The Playing Smart Archive

Playing Smart offers simple, satisfying activities that promote learning and laughter at the same time -- no expensive equipment or special preparation required. 

You Can Teach Your Children to Be Better Listeners
We all know how important it is to be a good listener, but getting our kids to be good listeners is an even greater challenge. These age-by-age tips and fun activities will help you help your young ones develop better listening skills.

New Ways to Play at Night
The dark can be scary at any age, but for families who use their imaginations, the night is made for adventure.

Dinnertime Rituals
Activities to make the evening meal a fun, bonding, learning experience for your whole family.

Journal Journies: Diaries for the Post-Diaper Set
"Know thyself" is great advice at any age - and getting to know oneself can also be downright fun. A perfect way to get your kids started on a lifelong journey of self-exploration is to introduce them to the idea of keeping a journal.

Cultural Diversity for Kids
Exploring cultures with your child is fun and worthwhile, and it doesn’t have to be limited to learning about foreign countries and peoples. You can also investigate your own neighborhood, community and country - even explore your family.

Bringing Literature to Life
"If you’d like to share your passion for good books with your child, consider these ways to enrich the reading experience - and create a lifelong reader…."

Learning Comes Alive At The Cemetery
On a cemetery visit, your child will discover fascinating facts, perceive connections, draw conclusions from comparing names and dates, and become more comfortable with this most integral facet of human life and culture.

Brain Benders
If you’re like most parents, you want your child to develop his or her brainpower as fully as possible. You can help extend your child’s mental reach by teaching him or her to think both creatively and logically. These activities provide stretching exercises of all kinds for young brains.

Mind-Challenging Physical Activities
When children move their bodies, the benefits go far beyond the merely physical. try combining physical exertion with a healthy dose of mental stimulation. Most of these ideas are fun for the whole family to try.

Anytime Adventures
Who among us hasn’t felt bored by the thought of taking the kids to the same old park, playground, or zoo? Try going someplace ordinary and looking at the familiar in a new way.

Snacks for the Mind
Whether you think of cooking as a pleasure or a chore, you can help your child experience fun and learning in the kitchen. A willingness to experiment is the key.

Waiting Games

Next time you find yourself waiting with your child-- in a doctor’s office or restaurant, in a line somewhere or in the car-- take full advantage of those spare moments. It only takes a minute to do something creative and have a bit of fun.

Dirt, Worms, Bugs and Mud
Fun and learning for kids in the garden. Find out what happens when you offer them an empty plot of earth and tell them it’s theirs to garden.

Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is the author of "Playing Smart: The Family Guide to Enriching, Offbeat Learning Activities for Ages 4-14" (Free Spirit Publishing, 2001), from which her columns are adapted. Check out Susan's Web site at