Playing with our 18 month old daughter, I found there are some parallels between children’s play and great training practices. So here are 5 tips worth sharing:

1. Flexibility is key

While we have a session plan to follow, we need to be flexible based on what they group needs in the moment.

Parents know that even the best laid plans don’t always fall into place with kids! Things might take longer, or the activity that was entertaining yesterday (or even 5 minutes ago) might now be a source of irritation! Flexibility is key.

As trainers we also need to demonstrate flexibility. Even the most rigorous session plans don’t always fall into place as we would like. When the situation or mood of the group changes we need to be flexible too, think on our feet and adjust our delivery to better suit the learning group.

2. Innovate and change it up

Changing up for delivery methods keeps both you and your learners engaged.

Whether you are a parent or not you can probably imagine that our 18 month old daughter moves through a variety of interests on a regular basis. My wife and I constantly devise new ways of engaging with her in a fun and exciting way. From making the sounds of barnyard animals to the invention of a sock puppet named “Francis the Pig” we are constantly changing our material.


As trainers we have to do the same with the way we deliver content. What people find interesting and engaging can depend on the learning group, demographic and workplace (to name a few) so we need to mix it up and keep it fresh. This is not only great for our learners but it keeps stretching us as trainers and helps to keep us at the top of our game!

3. Lead by example

Like parents, trainers are in a  position to role model the behaviours that we expect of our students.

One of the things I’ve noticed our daughter does a lot is replicate our behaviour and how we perform certain tasks. We didn’t show her how to drink from a glass, she copied us. We haven’t directly showed her how to brush her teeth, she observed us at a young age and replicated the actions. This has made me more aware of things I do and do not do around the house!

As trainers we are role modelling the required skills and attitudes for our learners. Whether we like it or not, we are on show and our behaviour, including our attitude is on show as the benchmark standard. We need to keep this in mind not only when we are delivering a lesson but before, after and even during breaks.

4. Let them take risks but be supportive

red bull
We need our learners to step outside their comfort zone and we should be there to support them to do it.

Our daughter loves playing in her stroller. She loves hopping in and out of it and gets a real buzz when she climbs up and down. While it is stable, there is a small risk it will tip over – a risk she is unaware of. To help her avoid injury we keep one hand or foot on the stroller while she hops in and out laughing and smiling all the time. We keep an eye out when we feel she needs a helping hand.

Great trainers do the same with their students. They are always looking out for students that might need that extra level of support and generate suggestions and ideas of how they can help.

5. Don’t take yourself too seriously

One of the best forms of humour in the training room is having a laugh at yourself. 

If there’s one thing you can’t do when playing with an infant is take yourself too seriously. Acting like a silly kid is part of the game! Whether I am crawling around on the floor, making the sounds of a farmyard animal or smiling with orange peel in my mouth, I know the joke is on me.

While I don’t do these things when I’m training (for obvious reasons), I try not to take myself too seriously. As trainers we can do this by being prepared to have a laugh at ourselves or be the centre of a joke. It can relieve the tension of a serious learning session. But keep in mind that any joking needs to be about you, not the students or the course material.

Tony Kirton is the founder of Engage Learning and Development an organisation committed to developing and delivering engaging learning programs that inspire behavioural change.

Contact Tony directly on 0497 686 242 or fill out the form below and we will get in touch.


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