10 Tips on How to Create a Healthy Active-play Environment for Your KidsTurn your home into a haven for active play—no backyard required.CREATED WITH NESTLE CHUCKIE
Active play is an important part of your child's development. Giving kids the time and space for fun physical activity will improve their health and boost their creativity, coordination, and social skills. What's more, by joining them during playtime, you can create memories that they will cherish for life.
In The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds, Kenneth Ginsburg, M.D., M.S.Ed. notes that time for precious play is decreasing, with opportunities to play outside becoming limited due to lack of time, resources, and facilities. One concern moms can relate to: "Children cannot play safely outside of the home unless they are under close adult supervision and protection," Dr. Ginsburg says.
You don't need a big outdoor space or exclusive facilities for your child to enjoy active play. Follow these tips to create a healthy active-play environment to help these bonding moments happen more frequently at home:
1. Set aside an area for active play inside your home.
Choose a space that's big enough for your kid to move around in but small enough to discourage running indoors. After all, according to Active for Life, a Canadian nonprofit, active play doesn't just refer to locomotor activity such as running but also includes non-locomotor skills such as balancing and stretching, and manipulative skills such as throwing and catching.
2. Provide portable play equipment.
This is what the Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-assessment for Child Care (NAPSACC) recommends in its best-practice guidelines for healthy weight development. These portable tools and equipment include jump ropes, Hula-Hoops, tumbling mats, batons, and balls.
3. Make the space safe and comfortable.
Add a non-slip rug or rubber matting, floor pillows, and blankets. Aside from making a cozy environment, these can turn into tents, forts, and an alien landscape during playtime. Don't forget to clear the area of breakables and hard, sharp objects.
4. Use visual aids.
The NAPSACC guidelines specifies the inclusion of "visible support for physical activity… through [the] use of posters, pictures, and displayed books." Hang colorful pictures around the play area at your kids' eye level. These can go under tables and on the sides of desks—places you normally wouldn't think of displaying art in. Sit on the floor to see the space as your little ones see it.
5. Stock up on props.
These will act as prompts for your child's imagination. Stuffed toys and dolls can become an army, while recycled boxes and toilet paper tubes can be used for constructing buildings and bridges. Put a toy chest where they can keep their treasures. Dr. Ginsburg emphasizes "the benefits of 'true toys' such as blocks and dolls, with which children use their imagination fully, over passive toys that require limited imagination."
6. Consider noise levels when locating your play area.
Don't put the play area where you or other family members use the phone, study or work on the computer, or watch TV. You want to let your kids be free to laugh and shout a lot during active play without disturbing others or constantly getting shushed.
7. Draw tech-obsessed kids away from their screens.
Do a playacting quest or challenge with your kids' favorite video game characters. Do your best to keep their screen time limited; the South Australian Health guidelines recommend no more than two hours for kids ages 6 to 18, no more than an hour for kids between ages 2 to 5, and no screen exposure at all for younger children.
8. Encourage naturally shy and less active kids to act.
Let them act out scenes from their favorite books. One group of play activities that L.S. Lagoni, in his article Good Times at Play, lists is dramatic, imaginative play. Let them choose the character they want to play and assign you a role in the story, too!
9. Schedule regular time for active play.
Do this with enough transition time before and after meals and other activities. Give your kids enough time to calm down before bathing or changing so you won't feel rushed as you get them ready. Wong's Essentials of Pediatric Nursing by Marilyn J. Hockenberry, David Wilson, and Donna L. Wong, recommends calling kids in from play 15 minutes before mealtime to give them "ample opportunity to get ready for eating while settling down their active minds and bodies."
10. Set a good example as parents.
Engage in fun activities yourself. Learn how to use the Hula-Hoop with your little, or go on a pretend hiking adventure in their play areas. Soon, they'll be ready to join you in fun bonding activities outdoors!
Your little ones won't stay young forever, so take this opportunity to bond and play with them as much as you can. Create a healthy playing environment where your kids can just be kids and where you can join in on the fun, too!
To make playtime more enjoyable, make sure your kids have a pack of NESTLÉ CHUCKIE to look forward to after each session. Want more ideas on how to make every day more exciting for your kids? Check out the NESTLÉ CHUCKIE Facebook page.
- The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds, Kenneth R. Ginsburg, M.D., M.S.Ed., and the Committee on Communications and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health
- Good Times at Play, Lagoni, L. S., Martin, D. H., Maslin-Cole, C., Cook, A., MacIsaac, K., Parrill, G., Bigner, J., Coker, E., and Sheie, S.
- Best-practice Guidelines for Physical Activity at Child Care, Christina McWilliams, MPH, Sarah C. Ball, MPH, RD, Sara E. Benjamin, PhD, MPH, RD, Derek Hales, PhD, Amber Vaughn, MPH, RD, and Dianne S. Ward, EdDc.
- Wong's Essentials of Pediatric Nursing, Marilyn J. Hockenberry, David Wilson, and Donna L. Wong