By Shayna Whitehouse, PhD, School Psychologist, Healthy Learning Paths’ Instructor, and parent
“Play is a powerful way to keep children’s brains healthy, emotions happy, and muscles strong.”
As a parent, I always look for ways to keep summer relaxed and entertaining. I relish the time with my children, and I search for ways to make everyday fun, engaging, and full of play. Play is a powerful way to keep children’s brains healthy, their emotions happy and their muscles strong. Healthy Learning Paths wants to share a list of 5 ideas for everyday play that engage children’s brains and bodies. Together we can keep children happy and healthy!
- Cook together! Give your child a small task to do to help prepare a meal. He can work with the batter, knead the dough, help put sandwiches together, set fruit on the table, or place plates out for all family members. You can even see if your child has an idea for a food to eat. Including children when shopping for and preparing meals helps them try new foods and learn what is healthy for their bodies. This time together also gives family members opportunities to communicate and bond.
- Hop, skip and jump! And run and climb, and twirl, and swing and slide. Any outdoor exercise is good for your child’s body and mind! Exercise makes her brain feel healthy and happy by helping the brain balance all of its chemicals. Exercise also helps children develop big motor coordination, balance, and muscle strength all over the body. Exercise helps reduce stress and worries and maintain healthy sleep, even with sunnier days.
- Find an outside canvas! In summer, our sidewalks and driveways become our canvas. Your child can use sidewalk chalk or water with a rag or paintbrush to sketch a rocket ship as it lands on the moon, draw a hopscotch game, write numbers or letters, experiment with colors, or draw anything from his imagination. All children love to create and imagine and finding a big canvas outside helps bring these ideas to life. Drawing helps children develop arm and wrist stabilization, which is important for writing and learning in school.
- Entertain when it rains. When the rain is coming down it can be hard to think of activities to keep child busy. Pull out a muffin tin and ask her to help sort different objects, like different shaped noodles, various beans, buttons, and coins. Put flour on a cookie sheet and let her draw. Start a rainy day puzzle that you revisit each rainy moment. Find a deck of cards and play “Match my Number” or “Match my Shape”. Let your child create an inside obstacle course (crawl under the chair, climb over the couch, move like a snake under the table, hop over the pillows). Play Hide and Seek. Build a fort with pillows and blankets. Or curl up with your child’s book choice and read the story and talk about the pictures in the books.
- Don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers. Sometimes as parents, we are so busy trying to keep our children moving and having fun that we forget about ourselves. Remember to take your own moments to breathe, stretch, exercise, and relax. As parents, we are much more able to spend quality time with our children when we are relaxed and balanced too. Also, children learn how to create balance in their lives when they see parents create it in theirs.
Everyday activities we do with our children help us bond and connect today and form the memories we will cherish and smile about in the future. We hope you have a happy and healthy summer full of memories in the making!