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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

7 Ways to Make More Time for Play During the School Year

Photo by Scott & Elaine van der Chijs (Flickr)

The new school year has started, and that means busy evenings eating dinner, doing homework, and driving to activities. If you're like us, your schedule is packed. Do your kids have time to play? Our children spend six to eight hours a day in class, and they need more opportunities to unwind, relax, and play. Add several or all of these seven activities to make more time for play during the school year.

Walk to School and Play

We live close enough to school that we can walk there most days, and my girls know our mornings will include walking games like Follow the Leader, I Spy, or hopscotch. The other kids who walk with us like playing, too, as I prompt my girls to get more exercise and play before they hit the books.

Visit the Playground After School

Last year, I noticed that my daughters came home after school and bounced off the walls. Because their energy was intense, I started making a daily detour to the local playground for 15 to 20 minutes of free play. They burn off their extra energy, decompress, and have fun and are then ready to focus on homework or chores. Our evenings go a lot more smoothly because we make time for play after school.

Turn Homework Into Game Time

My younger daughter usually has a long list of spelling words to memorize, which is a big struggle for her. I decided to use games to make homework time fun. In our playroom, I post big letters made out of card stock and give her a word. She has to run around the room and find the letters that spell the word. She has fun, learns her spelling words, and is encouraged to play more.

Consider Adopting a Pet

Not all families are able to commit to owning a pet. However, if your family is ready for this responsibility, consider adopting a cat, dog, or other animal. Pets can improve your health as they reduce stress, and they promote physical activity.

Play Word Games During Dinner

In our home, we try our best to eat dinner together. I like hearing about my girls' day at school as we discuss their classes, friends, current events, and other topics. I also recently discovered another fun activity we can enjoy during dinner: word games! Hangman, Scrabble, Jumble, and crossword puzzles are fun, and as a bonus, my girls get to practice their spelling and vocabulary words while we eat.

Enroll in a Sport

Many schools offer sports clubs after school. If yours does, enroll your kids and let them play football, basketball, or soccer. You can also sign them up to play in an intramural league in your town or buy a gym membership. The exercise after school reduces stress and the risk of obesity and gives your kids more opportunities to play.

Play Often on the Weekends

Play may take a backseat during the busy school week, but you have two whole days on the weekends to make up for it. Plan hikes, visit playgrounds, host play dates with friends, organize neighborhood soccer games, or volunteer to play with dogs at your local animal shelter as you enjoy playful weekends.

My girls love school, but they also need to play. We all enjoy these seven ways to make more time for play during the school year. What other play activities could your kids enjoy?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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