Welcome to the September Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Through Play This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how challenging discipline situations can be met with play. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants. ***   I have a toddler, a few weeks from two years old. She is, I think, very bright. She can recognise the numbers from 0 – 9, and her favourite form of outdoor entertainment is reading the licence plates on each car we walk past. She has amazing recollection and a phenomenal  vocabulary, and can hold a full conversation. I don’t know too many other  kidlets her age for comparison, so I think she’s pretty smart. I’ve never sat down to teach her numbers either, and while she has some ‘educational’ toys, we’ve never played them according to their rules, or followed their instructions. We just let her play with them without trying to teach her.  I must admit too, that I am not very good at ‘play‘.  In fact, it’s something that’s bothered me since her birth – I’m just not good at immersing myself in an imaginary world, something I hope will change as my child(ren) grow/s. Yet she learns. Numbers, colours, shapes, objects. I’ve been surprised time and again by what she observes, sees and overhears. One of the early ways Ameli learned shapes and objects was from a bag of bath stickers that she would play with for ages each bath time. We’d talk about the objects (“here comes the butterfly, flit flit flit”, “ooooh, put it there next to the triangle”) and so on. bonnie girl in sling

We also read baby stories, hard cover books, two-words-per-page books. Sometimes making up stories about the characters, and sometimes just reading it as it says on the page. Over the course of weeks and months, she got to know what everything was, like elephants, ducks, cows and so on – although she still calls  ostriches either ducks or chickens!

We also immersed her in a world of real animals.  We’ve been fortunate to be able to spend some time in Africa, where wild life really appears in the wild, but even in the UK, we’ve visited animal farms, petting zoos and places such as Longleat where she could observe the animals, and recognise them, recalling them later in books.

I firmly believe that carrying Ameli in a sling since birth and up to about 18 months, when she could walk longer distances, played a huge role in her development. She was always a part of her world, and has always interacted with it. From her daddy and I visiting museums to the travels we’ve undertaken through to walks in the park, looking at trees and birds, we’ve always involved and included her and spoken with her, making her an active part of her own world too, rather than her observing the world from knee height.

A big thing for my husband and I as people is to be perpetual travellers, even in our own town.

In London it was easy as you can never stop finding new things to do or places to go, but even a walk down the canal is an experience for a child, and sometimes we’ll walk looking at the flowers or boats, adding to vocabulary, to understanding and to learning.

A slightly harder lesson has been teaching Ameli about gentleness, sharing with others and taking care of our things, through play. A torn page, for example, is also a lesson in why it’s important to be gentle with our toys.  Playing with other children is a particularly hard lesson at the moment, as Ameli doesn’t like sharing her things, but insists on sharing theirs.

Through ‘gardening’ with me, she has learned to weed, plant, sow. She’s learned to observe the slow process of growing.

There’s a long list of things I can add here, I guess, but the moral of the story for us is this: immersion is the best form of education. By immersing our child in our world, involving her and including her from before we thought she could understand, she has developed so quickly and understands more than we thought possible by a not yet two year old.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • On being a more playful parent — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine shares how the Playful Parenting book impacted her.
  • Parenting a toddler through play — Alicia at I Found My Feet lists some examples of how she uses play to parent through everyday tasks and challenges.
  • Splashing in Puddles — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares how she learned to get dirty and have fun with her little boy.
  • Say Please — Cassie at There’s a Pickle in My Life explains how they taught their son manners by “play,” showing that actions speak louder than words.
  • No Nanny Needed — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life wishes parenting through play was her only responsibility during the day.
  • I’ll Run Away With Gypsies — Nikalee at Spotted Pandemonium maneuvers physical and emotional obstacles while spinning playful tales, jumping through hoops, and inspiring the kids to clean the living room.
  • A Promise To My Daughter — Lindsey at An Unschooling Adventure writes a poem for her daughter promising to use play instead of anger when facing difficult situations.
  • Parenting Through Play — Not Always Easy But Always Rewarding — Amy at Peace4Parents discusses how play hasn’t always come easily to her, the power of appreciative observation, and how her family learns together through play.
  • Imagination Plays a Role in Our Parenting — Tree at Mom Grooves shares how parents can use play to set the foundation for communication and understanding.
  • A Box of Crayons — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction talks about how a simple box of crayons has become a wonderful parenting and teaching tool.
  • The Essential Art of Play — Ana at Pandamoly shares some of her favorite lessons available for young ones through play.
  • The Art of Distraction — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro shares a list of distracting alternatives to harsh punishments in tough parenting situations.
  • Grace and Courtesy Games at Home or School — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now has ideas for grace and courtesy games that help you encourage courteous behavior without reprimanding your child.
  • I am woman, hear me roar! — Mrs Green from Little Green Blog shares how one simple sound can diffuse an argument in an instant.
  • Getting Cooperation Through Play — Amyables at Toddler In Tow talks about respecting the worldview of a preschooler by using play to encourage connection and cooperation.
  • Playful Parenting = Extra Energy?? — Momma Jorje didn’t think she had the energy for playful parenting. See what she was surprised to learn…
  • Dance Party Parenting — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen learned how to be the parent her children need through play.
  • Wrestling Saved My Life — Wrestling is as vital to her son’s well-being as babywearing once was, finds Hannah at Wild Parenting.
  • Parenting through play — By playing with her children, Tara from MUMmedia is given amazing opportunites to teach, train and equip her children for life.
  • Parenting Through Play Starts in Infancy — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, Issa from LoveLiveGrow shares that though she only has a 3-month-old, playful parenting has already started.
  • Play Before Sleep — Adrienne at Mommying My Way writes about how playing and singing with her son before he falls asleep helps calm her frustrations that tend to arise at night.
  • Playful Parenting — Or 5 Lessons My Son Has Taught Me About Parenting Through Play — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama has learned to be a better parent by following her toddler’s lead in play.
  • Hurry up! Hurry up! I mean it! Quack, quack, quack! — Kellie at Our Mindful Life leads a trail of ducklings
  • On the Road: Learning to Play — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers her inner adult through a summer of playing with her children.
  • Preventing Tantrums Through Play — Gaby at Tmuffin explains how she keeps her household happy by not taking things too seriously.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Through Play — Lily, aka Witch Mom, redirects unwanted behavior in a toddler using games and play.
  • Exaggerating for effect — Lauren at Hobo Mama has learned how to ham it up.
  • Handling Big Emotions with Role Playing — Zoie at TouchstoneZ plays at tempering her parental frustrations while helping her children handle some big emotions
  • How To Herd Toddlers by Talking Pictorially — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama demonstrates how talking in pictures is a playful way to engage your young child in transitioning from one activity to the next.
  • Getting a Toddler to Go Where You Want…Playfully — Sylvia at MaMammalia describes how a game of hide-and-seek can be used to steer a wandering toddler in the direction of her choosing.
  • Playful Parenting: Chores That Do Themselves — Remember chores when you were a kid? If chores were this fun for Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey, she wouldn’t have needed any reminders!
  • Clown School Express: Playing away Fears — MudpieMama describes how she helped her boys confront their fears about starting kindergarten by playing with trains.
  • Practicing Playful Parenting — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle realizes that playfulness is the best way through the day and seeks more ways to practice it.
  • Today, Tomorrow and Every Day — Starr at Taking Time addresses her children in a letter sharing with them how improtant it is that they spend their childhood playing.
  • Learning Through Immersion — Luschka at Diary of a First Child shares how she helps her daughter develop naturally without focusing on teaching, but rather by immersing her in their family’s way of life and making her an active part of her environment.
  • Play Here Now — Jessica at Instead of Institutions learns and relearns and tries to remember the value of play.
  • Play: A Wonderful Parenting Tool — Mamapoekie from Authentic Parenting offers a list of examples on how to use play in real-life parenting situations.
  • Playful Parenting — a Book Review — Erica at ChildOrganics shares simple yet sage advice from Dr. Cohen on how play can change your child’s life.
  • Mock Threats: Turning Real Frustration into Playful Parenting — Threatening is not an effective discipline strategy, but Dionna at Code Name: Mama explains how parents can turn their frustration into playful moments by making “mock threats.”
  • I’m Sick of Yelling — I Want to Play — Alicia at McCrenshaw’s Newest Thoughts realizes she needs to change the way she’s parenting and is forming a new plan.
  • Sing-along, Brush-along Songs — Shana at Tales of Minor Interest shares a few songs to make brushing her three-year-old’s teeth more fun.
  • Monster Voice — Ever have those frustrating moments with your kid(s) when you just want to scream? Amy at Anktangle shares a silly strategy for getting through those difficult times.



Learning Through Immersion

  1. We are also unschoolers so this really does resonate with me. One thing that I have discovered over time is to not prejudge the relative “educational value” of any given experience. Unless we are taught to do otherwise every moment of our lives is a learning moment. 🙂

  2. That’s so true — it’s amazing what babies pick up on. Even without any formal teaching, they’re just absorbing it all. That’s one thing I love about babywearing, too — as well as taking my baby out and about with me as much as possible.

    I love the idea of seeing wild animals in the wild, by the way. I just saw two young deer last night, and even that was exciting. 🙂

  3. It’s so amazing what children learn without us ever having to ‘teach’ them a thing! My kiddos constantly surprise me. Reading this makes me want to take my kids into the city again just so we can do museums, parks and all the other cultural activities that are available…I miss these. So traveling is high on my agenda right now! Thanks

  4. wonderful!!! I see my children learning so much through play. I too found that all of mine learned so much from tagging along in the carrier – it’s so nice to hear of other thoughtful mama’s out there making the world more interesting than just looking at kneecaps and bums 😉

  5. Hurray! Great post! It’s obvious that I whole heartily agree, as we are unschoolers ourselves. Even though we came to this by accident, I couldn’t imagine a different life. Will be sharing this post

  6. Great post for the Carnival. I have to say that I resonate so much with what you are saying here. The voracious appetite for learning through playful experience opened my eyes, in yet another area of our family lives, to being led by my children. It is the same thing that led us to homeschooling and toward unschooling. It’s that playful, beginner’s mind that is open to everything. It’s their example become my example to remind myself that we’re only limited when we think we already know something.

  7. I absolutely love the idea of being travellers in one’ own town!!! What a wonderful way to live.
    I want to incorporate some of that feeling into our lives.
    Thank you for that!!
    It’s going to be fun to see how your daughter grows!!

  8. Agreed! Tom started out wondering why I bothered to take Kieran to “enriching” activities/places as a baby. Not only did it keep me from going stir crazy as a SAHM, but there’s also research that shows baby’s brains are developing with every new experience, every new sight, smell, sound. Active exposure to concepts and places is so important!

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