Parenting In Focus: Don’t forget to laugh, play and hug

Laughter is such a critical ingredient in raising your child. It allows serious things to be taken lightly; it gives you a chance to make a strong statement without making it seem like the end of the world. It makes life more enjoyable.

This is true even in pandemic times. In fact, laughter in times like these is more important than ever.

Help your child learn to have fun and to laugh beginning with his food. When he resists his broccoli, tell him about the tree that he is eating. See how fast he can eat the tree. See which child can eat 12 peas the fastest.

Make picking up laundry into a game of toss the clothes into the basket. Laugh about how the shoes he was supposed to pick up walked down the hall and stayed there. See who can pick up the most toys the fastest.

Even give some serious thought to what you say no to. Children hear the word no way too often. Instead of instantly saying it, think of some other way to be creative but with the same results.

When possible, substitute a yes for a no. “Yes we can play a game later. We can’t play now because we have to pick up your brother from school.”

This shows respect for the request and a willingness to do it even though you aren’t going to do it right now. It is one useful way to eliminate a no.

There is plenty to be serious about so don’t worry that you are making fun out of too many things. Humor is basically a form of intellectual play — play with ideas.

While you are working hard to eliminate the negative from your child’s life, be sure to put in lots of love. A regular amount of hugs is an especially good way.

Give some thought to how your child gets the attention he needs. Then make sure it is a way you approve of. Decide how you want your child to ask for attention. Attention shows him he belongs to you. If he needs your attention, he will get it. The choice for you is how he will get it. He can ask for a hug or just hit his little sister. What he chooses to do will depend on how he thinks you will respond.

Try to find things your kids will love to do with you. Here are some examples: bake cookies, hunt for earthworms, jump rope, roll down a hill, have a tea party, learn to juggle, have a scavenger hunt, learn to hula hoop, wash the dog, build a fort out of blankets, play Simon Says, put on a play, play rock, paper, scissors, wash the car, play hopscotch, freeze fruit juice popsicles, jump on a pile of leaves. How many of these have you tried with your child? See how many you can add to the list.

Math Tool: Fingers are math tools your child always has with him. Encourage your child who is just learning to count to use his fingers. Put up a finger one at a times as you count it.

Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. For more information, email to or call 360-681-2250.