Balance busy back-to-school schedules with plenty of outdoor play.
Remember whiling away an entire afternoon with your pals in the backyard? You know, that where-did-the-time-go kind of play where the backyard is a wonderland and hide-and-seek ends in shouts and giggles.
Busy schedules, screen time and safety worries have put that kind of unstructured, outdoor play on the sidelines for too many children today. Here’s how to get it back, courtesy of our friends at, ParticipACTION.
Plan for play Although it seems counterintuitive, many families find it’s helpful to set aside a specific time for unstructured play — after school, just after dinner and weekend afternoons.
Make space Provide a safe space for active play — the backyard, a green space, a local park or playground.
Don’t worry about the weather So what if you have to wear a raincoat or wash muddy clothes? Imperfect weather can still make for fun (unless of course it presents a real threat to safety, such as lightning or extreme heat or cold).
Be real about safety Often parents are reluctant to send kids out the door to play for fear of strangers. “Parents need to consider whether their safety concerns related to play are perceptions or realities,” says Catherine Cameron, ParticipACTION’s former active living ambassador. “In most cases, we perceive safety to be of greater concern than warranted — our communities are safer than we perceive them to be.”
Let kids own play Encourage your children to view active play as their time — to invent games, get creative, try new things, challenge themselves and test their limits. “We need to encourage children to view this time as an opportunity and never a punishment,” says Cameron. To get them started, suggest activities you know your child likes, such as skipping, hopscotch, basketball, ball hockey or cycling and consider inviting some friends.
Step back Some children appreciate an adult being outdoors with them, but parents need to stand back and let kids lead and invent their own active fun, says Cameron. When your kids make up games, listen to their ideas and be willing to join in if invited and be positive about their creativity and imagination.