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5 Ways to Embrace Big Body Play

Going‌ ‌stir-crazy‌ ‌at‌ ‌home‌ ‌and‌ ‌looking‌ ‌for‌ ‌ways‌ ‌to‌ ‌channel‌ ‌energy?‌ ‌So‌ ‌am‌ ‌I,‌ ‌and‌ ‌that‌ ‌goes‌ ‌double‌ ‌for‌ ‌my‌ ‌kiddo.‌ ‌Embracing‌ ‌big‌ ‌body‌ ‌play‌ ‌--‌ ‌that‌ ‌is,‌ ‌play‌ ‌that‌ ‌exercises‌ ‌our‌ ‌entire‌ ‌bodies,‌ ‌including‌ ‌big‌ ‌muscles‌ ‌like‌ ‌biceps‌ ‌and‌ ‌quads‌ ‌--‌ ‌is‌ ‌how‌ ‌we’re‌ ‌staying‌ ‌sane‌ ‌and‌ ‌sometimes‌ ‌even‌ ‌breaking‌ ‌a‌ ‌sweat‌ ‌these‌ ‌days.‌ ‌Here‌ ‌are‌ ‌five‌ ‌ways‌ ‌that‌ ‌children‌ ‌(and‌ ‌parents!)‌ ‌can‌ ‌enjoy‌ ‌big‌ ‌body‌ ‌play.‌ ‌

1. Gather, transport, and deliver.

Use pretend play to work in weight lifting! Invite your child to go “grocery shopping” in your pantry or cabinets, encouraging the “purchase” of the heaviest items that he or she can lift safely. Have your child load these into a pretend shopping cart, laundry basket, or box, push/pull it to a destination, and unload. Repeat the process in reverse to get your food back where it belongs.

2. Mind‌ ‌the‌ ‌line.‌

Use‌ ‌painter's‌ ‌tape or ‌masking‌ ‌tape to mark the floor in your home. (Securing rope, ribbon, or dental floss to the floor with scotch tape also works!) Create‌ ‌hopskotch boards or outline stepping stones and designate‌ ‌areas of "hot‌ ‌lava"‌ ‌to avoid. Identify‌ ‌zones‌ ‌for‌ ‌jumping, squatting, or bearwalking.‌ ‌Make sure the ‌spaces‌ ‌are‌ ‌big‌ ‌enough‌ ‌for‌ ‌you‌ ‌to‌ ‌play‌ ‌in‌, ‌too!‌ ‌Take‌ ‌turns‌ ‌with your kiddo and strive‌ ‌to‌ ‌beat‌ ‌each‌ ‌other’s‌ ‌record ‌or‌ ‌sweat‌ ‌it‌ ‌out‌ ‌simultaneously. ‌

3.‌ ‌ Ready, set, throw!

Gather‌ ‌a‌ ‌set‌ ‌of‌ ‌small,‌ ‌safe‌ ‌objects‌ ‌to‌ ‌toss‌ ‌- think‌ ‌squishy‌ ‌balls,‌ ‌ping‌ ‌pong‌ ‌balls,‌ ‌bean‌ ‌bags,‌ ‌balled‌ ‌up‌ ‌socks,‌ ‌or‌ ‌wads‌ ‌of‌ ‌paper.‌ ‌In‌ ‌the‌ ‌center‌ ‌of‌ ‌an‌ ‌open‌ ‌play‌ ‌space,‌ ‌set‌ ‌up‌ ‌a‌ ‌target,‌ ‌like‌ ‌a‌ ‌laundry‌ ‌basket‌ ‌or‌ ‌a‌ ‌bedsheet.‌ ‌Next, invite‌ ‌your‌ ‌kiddo‌ ‌to‌ ‌toss‌ ‌the‌ ‌objects‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌target.‌ ‌Raise‌ ‌the‌ ‌stakes‌ ‌by‌ ‌setting‌ ‌a‌ ‌timer,‌ ‌joining‌ ‌the‌ ‌game‌ ‌as‌ ‌a‌ ‌competitor,‌ ‌or‌ ‌trying‌ ‌to‌ ‌defend‌ ‌the‌ ‌target.‌ ‌Create‌ ‌silly‌ ‌challenges‌ ‌for‌ ‌each‌ ‌other,‌ ‌like‌ ‌throwing‌ ‌without‌ ‌using‌ ‌your‌ ‌hands!‌ ‌

4. Stop and go.

Enrich your child’s self-regulation skills and introduce interval training by alternating periods of high intensity movement (like running in place), low intensity movement (like walking), and rest (like stretching or drinking water). Cue each interval by announcing “Green light!”, “Yellow light!”, and “Red light!” Visuals, such as colored pieces of paper, are a welcome addition for younger children.

5. Get up and dance!

Crank your favorite tunes and get your dance on! Model whole body movement by lifting your knees, touching your toes, and swinging from side to side. Show your kiddo different ways to dance, like disco moves from the 70s, aerobics steps from the 80s, and headbanging from the 90s! ‌Practice‌ ‌self-regulation‌ ‌by‌ ‌stopping‌ ‌the‌ ‌music‌ ‌and‌ ‌freezing‌ ‌your bodies.‌ ‌Kick‌ ‌it‌ ‌up‌ ‌a‌ ‌notch‌ ‌by‌ ‌varying‌ ‌volume‌ ‌--‌ ‌when‌ ‌the‌ ‌volume‌ ‌is‌ ‌low,‌ ‌you‌ ‌have‌ ‌to‌ ‌dance‌ ‌slow!‌ ‌When‌ ‌the‌ ‌volume‌ ‌is‌ ‌high,‌ ‌dance‌ ‌so‌ ‌fast‌ ‌you‌ ‌could‌ ‌fly!‌ 

About the Author
Dr. Laurel Felt is a learning designer, play and children’s media scholar, and founder of Our Powerful Play, a membership community that supports parents’ fun, enriching co-play with their kiddos, aged 2 to 6. To this work, she applies her background as an early childhood educator, training as an improviser, 10+ years of experience developing curriculum for organizations like Mattel and PBS Kids, and extensive education, which includes a master’s degree in child development from Tufts University and a PhD in 21st century learning from the University of Southern California. Laurel lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three-year-old partner in playtime, Sasha.
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