1. Jump rope
An important part of how young kids’ minds develop is through free, self-directed play. According to David Elkind, Ph.D., author of The Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier, Healthier Children, free play is critical now more than ever,
as recesses are shortened or eliminated, and kids’ calendars are busier than ever. “Through play,” Elkind writes, “children create new learning experiences, and those self-created experiences enable them to acquire social, emotional, and intellectual skills they could not acquire any other way.”
2. Talk with parents
I’ve heard from countless friends about their daily battles with their elementary-aged kids struggling to do homework, and the way it’s negatively affected their relationships. Instead, of parents nagging their overtired kids to do homework they’re too young to do independently, families should spend much time talking together about their day.
In fact, conversation is the best way for all of us – especially young children – to learn about our world and cultivate empathy.
The National Sleep Foundation estimates that between 25 and 30 percent of children aren’t getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep can cause all sorts of problems in kids, including poor attention, behavior problems, academic difficulties, irritability, and weight gain. But even small amounts of additional sleep can have big impacts. One study found that only 20 additional minutes of sleep can improve kids’ grades.
4. Listen to a book
Studies show that kids who read aloud to do better in school and have better vocabularies.
5. Go up a slide backwards “Risky” play—activities like climbing a tree—is good for kids. Children need to explore their own limits, to be able to assess risks, and to learn how to negotiate their environments. Researchers theorize that
risky play, found across all cultures and in other mammals, has a evolutionary role in preparing offspring for life without their caretakers.
6. Dig in the dirt
Another type of play, sensory play, is also critical for kids’ development. When kids knead clay or finger paint, they are stimulating their senses. “Sensory experiences,” explains one early childhood educator, “provide open-ended opportunities where the process is more important than the product; how children use materials is much more important than what they make with them.”
7. Help with dinner
Kids who learn about new foods, and how to prepare them, may be more likely to choose more nutritious foods later on.
8. Walk the dog
Kids who help take care of family pets may be less anxious, less likely to develop allergies and asthma, and are more active.