18 Ways to Add More Play to Your Child’s Day

Jan 22, 2015

Did you know that "not playing with their kids enough" is among the top regrets of parents? In fact, 63% of those who participated in a recent survey, wish they had enjoyed more activities with their children, such as teaching them to swim or playing a sport.

Now that my daughters are 15 and 11 and incredibly busy with school, homework, friends and various activities, I often wistfully recall the years when they were little ones and we had more time to play. I also wish that like the 63% of parents noted above, I had made more time to play. On too many occasions when they were little, I put the brakes on playtime because I had work to do, dinner to make, or was frazzled at the end of a stressful day. If I could do it all again, spending more time playing with my kids would be top of my priority list. Though we can't change the past, we can change the future. The dinner dishes can wait, a trip to the park will help everyone de-stress at the end of a busy day, and those "little ones" won't stay little for long!

Today I'm sharing 20 tips to help your family move more. Try adopting even one or two of them and you'll be on your way to more fun and play!

1. Role model the behaviour you want your children to adopt. It's proven: active parents have more active children.

2. Access programs in your community. Whenever possible, I try to enroll my kids in swimming, tennis and other activities within a few kilometres of our home. This means we can ride bikes or walk to get there and back and can leave the car parked on the driveway. TIP! Parents can get active while their kids are in lessons or activities. As an example, while my younger daughter plays soccer, I often walk the dog or go for a run.

3. Get outside. Stepping outside for five minutes can easily turn into half an hour of active play or more. Shoot a few baskets in the schoolyard, blow up a beach ball and play some backyard volleyball, or tune up your bikes and head out for a ride.

4. Team sports aren’'t for everyone. Team sports aren't for every child. Talk with your child about his/her interests and help them discover new options. When my older daughter entered junior high school and didn't make many of the sports teams, her activity level dropped considerably. This proved an ideal time to encourage her pursuit of hip-hop and jazz dance and to have her begin working towards her lifeguard qualifications in the pool.

5. Don't rely on physical education classes at school. My experience in observing physical education classes is that children spend a considerable amount of the physical education period changing into gym clothes, listening to instruction, and waiting for their turn. That said, there are some physical education teachers doing an outstanding job—including motivating and engaging kids who don't excel at or even enjoy physical education. The bottom line: if you think your kids are getting enough physical activity at school, think again.

6. Leave the car at home. Encourage your kids to walk, run, bike, blade or board to school. Use active transportation!

7. Get a dog. Obviously getting a dog isn't a practical option (or even desirable) for every family, but in our case, having a golden retriever with plenty of spunk, has meant more exercise for all of us… and a lot of laughs too!

8. Talk to your kids. Ask your kids about activities they'd like to pursue or try. If they seem stuck for ideas, ask them what their friends participate in. I've found this an important part of encouraging my kids to be active. As they grow, they often outgrow activities and it's important to help them grow into new ones.

9. Play! This should really be #1 on my list because all kids needs to do more of it (and most of us adults do too!). Backyards, schoolyards and parks are meant for exploring; trees are meant for climbing; sprinklers are meant for running through; and mud puddles are meant for stomping in. Encourage your kids to play the way we used to!

10. Thin doesn't mean fit or healthy. Don't allow yourself to be misled... fit people of all ages come in different sizes. Studies show that overweight adults who exercise outlive their slim and inactive counterparts. If you're concerned about your child's weight, speak with a health professional.

11. Encourage a little independence. Let your kids walk, bike, or run to a friend's home to play (go with them if they're not old enough) and encourage them to play outdoors with friends. A little independence is a good thing!

12. Have them earn their screen time. Kids spend much of the school day sedentary and after school, many drop their school bags, grab a snack, and head to the TV or computer. Let them—but only for a little while. Set limits on screen time and help your children find other ways to fill their time.

13. Make family time active time. We strive to be active after dinner most nights of the week, even with a simple dog walk. Since weekends tend to be busy at our house, we also schedule and plan active time, like weekend hikes, ahead of time.

14. Add friends. Doing something active as a family? Include your kids in the planning and encourage them to invite friends.

15. Invest in equipment. Playing outdoors and enjoying active time with friends is easier when kids have bikes, balls, hula hoops, roller skates, scooters and other equipment that encourages play and sport participation. Don’'t forget to pack active equipment in your child’'s school backpack too!

16. Take an interest and encourage. Nobody will cheer louder for your child than you. Support them in all of their active and healthy pursuits and encourage them to invite others to join them.

17. Emphasize fun, not exercise. When it comes to kids, talk about "active play" and "active fun" instead of exercise.

18. Dress for success. Encourage your children to dress in clothing and footwear that sets the stage for active fun in all weather. Running shoes, rain boots and a rain jacket, and warm winter gear with lots of extra pairs of mittens are essential.


Article Author Moblees and ParticipACTION
Moblees and ParticipACTION

The Moblees is a multi-platform "Movement Movement" designed to promote healthy active living among Canadian children. Along with partner organization ParticipACTION, The Moblees aims to provide early intervention strategies to reduce childhood obesity and to inspire a foundational change in the way children and their families move through their daily lives.

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