Healthy Choices: Play an Hour a Day

April 4, 2014

With all of the time that our children spend cooped up in classrooms and busy in after-school activities, it can be hard to make time for just pure play. However, experts remind us, time and again, how important this free time is. And it's also important that our children have time outside, in the sunshine and in nature. It's something that we took for granted when we were children but has fallen by the wayside in today's busy lives.

Make a habit of playing outdoors with your little ones this week. This one healthy choice will increase your child's happiness, your sanity, and the overall health of the entire family. Here's where to start...

No matter the weather, get outside. Fresh air and movement make preschoolers and parents happy. And, yes, it is well worth the significant effort it takes to bundle up all those little limbs. The crisp winter air invigorates the body and mind, and refreshes relationships after days of indoor activities.

Make sure all activities are fun. A walk to the park, playing on the equipment and then a walk home can be a blast or a drag depending on how it is presented and what you do along the way. Instead of just walking, race each other for one minute, walk for three minutes and race for another minute.  Bring a bag for collecting trash or treasures. Keep creativity in mind when planning outdoor activities. Instead of just riding bikes in the driveway or on the sidewalk, help your child draw an obstacle course with chalk, and then tally with chalk how many times he makes it around successfully.

Introduce simple, classic games. The games we played as kids are simple, easy to learn and don't require much space or gear. Try four square or hopscotch chalked out on the driveway. Invent a few silly relays on the sidewalk out front. Race your child to the mailbox, hop on one foot all the way back to the house, then turn around and skip back to the mailbox and bear crawl back to the house. Switch up the activity every twenty minutes or so to keep your child's interest.

Include some vigorous movement. This comes naturally to some preschoolers who have a hard time holding still, but is a bear for others who are more sedentary; so keep our child's personality in mind. Additionally, be willing to participate in the action. Introduce your child to jump rope rhymes (start with just jumping back and forth over a rope on the ground and work up to twirling the rope) to get his little heart pumping.

Be sure to laugh. When playing outside, laughter is a must! Don't take the games or exercise too seriously. Giggle together and make time to enjoy. The more fun your little one is having, the longer he will want to stay outside and play.

From the Parents

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