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!
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
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.
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!”
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.
Dr. Daniella A. Davis, Psy.D., is an expert in dealing with the unique challenges that women face throughout each stage of life. If you wish your family led a healthier lifestyle but don’t know where to start, Dr Davis can support you on a clear path toward reaching your goals.
Dr. Christopher J. Sample, Psy.D. specializes in supporting teenage boys through life’s transitions. If you are looking for ways to help your teenage son develop a more active lifestyle, Dr. Sample can help.
Dr. Marta M. Shinn, Ph.D., is an expert in child and educational psychology. If you are concerned that a lack of active play has been impacting your child’s development, Dr. Shinn can provide diagnostic testing and recommend support for your child’s unique needs.
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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., 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