With so much of life being planned around work, school, and organized sports, it’s increasingly important for kids to have unstructured time for play. When we gather to play a game, we open doors to having fun with others while also developing social connections, enhancing creativity, flexing problem-solving muscles, and nurturing emotional well-being. Through play, families can deepen their understanding of each other’s point of view, spark new interests, and strengthen cooperation.

When playing with children, especially younger children, it’s important for adults to take a step back to give youngsters a chance to create rules or make up games. Seeing their parents get silly and follow their rules can be both empowering and entertaining for children. Try these creative ways to bring more playtime into your family life:

Treasure Hunt. Create a themed scavenger hunt around your house or at a local playground. Try Letterboxing, which involves parks, hiking trails, and treasure!

Ultimate Playground Challenge. Number the stations at a local playground and have kids try to finish the stations in their personal best time. Older kids might want to compete against each other or a parent.

Great Outdoors. State parks offer hiking/biking trails, fishing, kayaking, canoeing (rent or bring your own), and guided nature talks. Also, try gardening or help clean up a local park.

Board Games. From Jenga to Twister to Clue, board games and role-playing games are great for families. Make this a community service outing by visiting an assisted living center to play games with residents who often don’t have family of their own to visit them.

Get Crafty. Build with Legos or blocks. Scrapbook. Visit a make-your-own pottery store. Check class schedules at your local craft store.

No Scorekeeper. Play for the fun of it! Don’t keep score…or choose activities that don’t require a scorecard: kite flying, Frisbee/Frisbee golf, dancing, hide-and-seek, yoga.

In what ways have you incorporated play into the lives of your children?

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