_Active_Movement Based Play_ VariationsPsychology, 2019_Dr.Shinn.jpg

Get Moving! 10 Reasons to Engage Your Kids in Active Play

Today’s kids are spending more time indoors and less time riding bikes, scraping knees, and making mischief with friends. Many parents question whether it’s really a big deal if their kids spend hours in front of screens. However, our nation’s decrease in exercise is causing some serious damage to kids’ physical and mental health. With roughly 1 in 3 American kids being overweight, it’s critical that parents get their children moving. So why is active play so crucial for your child, and how can parents fit play into their busy lives?

Here are 10 reasons active play should be a top priority in your child’s life:

1. Academic potential skyrockets

Parents go to great lengths to enhance their children’s learning – springing for expensive tutors, brainy toys, or private school tuitions to give their kids the best opportunities. However, simply taking active breaks after every 3 hours of learning can give a serious boost to your child’s retention. Kids who are given a chance to be active have higher attention spans and are 20% more likely to get an A+ in math or English – now that’s something to get moving for!

For more tips on supporting children with learning and attention challenges, click here

Did you know that exercise reduces your child’s risk of behavioral problems? Active play has been associated with:

  • Reducing bullying by 43%

  • Dropping discipline referrals by 57%

  • Reducing depression and anxiety

  • Improving mood and self-esteem

  • Decreasing aggression

Have a defiant kid? Click here

3, You don’t have to get fancy

While many parents enroll their kids in structured sports like gymnastics or soccer, paying for more than a few activities can quickly drain your wallet and make you feel like a full-time chauffeur. The good news is, active play doesn’t require fancy equipment or formal training. Dancing around while dinner cooks, walking the dog, playing hopscotch, or chasing bubbles are just a few simple ways to get moving with your kids.

4. Active play is for everyone

Parents of children with special needs or learning differences may wonder if active play will contribute to hyperactivity. However, research shows physical activity has the opposite effect. Exercise has been shown to promote calm, focus, and structure in children. Allowing your kid to burn energy throughout the day will also improve their sleep – something all parents can appreciate

5. It supports them socially

When your child is allowed to play freely with friends, it naturally boosts their social skills and emotional intelligence. Play fosters friendships, gives opportunities for conflict resolution, teaches sharing, promotes emotional regulation, and provides children with a sense of belonging.

For more tips on boosting your child’s emotional intelligence, click here

6. Health benefits last a lifetime

Obesity is a serious health concern that increases a person’s risk for diabetes, stroke, hypertension, heart disease, gallbladder disease, cancer, sleep apnea, and death. Active play is one of the best ways to prevent these life-threatening conditions in your child. By engaging in regular exercise, your child will:

  • Develop strong bones, muscles, and joints

  • Be 41% less likely to become overweight

  • Be at reduced risk for chronic illnesses associated with obesity

  • Be sick less often and require fewer school nurse visits

7. You can be a great role model

Your children look up to you as an example of how active they should be. When parents lead an active lifestyle, physical play becomes second nature for their kids. This doesn’t mean you need to force yourself to be the next Serena Williams or Cristiano Ronaldo; if you don’t like doing structured workouts, find activities that are fun and make you forget you’re exercising such as nature hikes or swimming.

8. The 60/60 rule works

Experts recommend that kids get 2 hours of daily physical activity to get the most out of play – one hour of free, unstructured play, and another hour of adult-led play. However, life’s demands can make it hard for parents to play for a full hour at a time. Here are a few tips for getting your kid’s “play quota” in each week:

  • Enroll them in organized team sports – these are usually about an hour long

  • Advocate at their school district for daily PE of at least 30 minutes

  • Fit play into smaller segments throughout the day, taking 10-minute breaks to walk, run, or jump rope every few hours

Feel like taking a 3-minute active break right now? Grab your kids and “play in place” with this awesomely active song!

9. PRIDE promotes play

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) identifies the following five techniques called PRIDE skills that parents can use to make play a positive and engaging experience:

PRAISE – Compliment your child for positive behaviors.

Example: “Great job throwing the ball!”

REFLECTION – Repeat back what your child tells you.

Example: “You’re right, you got it in the basket!”

IMITATION – Copy what your child does to enforce positive behaviors.

Example: “I’m going to do the same stretches you are doing.”

DESCRIPTION – Describe what your child is doing to boost their language and communication skills.

Example: “You’re hopping on your left foot!”

ENJOYMENT – Express fun and enthusiasm as you play with your child.

Example: “This is so much fun! Come dance with me!”

Dads - check out our PRIDE of Fatherhood blog

10. A Specialist can help

Play has the power to boost your child’s intellectual, emotional, and physical development, but it can be hard for parents to know how to unlock that potential. A Play Specialist can empower you to connect with your child through play, improving their health and making the most out of physical activity.

*Please note: since the publishing of this blog, Variations Psychology has narrowed its focus to diagnostic testing and psychological evaluations. Our Doctors can evaluate whether you or your loved one have a diagnosis and guide you through the next steps in achieving your mental health or academic goals. While Variations does not offer counseling, our diagnostic evaluations allow us to refer patients to specialists who are best equipped to meet their needs. In addition, this link can guide you through a directory of therapists, psychiatrists, treatment centers, and support groups in your area.

Subscribe to our blog for a weekly article on topics that affect your life

Found this article helpful?

Rate and review us on Google and Yelp


The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the highlighted topic. For a full consultation, assessment, and personalized treatment plan, schedule an appointment
with one of our specialists.

More about Variations Psychology

Variations Psychology is a group practice specializing in Child and Family Psychology.

Our specialists provide therapy to infants, children, adolescents, and adults to help them overcome the many challenges they may face throughout the lifespan of a family. We also conduct diagnostic testing of child and adult conditions that may impact the family’s mental health and development (e.g. ADHD, Autism Depression, Anxiety, Learning Disorders, college entrance exams, graduate and professional licensing exams such as MCAT, LSAT, GRE, CBEST, NCLEX, GMAT, CA Cosmetology Exam, CA Contractors State Licensing Exam, and CA Bar Exam).

See our Specialists page to select the specialist that best suits your need, or simply give us a call and we will guide you..

Variations Psychology is located in Newport Beach, CA and provides counseling to residents throughout Orange County and its surrounding areas including Newport Beach, Newport Coast, Irvine, Shady Canyon, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Coto de Caza, Corona del Mar, Costa Mesa, Yorba Linda, Dana Point, Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo, Mission Viejo, Pelican Hill, Crystal Cove, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, Lake Forest, Huntington Beach, Sunset Beach, Seal Beach, and more.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015). Childhood Obesity Facts. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015). The Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/effects/index.html

Common Sense Media (2015). The Common Sense Census: Media Used by Tweens and Teens. Retrieved from: http://cdn.cnn.com/cnn/2017/images/11/07/commonsensecensus.mediausebytweensandteens.2015.final.pdf

Shinn. M.M. (2018). ADHD or Just Kids Being Kids? Psychologically Speaking. [Variations Psychology blog post]. Retrieved from: https://www.variationspsychology.com/blogs/adhd-or-just-kids-being-kids

Shinn. M.M. (2018). 5 Tips for Raising Emotionally Intelligent Children. Psychologically Speaking. [Variations Psychology blog post]. Retrieved from: https://www.variationspsychology.com/blogs/5-tips-for-raising-emotionally-intelligent-children

Shinn. M.M. (2019). My Kid is So Defiant – Is It My Fault? Psychologically Speaking. [Variations Psychology blog post]. Retrieved from: https://www.variationspsychology.com/blogs/my-kid-is-so-defiant-is-it-my-fault

Shinn. M.M. (2018). The P.R.I.D.E. of Fatherhood. Psychologically Speaking. [Variations Psychology blog post]. Retrieved from: https://www.variationspsychology.com/blogs/the-pride-of-fatherhood-5-ways-that-great-dads-shape-our-mental-health

Shinn, M.M., Turner, A., Taylor Lucas, C. (2016). Play in Place. Presentation. Child Guidance Center, Children & Families Commission of Orange County, & UC Irvine.

Taylor Lucas, C. E., Shinn, M. M., & Turner, A. C., (2015). Play in place. Unpublished recording. Redondo Beach, California: Mike Irwin Studios

Turner, A. C., (2013). Active play every day: A manual for facilitating active play with young children. Unpublished manuscript.

How to Cite This Blog Article:

Shinn. M.M. (2019). Get Moving! 10 Reasons to Engage Your Kids in Active Play. Psychologically Speaking. [Variations Psychology blog post]. Retrieved from: https://www.variationspsychology.com/test-blog/get-moving-10-reasons-to-engage-your-kids-in-active-play