Rediscovering the art of playtime

Perhaps boredom isn't so bad after all.

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Remember when you bought toys for your kids and they ended up just playing games with the box? We didn’t realise it then, but that simple box was actually one of the best gifts we could give our child—the gift of imagination.

Electronic devices are powerful tools that provide many educational benefits. But too much time on screens can take away from the movement needed for growing bodies and the cognitive and practical life skills that are best developed through active play—unstructured play that combines physical activity with self-expression and imagination.

Active play can be anything from symbolic play (using objects in an imaginative way, like a box into a race car), physical play (hopscotch, tag, hide-and-seek), and make-believe or role-play (playing pirates or superheroes).

Organised sport is a brilliant way to make sure your child is getting enough exercise, but research coordinated by the University of Notre Dame reveals that unstructured “play” is also important for their optimal cognitive, social and emotional development.

So where do you start? An easy place to begin is to help kids put “boredom” back in its box!

Far from being an unnecessary “evil”, the Little People, Big Lives Report found that boredom plays an essential role in developing creativity, resilience and resourcefulness.

It’s often more positive for children to find their own way out of boredom by engaging in active play, than to be provided entertainment upon request.

Can’t think of what to do? Create a Boredom Box! Sit down with your kids to write down every play activity you can think of on little paper notes and put them in a box. Whenever you hear “I’m bored!”—point them to the box for inspiration.

Why not try some of our other ways to help rediscover the art of “playtime”?

Healthy habits to help kids thrive

Get back to nature. With an ever-growing selection of apps and streaming services at our fingertips, it’s getting easier to stay indoors! Research shows fewer than one-quarter of Aussie kids are currently meeting the minimum physical activity recommendations, and we know the great outdoors is the best setting to support kids’ healthy development! If you have a backyard or a pool, make the area as playtime-friendly as possible and encourage kids to get outside. Otherwise try scheduling time to get outdoors, like a regular Sunday afternoon walk.

Turn interest into playtime. Whether it’s digging dinosaur fossils or collecting Pokémon, every kid gets absorbed in a hobby that can consume their every moment! But how do you make sure they don’t forget to get outside and move? Try helping them express their interest in more physically active ways. Music lovers can turn a favourite song into a dance routine and TV fans can act out a favourite scene with homemade costumes and props.


View the full Little People Big Lives Report from Sanitarium and the University of Notre Dame at sanitarium.com.au/biglives.