This post is brought to you by Let’s Play, an initiative by Dr Pepper Snapple Group that provides kids and families with the tools, places and inspiration to make active play a daily priority by building and improving playgrounds and donating sports equipment to groups in need. All opinions are my own.
I absolutely love watching my children play. Sure, they don’t always play together nicely and a fight or two might break out, but I love seeing their minds at work. I love seeing them run around and hearing them pretend to be cars, Pokémon or whatever else they might doing at the time. It’s not hard to encourage them to play either. They don’t need fancy electronic toys or expensive sports equipment. Give them a wooded area with a trail and they take off on their own to explore, running and picking up sticks along the way. Give them an old baseball and bat and the World Series is live in our backyard.
As parents, it’s one of our jobs to encourage our children. We encourage them to believe in themselves, to share with others, to respect others and to try new things. Encouraging them to keep their bodies moving and explore the world around them is just another thing we do, sometimes without even thinking about it.
Have you ever taken your kids to a park and an hour later, everyone is just exhausted and you didn’t do a thing but observe and maybe read a few chapters of a new book? By simply giving them permission to play and a safe place to do so, you encouraged their creativity, physical activity and social skills to blossom.
One of my favorite things as a young girl was riding my bike. I had permission to go all over the neighborhood, meet with my friends and ride through huge puddles as fast as I could. Over the years the bike riding changed from just wanting to get out and move, feel the breeze, go as fast as I could, and jump curbs to becoming a social event. You rode your bike with a purpose as you got older and the physical activity part, while still very much present, wasn’t a defining feature of having a bike. If I wanted to go somewhere, I had to use my own body to get there by pedaling. My mom wasn’t dumb; she was encouraging physical movement in a way that made sense for my age and interests.
You can do this too! Preteens and teens not old enough to drive can certainly rely on a bike, roller blades, scooters and skateboards as a means of transportation and staying active. Encourage your kids to go for a walk with friends rather than sit inside in front of the TV.
Let’s get personal about something. What’s preventing your children from being outside and playing more? Do you not live close to a community playground? Do they have little interest in “outside toys” and too much interest in electronics? Do YOU want to be more active WITH them when they play, but something (weight, strength, confidence, whatever) is holding you back?
Mom, Dad… you can’t use excuses. If the playground is too far away for frequent visits, create your own inexpensive play area. Old tires and 2x4s make for great climbing and balance skill builders. Balls, hula hoops and corn hole games can all be used to create fun games. If you need some inspiration for play ideas, you can check out the Let’s Play website.
If you worry that you can’t keep up, or whatever it is that might be holding you back from playing too, stop it. Your kids don’t care about that! They just want YOU to be out there swinging, cheering them on, throwing the ball and hitting a homer so they can chase it. They just want their Mom or Dad and they could care less that you think you are too slow, too big, too old, or terrible at basketball. They don’t care.
We have to be the ones that get our children moving. Who else is going to do it? Grab a cheap kite, head for an open area and get that baby to fly and run with your kids. Get them moving for your health, for their health and for their minds, souls and creativity.