How can we help children stay motivated to move this summer?

Play Day. A national day to have fun, yes, but deeper than that it highlights a child’s basic right and need to play, blogs Chris Wright to mark the national awareness day on 5 August.

It’s never been needed more than right now. Coronavirus arrived and everything changed. We moved to home schooling, working from home and leading our lives in isolation. Hello to our new best friend, the screen.

Learning through a screen, seeing and missing friends through a screen, hearing about rules and regulations which impact your life through a screen, in fact, just about all interactions through a screen. To the point where talking on the phone became a novelty. It has taken its toll on thousands of children across the country, making them feel confused and hugely unsettled.

I work for a charity which has been trying incredibly hard to adapt to this new way of living so that every child can enjoy the life-changing benefits that come from play and sport. Play is an essential part of a child’s life for their social, emotional, intellectual and physical development.

Now schools are out, and the long summer begins for those who have been juggling the roles of teacher, parent, worker, it has never been so important to get back to play…especially if it is the family playing together. Speaking to teachers and professionals who are dealing with the fallout from COVID, they are most worried about children’s happiness and wellbeing and play has a vital role in helping prepare them for the return to school.

To help you over the summer, here’s some helpful advice on how your family can stay motivated to play:

  • Commit to 30 minutes just to play every day. Set aside 30 minutes every day to laugh, have fun and connect with your child. You don’t need anything but your imagination and remember play is for all ages not just the toddlers.
  • Be a role model. If your child sees you being active and making physical activity and sport an important part of your day. They are likely to do so too.
  • Let your child lead. Ask them what they want to play. Let them set the game, tone and encourage them to move. They’re playing pretend gardeners, great – let’s move about and check all the plants have enough water. (Bearing in mind you don’t ‘actually’ have to water the plants or have any for that matter).
  • Make it fun. If they’re not having fun, it’s unlikely they are going to stay motivated to do it again tomorrow. Our research has shown that getting active with friends always tops the list when it comes to why children enjoy being active. Why not set up a socially distanced play date once a week?

More ideas on free activities across the summer can be found at You can also sign up to receive our parent newsletter with more resources and ideas here

Chris Wright is the Head of Health and Wellbeing at the Youth Sport Trust. The charity is on a mission to ensure that every child has the opportunity to fulfil their potential and enjoy the life-changing benefits that come from play and sport.

Published on 5 August 2020