Spring has sprung… and it’s time to go outside and play. It’s so nice to see families enjoying time outdoors – getting bikes tuned up for a first spring ride, kicking soccer balls around, heading to community tennis courts, and reconnecting with old toys and sports equipment that after a long winter, suddenly seem new again.
But have you been to your local dollar store of late? I occasionally dash in and out, but with my two teenage daughters for company the other day, spent a little longer browsing. In the seasonal aisle, we found ourselves scoping out some of the simple toys and equipment that led to so much active fun when they were younger.
Here’s our list of five inexpensive must-haves for active childhood play. You’ll find any or all of them at your local dollar store:
- Hula Hoops:
Hula hooping is fun and it torches calories (400-600 per hour). It also and firms, tones, and helps burn excess body fat. Just don’t bother your kids with these details – get out there and have some fun! Try skipping with your hula hoop, incorporating it into an obstacle course or two, and be sure buy an extra one or two to share with friends.
- Jump Ropes:
When I was growing up, we’d often skip to school and use a longer rope to play jump rope games with friends at recess. We never thought of this fun as exercise… who needed that?! To learn more about the benefits of jumping rope, have a look at this post I wrote for ParticipACTION.
Let your kids express themselves with chalk – and while you’re at it, draw a hopscotch pad and enjoy a game or two. Remember all the fun we used to have playing?
- Beach Balls:
I’m still a big fan of inflatable beach balls! We use them for beach volleyball games in our backyard, toss a couple in to our Springfree trampoline, and even have a couple indoors that get a surprising amount of use when the kids have friends over. When my kids were younger, we’d play games with them using our tennis racquets.
- Bubble Mix:
Head outdoors with little ones to blow and chase bubbles… and as the kids get a little older, invest in some of the newer wands that blow enormous bubbles. Even though my kids are teenagers, we still enjoy the challenge of seeing who can make the largest ones. It’s typical that once I pull out the bubble mix and giant bubble-making wands, everyone wants in on the act… even our dog!
Keep play simple and unstructured, encouraging age-appropriate unsupervised play as kids are ready. Without parents or adults telling them what to do, it’s amazing how resourceful and innovative kids will be. Play is never a waste of time. To the contrary, it builds confidence, self-esteem, creativity, resilience, and encourages healthy risk taking.
Looking for more ideas to encourage active play? Think balls, racquets, water toys, and Frisbees, and check out my 10 tips to keep your kids in motion all summer long.
Tweet with me @cate_cameron and join the conversation @TennisCanada.