Playful Parenting: Bringing Play to Every Day

Playful Parenting: Bringing Play to Every Day

My kids are so much more comfortable talking openly about identity issues than I was at their age. How can I lead these conversations when my kids almost seem more like the experts?

Dr. Nathan Chomilo

Dr. Nathan Chomilo is a respected Twin Cities pediatrician and internist. He is an outspoken equity advocate whose work has included championing the impact early childhood intervention and healthcare access have on the long-term prospects of children and how physicians and health systems can address racial and health equity. He is also the medical director for the State of Minnesota Medicaid and MinnesotaCare programs, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Minority Health, Equity and Inclusion’s Executive Committee and serves on the board of directors of Reach Out and Read MN and Reach Out and Read National.


Dr. Nathan Chomilo: I still remember hearing the mantra that “kids are to be seen and not heard.” Now that we’re embracing that kids should be heard, we’re hearing it all. That leaves us as parents trying to figure out our own stuff, too.

I think of the airplane metaphor: put on your own oxygen mask first. Know your own beliefs and values around racial identity and racism, and gender and sexual identity.

By the age of three, kids will ask about the differences between boys and girls, or about the differences in colors and textures of hair. It’s natural for kids to ask questions. We’ve been socialized not to talk about it, but kids’ brains are going to make them keep asking–just like they always have. If they don’t get the answer from us, they’ll get it at school, from friends or on the internet.

If your child asks a question and you don’t know the answer, it’s okay to read about it and come back after a couple of days and say, “Remember when you asked about this? Here’s what I think. Here are our family’s values around this.” I encourage families to bring in their values. Read children’s books with your kids about the issues on their minds and ask them what they see on the page. You’ll get a lot of insight into what they’re thinking, seeing, and hearing, and can move forward from there.

We’ve all had those moments when we wished parenting came with a handy guidebook. Here’s the next best thing: Real questions posed by parents and caregivers answered by top experts in child health and development.

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