The Importance of “Play”

 When do most adults, forget to enjoy play? When do they lose the childlike desire to move and to move often? Watch any little kid for a period of time and most will run almost everywhere they go. Lots of kids just have to move. They truly enjoy movement. Look at their faces. They don’t wear the grimace of a runner. Kids at play have genuine smiles on their faces. (That’s why we runners need to smile more when we are out there, to let others know we are enjoying it!) “Kids” in their 20’s have told me it was about grade 6 and 7 when it became “less cool” to play games at recess and started becoming “more cool” to just stand around in groups. This is also the time that their young bodies are changing. Moving from youth to adolescent. Unfortunately the adolescent years can bring insecurity. Insecurity about “fitting in”. Insecurity about the changing body. Kids who found it easy and comfortable to participate in sports and games sometimes find it awkward to participate in those changing bodies in the pre-teen years. They do less or quit for fear of looking silly in front of others or fear of being teased by peers.
    It is known that kids of all ages are more likely to be active and remain active if their parents are active too. Observe your kids. Are they active when left to entertain themselves? Do they create games? Do they need encouragement to spend less time in front of a TV or computer? Most young ones will want to get outside and play, even in inclement weather. Every little kid can’t wait to get outside and play after, or even during a fresh snowfall. It’s fun! Their faces will light up if you put on a “snow suit” and join them. If you have young children, making time to get out and play with them will go a long way to helping them be healthy and active in the future.
    If the adolescent needs encouragement perhaps exposing them to many different activities will help them find one or two they enjoy. Competitive team sports such as hockey may not be their favourite thing to do but how about snowboarding, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing or working out in the gym? I’m no expert but this age group may respond better if a friend goes with them and not just you. No doubt you will need to drive them somewhere for these activities so why not don the equipment and join in? Just not too close to them. Again I’m no expert but downplaying performance and giving positive reinforcement for participation may help keep them involved in the activity.
    Adults working full time jobs are busy. Especially those with kids. I get it. It’s hard to fit exercise in. But if you can get it in, even just a few times a week, your health will benefit. Think of it as recess, when recess was fun. It will be stress busting. If your kids see you being active, you will be an excellent role model for them.
    The youngest “older adults” I know are those who are active. They look younger. They move like they are much younger. Their doctors will probably tell them they are much younger health wise than their inactive peers. So no matter your age now, take a lesson from little kids and get moving. No doubt you have heard this quote from George Bernard Shaw before, “we don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing”.