Family fun: Get everyone moving!
Chances are your – and your child’s – schedule is pretty packed. Between work, school and after-school activities, it’s easy to push time for free play to the backburner.
When there is an opportunity for some leisure time, it may be spent zoned out in front of the television or mindlessly scrolling through a smartphone.
The next time you find your family with some down time, get moving together with some active play. Playing offers huge benefits to adults and children alike. It’s a way to fuel imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities and improve mental health.
Actively playing with your kids will not only improve your own mood and well-being, but research shows it can help make your kids smarter, better adjusted and less stressed, too.
SportingKid Live talked with Catherine Holecko, About.com's Family Fitness Expert, to find out why active play is important for young athletes, the family benefits of play and how to make play a part of your family’s lifestyle.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: How can family activity combat today’s high-stress youth sports environment?
HOLECKO: Exercise is a very effective stress-buster, and so is laughter! So playing actively as a family really helps counter some of the stress kids can feel from being involved in elite sports. To avoid burnout, kids need to understand, deep down, that their family loves and supports them no matter what happens on the playing field. Some fun family time helps reinforce that message.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: How can family activity help develop young athletes?
HOLECKO: Family activity can contribute to overall fitness, which will benefit athletes no matter what sport they play. It's also valuable for kids to move different muscles to help them be well-rounded athletes. When children are young, they can learn basic sports skills (like throwing, catching and kicking) in a relaxed environment by playing with their parents and siblings.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What are the benefits of a family playing and exercising together?
HOLECKO: There are so many! First, good health. Physical activity is so important to keeping our bodies and brains healthy. We should aim for at least 60 minutes of physical play every day. Since we're all so busy, why not get physical activity together? It makes for great quality time. It can also be an opportunity for parents and kids to learn from each other. Parents can teach basic skills, like riding a bike or throwing a Frisbee, or share games they played when they were kids. As kids grow, they also learn new sports and skills that they can share with family members. That, in turn, can really boost a child's self-esteem.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What are some examples of fun games and activities families can play?
HOLECKO: There are so many! At my site, I have many ideas for ways to play that involve simple items (like hula-hoops and foam pool noodles) or nothing at all (read: 10 ways to play tag). Kickball is fun for groups--it's easy to learn and just requires some open space and a rubber ball. Geocaching is another fun way to spend an afternoon: you'll explore together, walk, and solve a problem as a family.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What are some ideas parents can use to make physical activity accessible to the family?
HOLECKO: One of the simplest things you can do is walk (or bike) to school. There is some research showing that kids both behave and learn better if they get some exercise in the morning before school. Walking takes care of that and if parents walk along, we get some exercise too! Aside from that, keep some basic active toys available at home if you can. Ride-on toys like scooters are super appealing to kids, but inexpensive items like jump ropes and sidewalk chalk also go a long way toward promoting physical activity. Limiting screens frees up time for active play, and so does making a commitment to regular, shared activity, such as after-dinner walks or Sunday afternoon bike rides.
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