Written by Shawna Newman for KICK Foosball.
Most parents understand the importance of play for younger children. Researchers have put a lot of time and energy into proving why playtime matters so much as children grow, and have come to some important conclusions. Playing is how toddlers explore the world around them and learn essential social and cognitive skills that are imperative for success later in their lives.
Less research and emphasis, however, has been directed toward the importance of play at the cusp of adulthood, but the limited research that has been done shows play helps older kids too (and even adults!) Not only is play a positive influence on learning, engaging older students in a way that traditional methods of teaching fail to, but it is an important form of stress relief that makes for healthier, happier teenagers and young adults.
If you want to keep your older kids benefitting from play, you must keep them playing. Here are a few ways to make sure your tweens and teens continue having pointless fun, even when they think they’ve outgrown it.
- Make it a family habit.
Perhaps, the most effective way to make sure your kids keep playing is to make sure you keep playing. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ might be an easy thing to say, but a more difficult thing to enforce. Sure, it can be difficult to find time in your week to enjoy yourself, but it can be hard for teenagers to find time too. They are preparing for their futures, after all, studying for tests, filling out applications, playing sports, working part-time jobs.
If you want your older kids to get some true recreation time, show them it’s important by taking some time for yourself. One simple way to do this is to make it a family habit, whether it’s scheduling a regular game night or planning a few hours a week when no one’s allowed to do anything productive.
- Lighten up on the video games.
A lot of parents worry about their kids spending too much time playing video games, and some of those concerns are valid. Studies have shown too much screen-time can be bad for both physical and mental health. Unless your kids are addicts, though, neglecting their schoolwork and incapable of putting the controller down, video games probably aren’t doing your kids the harm you think. Though the benefits of playing video games get a lot less press, playing video games in moderation actually does have positive effects on the mind and body. So, if your kid’s go-to source of relaxation is to spend a couple hours playing Minecraft or Call of Duty, roll with it.
- Get creative.
The arts benefit children, both younger and older, in numerous ways. Studies conducted by researchers at the University of Arkansas found kids who were exposed to the arts in the forms of museum visits and live theater performances were more knowledgeable about the arts, more empathetic and tolerant, and had improved critical thinking.
Whatever your children’s artistic passion, encourage it. It’s a form of recreation that is also a form of learning. It doesn’t have to be a summer art program or a concert every night of the week. Just get your kid a drawing tablet, or buy a karaoke machine to enhance at-home free time.
- Put in a home game room.
Families that have fun together have stronger familial bonds, lower stress levels, and better-behaved kids. Those are three of the major benefits of family playtime, according to the American College of Pediatricians.
A family game room is a great way to bring the entire family together, with games that even older kids will love to play. You might have to coax them to the table for a game of Monopoly or Scrabble, but most teenagers are always up for a rollicking air hockey or foosball match.
- Take it outside.
Spending time outside comes with all sorts of amazing benefits, from lowering your blood pressure to making you more creative. Unfortunately, kids today spend about half as much time outdoors as their parents did, and older kids are more prone to staying indoors than younger ones.
Providing an outdoor play area that encourages the entire brood – kids and parents alike – to step away from their video game consoles orsmartphoness and spend a little time amongst the greenery is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your family’s collective health. It might be a basketball goal, a volleyball net, an outdoor gaming table, tetherball, cornhole, a garden, or an outside theater set-up. If it’s a fun activity done for the sake of enjoyment, recreational time outdoors can have a lasting impact on your family’s bond and well-being.