Combating the barriers to play

How can I find time to play?
How can I find time to play? 

There was a fun email that did the rounds a few years ago, which listed identifying features of children’s lives over different decades. So you knew that you were a child of the eighties if you could remember wearing fluoro socks, you owned a silver outliner pen, you owned cassettes and you knew what Willis was talkin ‘bout. You could probably also remember riding your bike for hours on end, knowing your neighbourhood streets like the back of your hand, constructing two-story cubby houses out of rickety timber and playing in the vacant block nearby with your mates.

Today’s children are more likely to be brand conscious, own at least four items from Smiggle, download their favourite songs from itunes and think that every television show has to end with someone being fired, eliminated or crying. They also have less garden space, a lot more scheduled activities and according to the MILO State of Play study, almost half of them don’t get to play every day due to too much homework or tiredness.

Their parents are tired as well with forty-three percent saying that it’s hard to simply find the time to spend with their kids – yet more than ninety-five percent of parents agree that play is an essential part of a child’s development. So how to overcome the time and space barriers to play?

“Firstly, and this is probably my strongest message to parents, is to take any time that you can get,” says kids fitness expert and founder of Gecko Kids Fitness Sam Wood. “Parents sometimes feel like they need to put aside an hour every time they want to exercise or encourage their kids to exercise and if they don’t have an hour, they don’t do anything. In their mind it’s an all or nothing decision.  It shouldn’t be though! You don’t need an hour – ten minutes is fine. Any time spent playing, no matter how short the timeframe, is better than not playing at all!”

In fact the benefits of just a short burst of activity – a five-minute pillow fight, for example – are huge. It will increase your heart rate, your adrenalin will start pumping and you’ll feel happier. Chances are your child will, too!

Physical space needn’t be a barrier either. “Whether it’s indoor or outdoor play, the key is to be creative,” encourages Sam Wood. “Variety is the most important thing to develop your child’s fitness. Typically we tend to repeat the same movements a lot, particularly if we are playing the same sports all the time. But to be well rounded in terms of fitness and energy we need to mix it up and the more variety of activity and movement that they can get the better. That might mean walking the dog after dinner one day, having a friendly wrestling match the next; dancing to some favourite music or a food fight. As a parent you can think outside the square to make it fun.”

Sure, your children still need to get their homework finished and you need to get the dinner cooked, but a quick burst of ten-minute playtime together could really boost your mood and make it all worthwhile!

How do you overcome time and space barriers to play with your children? Share with other members on the Essential Kids' Forums.

You don’t need an hour – ten minutes is fine. Any time spent playing, no matter how short the timeframe, is better than not playing at all