One of the most important things we believe here at Stretch-n-Grow is that fitness should be fun, and that stretching the body is an important part of growing up happy and healthy. Engaging the mind is just as important though! Children get that through school, teaching moments, and creativity. Did you know that exercise can be a key part of stretching the mind as well as the body? We are big advocates of getting creative with fitness. Incorporating imagination into exercise is important. In the past we have encouraged playing pretend with exercise, by moving like animals or creatively changing sidewalk games. Imaginative play, or playing pretend, is key to development in children. It helps build social skills, emotional wellness, problem-solving, and other important skills.
Here are 3 ways to encourage imagination and movement to engage the mind and body:
- Paint a giant picture with hands and feet: When the weather is nice, sometimes it is fun to get outside and spend hours in the grass, running around. If you’re not afraid to get a little messy, making a giant art project a part of that outside time can engage with the creative part of the mind. Instead of sitting and painting, get a giant piece of paper or a large piece of cloth and lay it out on a flat surface. Take paint, and cover hands and feet in different colors. Have the kids run around the paper or cloth. Maybe do cartwheels over it, jumping jacks, or bear crawl to get paint all over it. Hose down when you’re done, let the piece dry, and have a unique art piece to hang on the wall.
- Play house: When parents do things around the house, they are up and moving. When children copy that by pretending to be in charge of their own little house, populated with stuffed animals, dolls, and action figures, they often stay on their feet while they pretend to clean, go shopping, mow the lawn, and do other tasks they see their parents do. While their mind brings these scenarios to life, their little hands are activating, they are off the couch, and are learning to do things through imitation.
- Go to the playground: While the benefits of climbing the jungle gym for fitness are obvious, it is also a great place to engage the imagination. Is the slide a giant mountain to climb? Are the swings a spaceship to traverse the stars? Are they monkey bars vines with which to swing through the jungle? Encouraging kids to view the playground as different environments and scenarios will help them play longer and be more engaged with it.
Some of the best parts of childhood are when kids get to use their minds to transport them to new worlds and experience exciting adventures from the safety of their home. It can be so much more than sitting and daydreaming. Imaginative play is not just healthy for the mind and body, it will make childhood more fun and magical for our kids.
By: Bethany Verrett