By Jennifer Landis, Writer
We all know that play is important for kids.
It helps them learn and grow while keeping them healthy and combating the growing juvenile obesity epidemic that is sweeping our country. What most people seem to forget is the importance of playing with your kids, instead of just watching them play.
Why is being a playful parent important for your kids?
Play Keeps Them (And You) Healthy
Obesity is a problem for both kids and adults in the United States. It’s estimated that one out of every three adults and one out of every six children is considered overweight or obese. And that number is growing every year.
Instead of sitting on the bench while your kids play, get involved! Your kids will love it and you’ll be more active.
Doctors recommend getting 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise every day, so why not rack up those minutes by chasing your kids around the playground or challenging them to a monkey bar contest? See who can get the furthest across the bars without touching the ground.
Enjoy being the evil giant, the princess who needs to be saved or even the hero of the story — just get off the bench.
On the other side of the coin, if you’ve got an exercise regimen that you already enjoy, why not come up with ways to include them in your exercise?
Make it a game, play your music on your phone’s speaker instead of using headphones or let them run ahead of you when you can’t match their seemingly boundless energy. When we go running, the kids are allowed to run three mailboxes ahead before they stop. Sometimes we can keep up with them and other times they vastly outpace us, but it doesn’t matter either way because they’re still involved.
Play Sets Kids Up for Success
Playing with your kids is good for more than just keeping them active — it can help set them up for scholastic success, too. Many studies have all said the same thing: regular physical activity directly correlates with good grades in school.
It can make homework time at night easier, too. Trying to do homework right after school when your kids have been confined to a desk for six or seven hours and unable to vent their excess energy can be likened to herding cats. Instead of fighting with your kids over homework, spend some time playing outside with them. They’ll be much easier to work with if they’re not vibrating because of all that contained energy.
Playing with your kids and letting them direct your activities teaches them a number of skills that they could never hope to learn in school. Free play, whether you participate or not, is where kids learn things like creativity, out of the box thinking, leadership skills and other intangible things that will greatly benefit them later in life.
Play Improves Your Relationship
Bonding with your kids might seem like a no-brainer but once they start getting older and building their own personalities, it’s harder than you might think. By taking the time to play with your kids, especially when they’re younger, you are building the foundation for an unshakable relationship that will continue to grow as they get older.
Want your teens to come to you if they’re worried about something or have questions about an awkward topic? Start by playing with them as kids.
That bond doesn’t go away as your kids get older — if anything, it gets stronger as your kids’ age. Sure, your kids will eventually reach an age where they don’t want to go play pretend anymore, and there will be times when they’re screaming that they hate you through a recently-slammed bedroom door, but you’ll still always be their first best friend.
Play Reconnects You With Your Inner Child
School and work have a habit of beating the childlike wonder out of us. For a long time, retaining a relationship with your own inner child was actively discouraged — instead, we were told to put away childish things and become the adults that our parents had been before us.
No, thank you.
If you’ve lost touch with your inner child and that sense of wonder, playing with your kids can help you reconnect with yourself. Kids don’t look at trees and just see trees — they see a castle, a bridge or a dragon that needs to be either slain or befriended.
Learn to see the world the way your kids do.
Brian Chesky, the mind behind Airbnb, has repeatedly said that a sense of childlike wonder is the most important thing you can have if you want to start a business or be an entrepreneur. If Chesky, who started a business out of his condo in San Francisco that is now worth $31 billion, believes in childlike wonder, who are we to argue?
Playing with your kids isn’t just good for them — it’s good for you, too.
Get off the bench, put down the phone and join in the fun. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel after just running around like you were a kid again.