Playing Together as a Family

There are a variety of ways that families can be physically active together. Consider taking your child to a nearby schoolyard, community park or your backyard and find creative ways to participate together in play. Children need play that is fun, physically challenging and socially and mentally engaging everyday. To purport the age-old adage, "families that play together, stay together." Below are some helpful suggestions for promoting a lifestyle of play.

Ask your child, "Who did you play with today? What did you do? Was it fun? What did you like about it?"

Allow your child to show you the Play On! or other playground activities she or he is learning at school or during recreation programs. Express genuine interest in what your child is doing and achieving. Work with your child to replicate the activity at home.

Establish a set time for free play at home. Follow your child's lead and allow the play to be totally directed by your child. If you get bored or distracted, stay with it. This is time for your child to be in charge, and for you to learn what's interesting and important to her or him.

Develop imaginative play activities or games that can be performed as a family. Act out musicals, perform skits, create a community circus, offer magic shows - whatever engages your child's imagination and sense of fun. The more physical these activities are, the better. A sea lion in a game about the ocean, for instance, shouldn't just "bark," but also should "swim."

Turn a challenge into a teachable moment when your child tells you about a physical activity  that was difficult or disappointing. Discuss persistence , compassion, teamwork or another relevant life lesson.

Set a family goal to visit all the playgrounds in your local community. Make a list and check them off as you visit.

Encourage your child  to explore and perform physical challenges. Be prepared to provide an easier modification if your child cannot successfully perform the activity and a more challenging modification when she or he can. If an activity appears to be unsafe, stop it and redirect your child's attention to a safer activity.

Be a role model and engage in your own playful physical activities around your child. Children are likely to develop habits similar to their parents or guardians.

Watch your child carefully if you are not able to actively engage with her or him on the playground. Scan the playground visually and position yourself in close proximity to your child.

Keep records of physical activity and make it fun with charts, stars and other rewards.

Keep a list of your family's most popular physical activities and discuss new activities that you haven't tried yet.

Set goals for family physical activity such as participating in five physical activity outings per month (bowling, swimming, hiking, biking, jogging, mini-golfing, geocaching, etc.).

Create backyard treasure hunts that incorporate physical activity.

Have a playground night one evening a week. Pack a healthy dinner.

Make it a priority to have some sort of active game at every family reunion or gathering.

Have a picnic in the park (or schoolyard) during the weekend. Come up with a play activity as you enjoy a healthy meal, then go play.

Learn a new form of physical activity each year (such as cross-country skiing or rollerblading) to expand your family's physical capabilities and ambitions.

Make it a family project to write letters to local authorities to develop more community spaces that promote physical activity (sidewalks, playgrounds, trails, parks, etc.) or to improve an existing infrastructure to make sure that it is safe.

Tune up your bicycles or have a bicycle makeover to renew your child's interest in biking. Designate a bike night periodically.

Volunteer as a parent representative on your child's school health advisory council or wellness committee and encourage playground use as a regular part of comprehensive school programming - before, during and after school activities.

Want to read more ways to bring people to a place?

Placemaking provides great ideas on how to plan, design, and program a space for all to enjoy.


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