Remember when you were younger and couldn’t wait until that 2:30 bell rang to signify the end of the school day? And do you remember what you looked forward to most in the time between completing your homework and dinner? Well I do, and I have to say that I miss those days when I had not only all the energy in the world, but the will to go outside and play.
As parents, it’s important to remember that although summer is officially over and the new school year has begun, kids still need at least one hour of active play a day. Whether it’s taking a family bike ride after dinner or playing a friendly game of tag with your child, 60 minutes of moderate and/or vigorous physical activity will ensure that your child is getting the exercise their growing bodies need.
Benefits of play?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics there are numerous benefits derived from child’s play including:
- Play is important to brain development
- Undirected play allows children to practice decision making skills
- Children are able to explore/develop their interests and passions
- Reduces the chances of obesity
Additionally, according to Rachel Riddiford, MS, RD, LD dietitian and manager at Dayton Children’s, playing outside helps to develop healthy ways to manage stress and connect with nature. Kids who play outside generally are less angry, focus better, and eat healthier. Give your child as much freedom outside as possible, always looking out for their safety but also allowing them to explore, get dirty (that is half the fun for a child, isn’t it?), and make up rules as they play.
Ways to keep your child active:
Here are some activities which may help lead your child to living a healthier lifestyle, but a healthier family lifestyle as well.
- Instead of family movie night, go for a bike ride or walk around the neighborhood after dinner
- Take advantage of your local parks and trails
- When possible, suggest walking to your local pharmacy or grocery store instead of driving
Most play time doesn’t require extra snacks but keep your family fueled and hydrated. According to Riddiford, great fuel before a long strenuous activity is a combination of fruit to eat and water to drink (add a splash of lemon or orange for extra flavor.) After that kind of activity, recharge muscles with a glass of milk.
Consider these facts the next time your child asks if it’s okay to stay out and play for an extra half an hour or so. Remembering the importance of play time and the benefits it can have for your child will contribute to a healthier lifestyle, as well as allow your child to do what they do best…PLAY!
About our expert Rachel Riddiford, MS, RD, LD.
Rachel has been an employee of Dayton Children’s since 2004. She is currently the Manager of Clinical Dietetics and works as an eating disorder specialist in the Nutrition Clinic. Rachel completed her BS in Dietetics at Western Michigan University, Master’s degree at University of Dayton, and dietetic internship at Indiana University/Purdue University. She has also completed an American Dietetic Association Pediatric and Adolescent Weight Management Certificate.
Renee Alati is a junior at the University of Dayton, studying public relations and marketing. She is an intern in the Marketing Communication Department at Dayton Children’s. She is also involved in various activities at the university including Phi Beta Chi, the honors communication fraternity on campus, in which she serves as the fraternities fundraising chair.