Kids will find a way to amuse themselves whether they have the latest and greatest toys, random household items, or just their imaginations. And while it might look frivolous from afar, decades of research show conclusively that playtime is important to their development. As a parent, there are definitely times when you need to leave the little one to play—someone has to cook dinner, after all. But parents should also realize that playing with their kids is vital and, let’s be honest, tons of fun. Of course, play doesn’t come quite as naturally to parents as it does to their progeny, and even the most fun parents around could use some new ideas every once and a while. Here are some of our favorites, alongside stories of real-life parents who know firsthand the value and joy of participating in playtime.