Here are seven simple tips (one for every day of the week) to foster happy, healthy kids. A special shout-out to listeners of Radio Disney Philly who caught my interview on the Backyard Show – these are especially for you!
- Lead. By example. You are a role model for your kids. If they see you plop on the couch, they will be inclined to recline as well. If they see you dance around the house, play tug-of-war with the dog, and dig about in the garden, they will be inclined to dance, tug and dig.
- Think. Outside the box. Give a child an expensive gift and they promptly rip it open and…start playing with the gift paper and box. Skip expensive toys and break out the pans, wooden utensils, brooms, and pails. It’s often said the best toys are 10% creation and 90% imagination.
- Watch & Listen. What do your children enjoy doing? What activities do they talk about doing? (Ask them.) Encourage those activities and build on them.
- Share. What are your favorite childhood memories of play? Share them with your family and then break out the Slip ‘n Slide or hula-hoop, or break out the chalk for a game of hopscotch (great for balance for kids and adults).
- Sculpt. By providing your children with opportunities to move and create, you are sculpting their brains. Play fosters new neural connections and prunes existing ones. As kids sculpt play-doh and sand castles, they sculpt their futures.
- Meet. Safety is one of the major reasons parents are hesitant to let their children play outside. Organize a play-date that really is about play.
- Create. Opportunities. Don’t over-schedule your children or yourself. Leave open little windows of time – even if only for ten minutes – just to goof off and move around. Any activity is much, much better than nothing.
Resources especially for parents
These are just a few of the numerous available resources (several of these are also on the 100+ Top Play Resources list). Feel free to add more of your favorites below.
- Active Kids Club
- Childhood Obesity (American College of Sports Medicine) (pdf)
- Free-Range Kids
- Green Hour (National Wildlife Federation)
- Let Kids Play!!
- Let’s Go Outside! (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
- Media-Smart Youth: Eat, Think, and Be Active (National Institutes of Health)
- Peaceable Playgrounds
- Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (DHHS)
- Play Everything
- Play Outdoors: The Campfire
- Safe Routes (National Center for Safe Routes to School)
- We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity & Nutrition, National Institutes of Health)
- Wild Zones
Related posts on play: