C’mon Over for an Outdoor Play Date
Pat Rumbaugh, aka The Play Lady lives in Takoma Park, Maryland. Where she started a Play Club in 2009, since that time she had organized and led over 60 fun free play events in her community. For thirty years Pat was an educator and coach (1981-2011). Seeing the decline in unstructured play like the kind most adults grew up with sparked Pat to research the subject. Pat has a children’s book, Let’s Play at the Playground, became the co-founder of the nonprofitwww.Letsplayamerica.org, gave two TEDxTalks on play and was named the Grand Marshall of Takoma Park’s July 4 Parade in 2014. Pat speaks all over the country about the importance of play. She dreams of having Play Clubs in every school in America and interns in every community planning play events. Pat says, “Everyone deserves to play!”
A play date can be with a family member at home, in your back yard or it can be virtual with friends and extended family members. It is all up to you, your child, and your family. First, ask these questions:
- Who would my child enjoy playing with?
- Where would they play?
- What time of day would be best to schedule the play date?
- Most importantly what would be fun to play?
Parents have been juggling work, helping kids with schoolwork online and managing the family chores and dinner. There has not been much extra time to play. Now that school is finished and camp may not be an option, why not find time to play together outside? Summertime is a great time to get outside and play. Until we can get together again, let’s create new ways to play at home.
Play can improve physical health, mental health, and one's sense of wellbeing, as well as bring together neighborhood friends and family members. Let’s plan play dates where people of all ages can safely enjoy play as a regular part of their lives.
Families with young children may want to select a time during the weekend or a half hour everyday as family playtime. You can take turns choosing what to play and as we begin to re-open not only businesses but our homes, to reduce risk, everyone’s #1 piece of advice is that if there is going to be socializing, keep it outdoors as much as possible.
Good Dog Badminton
Start with outdoor games and activities your family already has. Dig out the badminton set and set it up for round or two of family badminton. For an additional twist that can be played with less players, try “Good Dog Badminton.” The object is to see how many times you can hit the birdie up and down by yourself (or back and forth with two players) without letting it drop.
The Balloon Game
This may take a lot of hot air on your part, but children aged from one and a half and up will love this game. Blow up at least two-dozen balloons. Try to put all the balloons in a fenced off area so that they can’t “escape”. Let the children try to catch the balloons and put them in a large bucket or container. They’ll kick them and toss them in the air. The joy and laughter are so contagious that many young children will want to stay in the balloon play until all the balloons are popped. (Be careful though, never leave young children alone with the balloon.)
Bake a Mud Pie
If your family has been going on hikes and walks you can begin collecting leaves, sticks and other debris that can be used to decorate a mud pie. Playing in the dirt with your hands uses your tactile sense and gives us a chance to be creative and imaginative. Do you have some tin pie pans or plastic containers you can use to make your pie? A large bowl, a bucket, or a washtub for mixing the dirt works great. Another thought is making your mud pie near a stream. Once the pies are decorated take a picture with your phones and toss the mud pie back in the water.
Turn Inside Outside
Have you been wanting to play a board game with your family and haven’t made the time for it? Well now is your chance. Set up the picnic table in the backyard or lay out a blanket on the grass and bring the board game outside. Mimic what you would do indoors and bring out some snacks to enjoy while you’re playing! Coloring, playing dress-up, and puppet shows are fun inside activities that can easily be moved outdoors.
We’re all missing time with friends and even extended family members. Ask your children if there is an activity they would like to play with grandma and grandpa. Maybe your daughter wants to learn how to play chess and her grandpa plays chess. Your son has been learning how to cook some meals and wants to learn how grandma makes her homemade apple pie. Help your child set-up a virtual play date through Zoom, Face Time, or another communications app so that your children can have play dates at a distance with those special people outside their home. Don’t forget about aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends you haven’t seen in a while. Setting up a play date with them can be something to look forward to, a new learning experience and a great way to spend time with a relative or friend.