Remember when we all took naps at school? (Or at least we were supposed to.) For generations, parents and teachers have embraced “naptime” as a welcome, rejuvenating break, refreshing the amazing energy and enthusiasm that belong exclusively to small children.
Rest and Release
Proper rest – including naptime – is as important as ever. However, as we struggle to juggle the responsibilities of kids, careers, and extracurriculars, it’s easy to forget how important it is for kids to expend as much as possible of their (freakishly) abundant young-person energy.
You can take it with you
Regular exercise is as essential for kids as it is for adults, if not more so. It not only instills healthy (lifelong) habits from a very young age, but while they’re growing, it also improves their mental focus and ability to learn. Regular, physical exercise enhances children’s early cognitive development, academic dexterity, and memory retention, and improved analytical/decision-making skills – all of which translate to better grades in school, particularly in the key areas of math, reading, and spelling.
No rules, just game-system-free PLAY
Citing studies on the benefits of recess (“free play”) vs. P.E. (“supervised play”), Ph.D. Gwen Dewar writes, “Physical exercise has important cognitive benefits in its own right. But physical education classes don't deliver the same benefits as recess. Researchers suspect that’s because PE classes are too structured and rely too much on adult-imposed rules. To reap all the benefits of play, a play break must be truly playful.”
Dewar adds that “free” or “pretend play” specifically has been shown to improve young children’s language development, problem-solving/abstract-thinking skills, self-regulatory behaviors, and enhanced ability to reason – not to mention self-confidence, social interaction, and outward motivation.
Bouncing off the walls
Most importantly, exercise needs to be FUN! If you’d like to help your kids develop a lifelong love of physical fitness, make sure they have plenty of time to play! Keep it active, engaging, and imaginative. Make sure you’re outside with them, playing on the grass, dirt, or dusty basketball court. It doesn’t matter if the basket has a net or if you have any talent. Getting out there as a family shows your children they’re important; that you’re placing shared priority on “playtime exercise” (practicing what you preach); and that you’re dedicated to “family time,” actively building memories with your children they will cherish throughout their lives.
Make time for playtime
And we mean that literally. Actually pen it on your schedule. Hopefully the school system still provides quality opportunities at recess, but afterschool, weekends, and summers all belong to you. Team sports provide great exercise and foster teamwork among peers. Your children might even develop outstanding athleticism in key events, leading to scholarship and career opportunities down the road.
In the meantime, if you’re a little bit creative, you can find plenty of playtime activities waiting right outside your door… or inside, if it happens to be one of those “rare” rainy Alabama days.
If you’re new to the Y, check out our Afterschool Academy available for kids during the school year. We have so many FUN, all-around, after-school enrichment programs (sports, tutoring, etc.) at branches all over the city. We also have top-notch Summer Day Camps, Hargis Retreat Day Camp, and Camp Cosby Sleepaway Camp (including Camp Cosby Expedition Camps). Scholarship assistance is available for these programs. Contact the YMCA Youth Center, Camp Cosby, Hargis Retreat, or your local branch for more FUN details. See you this summer!
#SmartKids #FitKids #PlayOutside #FamilyTime #CampOn!
MISSION: To put Judeo-Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.
VISION: We will lead our community to become the healthiest in America.
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