There never seems to be enough time during the school year. Even after school, there's classes and programs, homework and reading assignments. Sometimes free play takes a backseat to more "academic" endeavors.
Butplaytime shouldn't be a bonus, something that gets fit in when possible. Not only does it help develop imagination as well as physical, cognitive and emotion skills but it's essential for academic success, too. Numerous studies have shown that when kids have more time to play, they focus better when it's time to get down to more sedentary tasks. Active play improves memory and concentration and helps the brain develop connections better.
Phew, with all that, you'd think recess would be an essential part of every school day. Sadly, it's not. My 7 year old gets 15 minutes of recess at best - and comes home wildly itching to move her body. Are your kids the same?
Here's some of Kay's favorite options for getting those wiggles out after sitting still all day! (A quick reminder that you probably don't need: Yours kids have been told what to do all day. The focus on after school play should be free play. Offer ideas, sure, but don't dictate. Not that you would!)
- Plastic bag kite. Sure, you could use a store-bought kite, too, but in our house it seems to be we can never find it when she wants to play with it. So I use an old idea my grandmother taught be - add string or yarn to a plastic bag and start running. Just as much fun as anything you can buy at a store!
- Obstacle course. This is my favorite, too, because anything goes! Whatever you have on hand can be made into an obstacle. A broom set on the ground or placed on two chairs can be a hurdle, chairs or even rocks on the ground make great things to run around, and foot stools or small chairs are perfect for jumping on then off as they make their way their the course!
- Exercise ball. One of those giant ones that's just right for bouncing on. This is one of Kay's favorites. She bounces on it, rolls around on it, falls off of it with pleasure and laughs. I just look on, fascinated that such a simple toy can bring her so much joy!
- Puddles. (Stick with me on this one.) Kay recently had a bad day at school. It was rainy, but I suggested we go for a walk. Of course, she ended up jumping in the puddles. Her not-made-for-water boots were ruined, but it was worth it to see her tears turn to giggles!
- Adding a target to something seems to increase the fun factor. Whether for balls, paper airplanes, or water shooters, when the play starts to lag, add a target...trust me!
- Skee-ball. Nope, you don't even have to go somewhere special to play. Some laundry baskets, some soft balls and at least one eager kiddo and you're ready to roll with anindoor version of this fun game!
- Stuck in the house? This one is perfect! All you need are balloons and a paddle or fly swatter for each player to play balloon tennis. This one is sure to bring out the giggles!
- Scooter bowling. No, really. Kay loves riding her scooter, but give her a course to ride through or a target to aim at and she is one happy girl!
- And in the "they're classics for a reason" file - teach your children how to play one of your old favorites. Remember "kick the can"? Give it a try with a sand pail or bucket. The kids will think you're a genius!
What is your kiddo's favorite ways to play after a day at school?