How and why should we encourage active play?

There’s two things that we know already; active play is physical play and our children learn from what we do. Activity and exercise is crucially important to everyone’s health, not just our children. We know that it can help build positive relationships, help relieve stress and help form happy attitudes towards healthy activity. 


Through active play children begin developing their large muscles. This development is important for all movement from walking, balancing, sitting up, kicking to everything in between. By encouraging this development we also support the growth of small muscles which increases their dexterity for skills like holding cutlery to turning book pages. 


When we think about building positive relationships, active play helps in both their relationship with themselves and with others. Self-confidence is built by them increasing their ability to do tasks more independently which reflects in their confidence for approaching others and creating friendships. 

 

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This appealing circle of learning and development that can have such a positive impact can often feel like a mission to fit into each day. With health guidelines encouraging us to motivate our children to move for 60 minutes a day, where and how can we find the time?


What we must remember is that this 60 minutes doesn’t have to be all at the same time, and the chances are your little one is already achieving it and if not, is very close!


Here are our top tips for encouraging active play:


Creating spaces 


Creating the opportunity for active play is key. Giving your child access to a variety of toys that get them moving or practicing skills is a great option. This could be anything from balls for catch, hoops for target practice, to larger activities like bikes and other more mobile assets.


Participation


We all have a love for being the role model in our children’s lives and they love spending time with us as much as we love spending it with them. By showing willingness, positivity and enjoyment for moving it will easily catch on. Before you know it, they’ll be asking to go out to do activities with you! It’s also a great way to spend time with others, heading out for a walk, the play park or a local venue with friends allows you the opportunity to catch up whilst reaping the benefits of keeping little feet moving. 


Planning


It can sometimes be difficult to schedule large activities, but an easier way to encourage an active play habit is to think about two activities that can happen throughout each day. This helps to add onto their already active time but also reduces the risk of them becoming bored or you becoming time conscious, keeping things fun and exciting. 


Setting up for success


Your attitude will impact there's. When you approach an activity with enthusiasm it will pique their interest. If an activity is something that you won’t enjoy but you feel as though it's good for them, it’s likely you won’t gain the benefits you’re looking for. Picking activities you’ll have fun with, choosing outfits that everybody can freely move in and surrounding yourself with people who are of similar views to you will all work to form a positive and easy habit. 


Active play ideas:

 

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Ride ons and bikes


Something you may have already considered is that certain toys make great tools. Balance bikes and ride ons are great for active play because of the type of skills they help children develop. They’re also great because your children don’t have access to them all the time and therefore get excited to use them when they’re available. 


Local venues


You might want to catch up at a local coffee shop with a friend but this is an ideal time for a get together which encourages active play. Searching around your local area you might find some venues that can help with this like a local petting farm, swimming pool or a more traditional play park. You could meet with a homemade coffee instead!


Videos 


We know that we should limit screen time and if anything we should replace it with fresh air and stimulating mind and body activities, but using this as a tool could help, especially on rainier days! With so many of us turning to YouTube and influencers to help maintain our fitness whilst in lockdowns, this is a great activity for little ones too. Yoga and pilates movements have us testing our flexibility but allowing your small one to try to follow along as well can help theirs too!


Balls, hoops and balloons


One of the most simple things we can do is provide our children with items that they can use on their own. Bright colours, interesting shapes and different textures all encourage touch and movement whilst testing their skills and giving them freedom to use their imagination.

 

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Imaginative role play 


Sometimes what our children do already involves a lot of movement. Maybe not in distance terms but practicing dexterity and flexibility. Role play like shopkeeper, doctor, chef or teacher all involve different tools and movements. This can be great for both solo play for when something else needs your attention but also together play, to have more bonding experiences. 


Active play can be anything you want it to be. Your enjoyment is just as important as theirs to make sure that the habit of movement sticks and consistent progress is made with those developing muscles. A lot of these activities will also involve using creativity and imagination, this ultimately feeds into how movement and exercise are positive on individual wellbeing and mindset.