Overcoming barriers to active play

Overcoming barriers to active play

Katherine-Janson_100x134.jpgBy Katherine Janson
PR & Communications Manager, ParticipACTION

Modern life is complicated.  And if you have kids, it can feel overwhelmingly busy. There are so many things that families try to fit into their weeks that finding free time for active play can seem like too much. When you are juggling homework, skating lessons, birthday parties and family commitments, building a snow fort might seem like a waste of valuable time. But free play is important for the healthy development of your child's body, mind and social skills. 

Here are some tips to help you overcome some common obstacles to free play:

Safety concerns
These days, parents think of the world as a more dangerous place than when they were kids. Fears include exposing kids to everything from traffic to crime, injury and bullying. To bring back play:
  • Take turns with other parents or caregivers supervising kids at play in the park or on the block.
  • Encourage kids to play with a buddy or group of friends.
  • Consider street-proofing courses through your local school board or community centre.

No time
Finding more time to do more things can seem like adding another to-do to your list of schoolwork and scheduled activities. To bring back play:
  • Try playing along the way - add follow the leader or I Spy to your walk to school or play tag while you're waiting for the bus.
  • Introduce a screen-free timeslot after school or after dinner, when active play is encouraged.
  • Consider reducing the number of scheduled activities. 

Weather barriers
Your kids need more than fair-weather fitness to grow up healthy and strong.  When it's cold, blustery, wet or sweltering outside, don't send your kids to the couch! To bring back play:
  • Dress for the weather by choosing layers, rubber boots, sun hats or waterproof mittens that fit the forecast.
  • Embrace it by trying something seasonal like snowshoeing or "dog sledding" with everyone taking turns as the huskies.
  • If it's really frightful outside, find an indoor swimming pool, trampoline or have a dance party.

Screen time
The lure of technology is strong these days, and screens are everywhere - in the car, at school and in the home. To bring back play:
  • Make family rules that limit how much screen time your kids are allowed each day, and stick to them.
  • Kids naturally play more actively when they're outdoors, so send them outside, or better yet, head out with them.
  • Remove TVs from children's bedrooms.

Remember - active play may be fun, but it's not frivolous. It has been shown to improve and foster motor function, creativity, decision-making, problem-solving and social skills, the ability to control emotions and preschoolers' speech. Canadian kids will be healthier and happier if we can bring back play.


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