Overcoming barriers to active play 

Despite safety, weather and time issues, as well as the ever-present lure of technology, it has never been more important for kids to unplug and play freely. Here are a few tips to help get your kids up, out and moving.

cute little girl is playing in muddy puddles

Modern life is complicated. And if you have kids, it can feel overwhelmingly busy.

There are so many things that families try to fit into their weeks that finding free time for active play can seem like too much.

When you are juggling homework, gymnastics, birthday parties and family commitments, stomping in mud puddles might seem like a waste of valuable time. But free play is important for the healthy development of your child’s body, mind and social skills.

Here are some tips to help you overcome some common obstacles to free play:

Safety concerns

These days, most parents probably think of the world as a more dangerous place than when they were kids. Fears include exposing kids to everything from traffic to crime, injury and bullying. To bring back play:

• Take turns with other parents or caregivers supervising kids at play in the park or on the block

• Encourage kids to play with a buddy or group of friends

• Consider street-proofing courses through your local school board or community centre

No time

Finding more time to do more things can seem like adding another to-do to your list of school work and scheduled activities. To bring back play:

• Try playing along the way – add follow-the-leader or I Spy to your walk to school or play tag while you’re waiting for the bus

• Introduce a screen-free time slot after school or after dinner, when active play is encouraged

• Consider reducing the number of scheduled activities

Weather barriers

Your kids need more than fair-weather fitness to grow up healthy and strong. When it’s chilly, blustery, wet or foggy outside, don’t send your kids to the couch! To bring back play:

• Dress for the weather by choosing layers, rubber boots, sun hats or waterproof mittens that fit the forecast

• Embrace it by trying something seasonal, such as a trip to the sugar bush or playing with umbrellas in the rain

• If it’s really soggy outside, find an indoor swimming pool, trampoline or have a dance party

Screen time

The lure of technology is strong these days, and screens are everywhere — in the car, at school and in the home. To bring back play:

• Make family rules that limit how much screen time your kids are allowed each day, and stick to them

• Kids naturally play more actively when they’re outdoors, so send them outside, or better yet, head outside with them to play

• Remove TVs from children’s bedrooms

Remember — active play may be fun, but it’s not frivolous. It has been shown to improve and foster motor function, creativity, decision-making, problem-solving and social skills, as well as the ability to control emotions and preschoolers’ speech. Ottawa kids will be healthier and

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happier if we can bring back more active play.

Photo: depositphotos.com © fajnokg