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N16 mum pens life-changing parenting book



Once in a blue moon a book comes along that changes your life. Julia Deering’s The Playful Parent looks set to do just that.


The Stokey mum and early years expert has just been published by Harper Collins. Her book laments the obsession with making sure four year olds have basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills and it advocates the value of play in encouraging social and emotional skills, curiosity, practical and listening skills and happiness!


Now - with four primary school teachers in my family, I thought I had the concepts of play covered. I didn’t – but thanks to this book I’m learning. I’m learning what to get and what to do to help my toddler have fulfilled play days and, as importantly, what to get rid of.


As a full-time mum, thinking of ways to fill our days and make them meaningful can be challenging but, armed with this new textbook, we're going to have some fun.


This well-written textbook encourages parents to plan a well-rounded play day just as they would a nutritious diet.  Deering puts forward seven ways to play...


  • Chores not bores (making completing domestic tasks fun)

  • 10 second set ups (e.g. having a bag of toys or irresistible stimulus at the ready to encourage a period of independent play

  • Invitations to play (you set something up and demonstrate before stepping away and letting them continue)

  • Invitations to create – providing the materials to allow them to be creative (not necessarily pushing for a finished product)

  • Make and take (making something for a special occasion so the aim is to create a finished product)

  • Stay and Play (you make time to simply play with your child – perhaps with stories and books or singing)

  • Sanity Savers (quick tricks and play to get children behaving as you’d like without resorting to discipline)


Deering states: “It’s about the time when a baby reaches toddlerhood that our homes might begin to fill up with numerous flashing, noisy, plastic branded gadgets and toys. This is far from necessary, and actually can be a barrier to accessing the 7 Ways to Play. Rather than buying toys that do more and more of the thinking for them, now’s the time to seek out those toys that really stimulate your children’s brilliant imaginations and which will promote open-ended play.   If this means having a toy audit and giving away, or at least putting into storage a lot of their stuff – now’s the time to do it.”


She puts forward  suggestions for items to encourage toys like Lego, practical equipment like a washing up bowl, cloth, dustpan and brush, wooden spoons, jugs, a small watering can and trowel, old packaging, empty food containers, bags and baskets, a sand timer, balloons, large pieces of fabric, natural objects such as shells, pebbles and sticks, a torch, tape measure, art supplies (glitter, glue, paint, coloured paper, buttons, feathers, beads, foam sheets and chalk and many, many more items).


And she encourages parents to have playthings well organised and accessible in small storage stations all over the house and to take a small bag of toys or items to encourage play when you’re out and about. 


She even suggests songs to sing and games to play while carrying out household chores and children’s books to support those themes. 


The Playful Parent features suggestions on which plants to grow with your children... ones that grow quickly and easily, those that smell great or have good textures,  ones which attract butterflies and bees and of course the edible ones.


Our garden is currently a building site but pretty soon my little boy and I are going to head out with our little watering can and trowel to plant sweet peas, nasturtiums, lamb’s ears, marigolds, tomatoes and herbs.


I could go on and on listing the amazing tips that will help you and your child have more enjoyable, fulfilled days but there isn’t the time - I’m off to raid the recycling bin for craft supplies!


Seriously – I don’t say this lightly – if there’s one book you splash out on this year this should absolutely be it!  And for the record, I’ve never met Julia and she’s not paying me – it’s just a brilliant book!


It's available from Stoke Newington Bookshop on the High Street.

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