Childhood obesity and inactivity are two serious problems that continue to plague upcoming generations. Getting kids involved in outside and aerobic activities can be a real challenge. You’re competing against television, video games, tablets, and smartphones as children grow up in an era where they spend more time in front of a screen than any previous generation.
While a backyard playground is a great way to entice kids to get off of the sofa and outside moving around, their attention span is even more fragmented than ever before. They’re used to the fast-paced changes that they experience in those video games. While swinging or sliding alone are really fun activities there are many other ways to infuse fun into playground play.
Come up with specific games.
Instead of merely sending your children out to play, come up with specific games for them to play. Having you involved in watching them play and compete, and even doling out “prizes”, makes it far more interesting than being left to entertain themselves. Games that see how far, how long, how fast, how high — anything that is safe but adds a bit of competition and reward will do. A structured game on your backyard playground turns it into a fun place of competition and imagination and helps kids start to see it as more than a boring place to swing.
Be their personal “coach.”
Sometimes merely having your presence and attention is all it takes to get kids active on a playground. How many times have you heard “look at me, mom!” or “did you see what I did, dad?” Children want to show you their physical accomplishments, and they want your attention. But take it even a step further and act like a fun coach or personal trainer.
For example, if your child successfully navigates across the monkey bars, challenge them to try going backwards on the monkey bars. Dare them to find out how slowly they can go down the slide. Count how many swinging motions they can swing without their feet touching the ground. Encourage them to go from sitting to hanging on the trapeze bar, and back again. Can they climb down the rock wall or climbing rope?
In other words, find unique ways to take regular play activities and turn them into a better challenge. Watch your children and see which parts of the playground they gravitate towards and how they tend to use it, and then challenge that usage and get them to try other activities. Encourage them to come up with new ways of playing, too (and be there to keep them from doing anything dangerous).
Essentially, you can help them see their playground as more than just some swings and a slide, but a physical challenge to conquer.
Ask questions, as if it were charades.
It’s always good to let your children come up with challenges and ideas, too, instead of being fed such things solely from parents. Asking them questions, even silly ones, that they must answer on the playground is a great way to do this. For example, you might ask “what does an elephant on a climbing wall look like?” or “how does a turtle swing?” This obviously works better with your younger children who still love to playact.
Helping your child learn that exercise is fun early on is one of the best gifts you can give them to help them become healthy adults. Getting involved in playground fun is a way you can achieve this, setting good active habits into place when they are young. To keep the fun alive and the healthy exercise in motion, consider an upgrade to your playground to present new challenges.
New outdoor challenges and fun energy exerting activities can be had on any outdoor equipment. Whether it’s a one-on-one game on the family basketball hoop or duck duck grey duck in the trampoline. Outdoor fun is healthy, so get out and play!