How to provide play that meets your child’s needs without burning yourself out.
When you can see the light at the end of a long day, the beacon we call “Bedtime”, it becomes very obvious that not all activities are meant for all times of the day.
“Stop running around, you’re supposed to be winding down for bed!” Does this sound familiar?
But how often, as we go about any day with kids at home, do we actually stop to think about whether the activity we’re diving into meets their current needs? Moreover, how often do we actually stop to think about whether the activity we’re diving into meets OUR needs?
Sure, what you and your children need from the day will often be different and it won’t always be possible to kick goals for everyone at the same time.
Some days you’ll be brimming with energy after a great sleep or some me-time, feeling recharged to plan and play, and eager to help them learn. Other days you’ll be exhausted, with barely the mental capacity for finding a new Netflix series.
The same goes for your kids.
While it may seem like our little Energizer bunnies could go and go forever, you’ve probably recognised before how they collapse after swimming lessons, a big morning at the playground or their day at school.
To avoid total burnout and emotional meltdowns (for everyone!), it’s important to check-in with your kids and take stock of your own energy levels before choosing your next activity.
To help you with this, we’ve divided a huge range of activities into three categories.
- Energy Burners: High energy, physical activities designed for encouraging physical play and health benefits (and sometimes pre-nap exhaustion.)
- Little Learners: Activities that require mental energy and concentration but are less physically taxing.
- Wind-Down Time: Low energy activities for creating calm when everyone is on the brink of exhaustion or bedtime (whichever comes first!)
Making a flexible plan
If you’ll be with the kids for the whole day, we recommend aiming to do one or two high energy activities before lunch. Then engage in some learning before another high energy activity and an activity to wind-down.
This is just a rough guide though and staying flexible and checking in with everyone’s energy levels and enthusiasm for activities is more important than sticking to any schedule.
Free independent play between activities is also strongly encouraged!
Here’s an example of how your day might look.
To start you off we’re providing a list of sample activities for each category that can be done outdoors and indoors. Beginning with…
- Go to the playground. Find some new Sutherland Shire playgrounds.*
- Go for a bushwalk. Find local bushwalks, that can be filtered for pram or carrier suitability.
- Go to the beach and encourage the kids to jump waves, race along the sand.
- Enrol in an organised team sport. Here are some recommended clubs in the Sutherland Shire.*
- Jump on the trampoline, if you have one.*
- Go for a walk/ride around your neighbourhood.
- Drive to skate parks, unused courts or empty car parks where the kids can practice on their scooters/skateboards/bikes.*
- Play backyard games (Tips, Hopscotch, What’s the time Mr Wolf, Floor is Lava, Kick Bowling, Egg and Spoon race, skipping, soccer, cricket etc)
- Set up an obstacle course.*
- Have a dance party.
- Play Hide and Seek/Hide and Seek Tips, Keep it Up (using a balloon)* or Statues.
- Enrol your child in dance, gymnastics, swimming or martial arts. Here are some recommended clubs in the Sutherland Shire.*
- Do a Kids/Family Workout. Here are some of our favourite kids’ workouts.
- Encourage the kids to practice long jump (use tape or objects to mark spots on your floors that the kids need to jump to)*
- Set up an obstacle course.*
- Take your kids to an indoor play centre like the Play Cave, Flip Out or Inflatable World.*
- Go ten-pin bowling, indoor rock-climbing or play simulated-golf.*
- Set up bowling in your home with a toy bowling set or empty bottles and cans.*
*There’ll be days when you’re ready to flop but the kids have still got energy to burn and these activities are ideal for those occasions. During these activities, the kids can continue to wear themselves out while you watch on idly and let yourself recover. Sometimes this will also depend on whether you have two kids old enough to play with each other.
Stay tuned for part 2 of Play with Purpose for a list of creative ideas on how to help your child learn through play and wind down, without burning you out.