Kids today are busy. Besides school and homework, there’s sports, clubs, music lessons, ballet and other activities that keep them on a structured schedule. It’s easy to see why kids can feel overwhelmed and anxious.
One way to combat this stress is through play. For children, time to play is a time to explore and have fun. As reported in The Journal of Pediatrics, “Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength.”
Of course, extracurricular activities are also important for children’s overall good health and brain development, and free playtime should not be seen as something competing with that. Instead, it should be a natural part of a child’s schedule.
Parents can help children incorporate playtime into their everyday lives, and not only will it have positive results for the child, but for the whole family as well. Children and parents should have alone time, so parents can get their chores done while children have time to play on their own and learn how to entertain themselves. However, parents should also play with their children, and there are some simple ways to incorporate fun activities into busy lives.
For example, now that the warm weather is here, keeping some simple items in your car can lead to spontaneous play. Frisbees, chalk, balls, balloons and jump ropes don’t take up much room, and can be available at a moments notice. When you’re driving with your kids, look for spots that are free of traffic, get everyone out of the car, and use the chalk to draw a hopscotch pattern. Find a rock or other marker and use it to throw on the squares. Hop around with your kids and you will all get some exercise. While driving past a park or big open field, park the car and have a quick game of frisbee or a jump rope contest. Throw some balls back and forth, or if you don’t have anything with you, play a game of tag. Make a list of natural elements, such as acorns and pine cones, and have a scavenger hunt to see who can find all the things on the list the fastest. Blow up the balloons and have a volleyball game – who needs a net?
There are many ways to play whether by oneself or with family members. Both forms of play are beneficial and serve a purpose. According to the article “The Importance of Play in Early Childhood Development,” written for Montana State University, family activities “help develop strong family bonds, which can last a lifetime. Families who play together are more cooperative and supportive and have better communication.”
So, schedule some play time into everyday routines, and make happy memories that will last a lifetime. It will also give mom and dad some much need downtime just to have fun.
Written for About Families Magazine