacuumed or cleaned the shower, I don’t know if I went to swimming lessons and I don’t remember if we had expensive furniture.  What I can tell you is that we had a lot of fun and it was not just okay to be a little silly – it was encouraged.

I have memories of making mud pies, water fights and a slippery water slide made with a ute cover.  We have home movies of my sister and I with our faces painted like the band “Kiss”.

Sometimes now it seems we are so busy.  Busy shopping, busy working, busy cleaning the house, busy taking preschoolers to lessons.  Have we gotten too busy to have a little fun?  One of my favourite messages from the SKIP parenting initiative is “the housework can wait, your children need you now”.  While my own mother may joke that I take it too literally it’s about sometimes, forgoing the vacuuming for some baking together, but that’s something I am proud of.

Often in my role as a visiting teacher for footsteps, people say “excuse the mess” when I come to visit.  I always reassure them that with under fives in the house, this is the way it should look if you are learning and having fun.  Maybe there is a little finger-paint smudge on the wall, or flour on the floor from over enthusiastic ‘helpers’ for baking.  Perhaps the children are still in their pyjamas cuddled up having a story.  These are the signs of a happy home.

So what are some ways to put the fun back into your family?

  • Make a batch of play dough together from scratch and spend a morning making dinosaurs, cupcakes or shaping the letters in their name.  Here is an easy recipe from footsteps.

1 cup flour

1 cup water

1 tablespoon oil

½ cup of salt

2 tsp cream of tartar

food colouring (optional)

  • Get really messy with some sensory play such as goop.  You will be amazed how it changed to and from a liquid and solid.

2 cups cornflour

1 cup cold water

Place cornflour in a bowl and slowly add water.  You are aiming to stop adding water when the cornflour is thoroughly damp but not liquid.  Pour onto a large tray, table or into a trough.

If you child has grown out of the stage of putting things in their mouth and has no allergies you can use shaving foam sprayed on an outdoor table or large tray for messy play.

  • Do some home baking together.  If you are not a ‘baker’ make some fairy bread or decorate some premade cupcakes.  It is the process of having fun together not the end product.
  • Have a pyjama and movie day.  Even better if you have some of your own home movies to watch.
  • Have a dress up or face painting day, including the adults.  Then take some silly photos.
  • Surprise your child by taking a day off from work or the usual routine.  Take a picnic and go to the park.
  • Try something as a family that you have never done before like have a pretend power cut and decorate the house with candles.
  • My daughter loves a home disco.  Michael Jackson is put on and out come the Thriller moves.  We often sing together in the car.  The teenager of the house may roll his eyes from the back seat and put in his iPod earphones but that’s another story!
  • You might have to wait for the weather to get warmer again but water fights with water guns, balloons and cups will have them squealing with laughter.
  • Camp outside in a tent or sleep in a hut inside.  You can tell stories by torch light.
  • Play a boardgame such as snakes and ladders or a card game such as go fish.  Children don’t need expensive toys, they want your time.
  • Share a fun activity from your childhood like ‘elastics’ or knucklebones or hunt down your own favourite childhood book or movie and relive the fun with your child.
  • If you find yourself caught up in the routines of the week place some ideas in a jar and let your child choose one a week.

Still need convincing that being a bit silly and having fun is not only enjoyable but an important part of our family life……….

  • Having fun is a stress reliever for adults and children.
  • We all need the therapeutic release of a laugh.
  • Playing and laughing with your child creates a close bond.
  • Being spontaneous teaches your child to be adaptable.
  • Having fun develops a sense of humour.
  • You may have heard the saying “Play is a child’s work”.  Children learn through play making learning positive and fun.
  • Today’s fun are tomorrow’s memories.
  • Trying new things, getting messy and having fun encourages your child to be adventurous, confident and creative.

What does your family do to have fun?  We’d love you to share your ideas so please send us your comments.

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Jacqueline Taylor, mum of two, worked for 25 years in ECE and currently works as an early intervention teacher. As a qualified ECE teacher, she is especially interested in working with under 3s to understand and help them develop a strong foundation for the future.

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