Why Free Play is Important and How to Encourage it


So much of our time now is already accounted for; a busy schedule of school, clubs, homework and sleeping doesn’t really leave time for much else. Free play should be a daily part of your child’s life.

You know that moment at the end of the day, once the dishes are all tidied away and all the work is done, where you finally sit down and do whatever you want? That’s your free time. As a parent, you probably spend it trying not to fall asleep because you’re so exhausted after a busy day, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.

Kids need free time as well, time to go crazy, let their hair down and do whatever it is they think is fun. This is especially true after a long day of school. School is pretty structured, and the short breaks often aren’t really long enough for much free play. There’s barely time for a quick snack and then it’s back to the classroom again.

Sports clubs, music lessons and drama groups are great for your child and are no doubt providing heaps of benefits. But they too are structured. If you’re constantly ferrying your child between activities, then chances are your child’s “free time” is in the backseat of your car. It’s important to make sure they get to enjoy some free play too.

Free play is whatever your child wants it to be. It could mean running around the garden at full speed, playing an imagination game with friends, or climbing trees at the local park. Your child should be free to choose the activity. Here are three ways to encourage free play:

#1: Make sure there is free time available

It’s not easy to plot in free time, especially when your child is in school. Between eating, learning, extracurricular activities and homework, there aren’t many minutes left in the day. But free play really does need to be a family priority, so make sure you schedule some in. It could be a trip to the park straight after school, or having a friend over for dinner. Even just 45 minutes of free play a day could help your child to release some energy, use that imagination and unwind.

#2: Limit screen time

The few minutes we do have free each day tend to be spent staring at the television or playing games on a phone or tablet. While this might be an easy way of relaxing, it’s probably not offering many other benefits. Try to get out of the habit of turning the TV on as soon as you arrive home. Instead think of other things you can do around the home. Remember when you were young, how you’d spend hours building dens or riding your bike? That’s sort of what you want to recreate with free play, the freedom you had when you were young.

#3: Set up a playdate

When kids get together, free play is bound to happen. Two imaginations are better than one, so invite some friends over to join in. Let your child pick who they invite, after all, it’s their play date. Leave them to it so they can enjoy each other’s company and have some fun.

5 Tips to Encourage Your Sport Loving Kids to Focus on School

Having a kid who loves sports is great, but what if it comes at the expense of their study? All parents want their kid to have a plan b, just in case that dream of being a professional athlete doesn’t work out as planned.

Everyone has a passion in life, and if your kid’s is sports, you may be struggling to keep them focused on school too. If your kid loves running across the field, tackling members on the other team and scoring those winning points, it’s no wonder the quiet environment of the classroom doesn’t appeal. Your child might dream of being a professional sports player, and though you want to support and encourage them, you know that millions of other kids out there share the same dream.


So how can you encourage your child to focus on school and get good grades? It’s a question parents have been trying to answer for generations. If your child has a lot of extracurricular activities, it can be hard to find the time to do homework. So how can you make it a priority and get your kid excited about school?


#1: Show an interest

If sport is your kid’s passion, there’s a chance it’s yours too. If you know your kid loves talking about it, then you will too. You’ll get just as excited listening to the blow by blow account of each game. But do you show the same enthusiasm for school work? If you want your kid to be interested in school, then you need to be interested too. Ask them what they’re learning about, help with homework, or share some interesting thing you learned while you were still in school. Try to make school yet another thing you can bond over.


#2: Make time for it

One thing’s for certain, schools are setting too much homework these day. Some kids have hours to complete each evening. This is on top of sports clubs, drama groups, music lessons and socializing. Oh, and that little thing called family time. It’s a juggling act, and it’s all too easy to drop a few balls. Make sure you don’t let your child fall behind on their homework. Make sure there is time each day for them to focus on school work, but don’t let it come at the expense of that much-needed family time.


#3: Create a homework space

You know yourself just how important a work environment can be. If it’s cluttered, disorganized or filled with distractions, you may not work as effectively as you would otherwise. The same is true for your child. Make sure they have an organized and quiet space to do their homework. Somewhere free from distractions.


#4: Encourage Free Time

Kids benefit from structure, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Children need time to get messy, play and run around free from the rules of sports. Children can end up feeling burnt out after too much time spent in structured activities and groups, so make sure you prioritize free play at home too. It also helps to spread homework throughout the week, so you avoid having homework for four hours on a given night.


5: Even pros need a good business mind

Professional sports players don’t have careers that will last them a lifetime. The career span of a professional player is short. Some go on to be coaches, allowing them to continue making money whilst doing something they love. Others go on to become entrepreneurs. Some manage their money wisely whilst they’re getting the big bucks and manage to support themselves that way. It’s all too easy to be knocked out of your dream job because of injury, so it’s important to have a plan b. After all, how will your child manage his millions properly if he didn’t pay attention in math class?

Balancing Practice And School Work

Imagine the coach hands you the practice schedule and you stare back with that, “Um, how many days does this say?” look. When team training takes over the after-school hours, keeping up on homework and other activities isn’t always easy. Whether your child has baseball practice three evenings a week, volleyball every day for two hours or hits the soccer field every other day finding balance between training time and school work is a must-do. How can you help your child to keep the playing and academic fields leveled?


Set Up a Schedule

Simply saying, “You’ll get your homework done when practice is over” isn’t enough. Saying one task goes after the other will lead your child to linger in the shower after they get home, surf the web and will eventually run out of time before bedtime, then what? Having a set schedule provides structure and allows you to split the after-school hours as evenly as possible.

On practice days, plan schoolwork time around your child’s sports training. That said, you need to keep other activities and events in mind when you pick times. For example, if they have soccer from 4:00pm to 5:30pm. You don’t want to be eating dinner at 9:00pm, so you need to set aside time for a meal between practice and homework. Instead of just saying the schedule out loud, write it down. Use colors for each activity, and try to stick to the picks!

Saying When

Even though skipping out on practice isn’t advisable, you can’t let your child’s grades suffer. If their sport is getting in the way of school, you have to make some concessions. This may mean dropping travel softball and only playing on the school or community team or limiting your child to one sport per season.

If your child is really starting to suffer academically, talk to the coach. Ask about taking a break until their grades rebound or see if it’s possible to trim-down a training schedule.

Weekend Warrior

A weekend-only league may be the ticket to freeing up time for weekday school work. Instead of having to fit everything in Monday through Friday, a Saturday/Sunday sport allows your child to split sports and school time. They then have every after-school day to study and work on assignments. Having seven rather than five days a week available will allow you and your child to plan ahead and succeed in sports and academics.

Talk It Out

Is your child really overwhelmed, or do you just think that they are? Maybe they have it all under control, but your parental instinct would also be right.

Ask your child how they feel about their out-of-school time. Get specific and ask questions such as, “Are you worried about getting your homework done on time?” or, “How much time do you need to work on school assignments?” This line of conversation helps you to judge where your child’s time is out of balance and what you need to do to make them feel more comfortable or confident.

Finding a balance between school and sports is a challenge that you can meet. While it isn’t a snap, with some careful planning, the willingness to limit the number of activities that your child takes on and some deep discussion you can keep their academic and athletic lives in check!


The Winning Problem: The Challenge of Managing Early Success in Sports

Winning is usually seen as a good thing, but it can come with its own set of challenges for young people. Understanding how to help your children handle winning is an important part of their development.


Everyone likes to win. Whether it is children playing a game on the playground with their friends, or an adult playing a pick-up game after work, winning is always the goal. As your child gets into organized sports, a portion of the focus will be on winning both at an individual and team level. There are certainly other goals involved when playing sports, but winning is always going to be near the top of the list.

With that in mind, it’s great news when winning seems to come easy to your child, right? Wouldn’t every parent dream of having a child who is naturally able to rise above the competition and come out victorious? There is certainly nothing wrong with winning at a young age, but it might not be all that it’s cracked up to be.

When winning comes easy, there are certain lessons that may be overseen by a young athlete. For example, hard work is one of the most important lessons that young people can learn through their participation in sports. However, when they are able to simply walk out onto the field and succeed, they may not gain that valuable work ethic that could serve them well later in life. Instead, they will come to expect success without putting in the work – and that expectation could lead to complacency.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you want your kids to lose on purpose. Another great lessons to be found in sports is giving your best effort at all times, and frequently that great effort will lead to winning. So what should you do if your child is constantly coming out on top? There are a few pieces of advice that may help you keep them on track despite having so much early success –

  • Focus on the process. It is okay to celebrate a victory, but the focus should be mostly on the process of playing the game. Every kid (and adult) has things that they can improve on in their chosen sport, so make sure your child understands there is always room for improvement – even in victory.
  • Emphasize sportsmanship. Be sure to highlight the importance of always respecting and appreciating opponents, no matter what sport your child happens to play. It is easy for kids to fall into the trap of being condescending toward their competition, so it is crucial that an adult teaches them how to be respectful.
  • Give them the big picture. Success as a child is great, but inevitably the competition is going to improve as the years go by. You don’t want to tear down your child’s confidence, as they have earned their success, but help them see that sports will become more difficult later in life.

As a parent of a successful child, you have to walk a fine line between celebrating their success and helping them develop important skills like work ethic and sportsmanship. Hopefully, you will be able to walk that line and provide them with a balance between confidence and humility that will serve them well going forward.





5 Tips For Keeping Your Kid Sun-Safe

three-ways-to-help-yourSynopsis: Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers, but it’s also one of the most preventable. Sun safety is important, even when your child is about to score that winning touchdown. —

Vitamin D is important for healthy bones. Exposure to the sun allows our bodies to produce vitamin D. For this, you only need to be exposed to the sun’s rays for around 15 minutes a day. On a sunny day, this should be enough time for your body to start producing vitamin D. Too much sun exposure could put your child at risk of developing skin cancer in later life. Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers, and the number of people affected is on the rise.

It’s important to protect your child’s skin from the sun’s harmful rays. If your child is a sports fanatic, he’s likely to be spending quite a lot of time outdoors. You must ensure his skin is protected when he’s on the field. Here are five tips for keeping your kids sun-safe during games:

#1: Apply Sunscreen

Choose a sunscreen that provides adequate protection for your child. Younger children should be wearing sun block that prevents any of the harmful rays from reaching their skin. For children aged four and over, an SPF of 30 should suffice. Sunscreen should be applied before your child goes outside, ideally around 30 minutes before to give it time to start working. It must be reapplied throughout the day, at least every couple of hours to provide your child with the maximum protection.

#2: Dress Code

The clothes your child wears offer important protection from the sun’s rays. Vests may keep your child cool, but they don’t offer much in the way of sun protection. Choose clothes that will allow your child to stay covered without causing them to overheat. If you don’t think your child’s kit offers adequate sun protection, speak to the coach about alternative clothes.

#3: Kick Off Time

Experts advise staying out of the sun during peak time. The sun’s rays are at their strongest between 11am and 3pm, and you should try to stay in the shade during these hours. This is even more important for children. You may not be able to take control of when your child’s games are, but you can try to maximize his time in the shade during peak hours. If the game starts at 1pm, try to make sure he isn’t in the sun for long before kick off.

#4: Stay Hydrated

When your child is running around and exercising, it’s important he stays hydrated. This is especially important on hot days. Your child will need to increase his liquid intake on warm days, so make sure he’s drinking plenty of water. Encourage him to keep a cold bottle of water on the bench so he can stop for a drink whenever necessary.

#5: Lead By Example

Your child isn’t going to take sun safety seriously if you are the one that ends up lobster red after every game. Follow your own advice and set a good example to your child. Wear appropriate clothes, use sunscreen and try to sit in the shade during peak hours. Always apply your own sunscreen when you tell your child to, this sets a great example and can keep your skin safe too.

5 Energizing Pre-Game Snacks For kids

Synopsis: Kids need as much energy as possible when they’re on the pitch, but convincing them to eat a healthy pre-game snack isn’t always easy. Check out these great suggestions for energizing fuel. —


Your child is about to score the winning touchdown or race across the finish line. To do that, she needs as much energy as she can muster. She needs to be well rested, warmed up and have a body full of energizing fuel. Trying to convince her to eat something healthy before the big game might not always be easy, so here are a few tasty suggestions she won’t want to turn down:

#1: Peanut Butter Bana-wich

Peanut butter is up there amongst the best pre-game snacks out there. Filled with healthy fat, peanut butter is a great food to fuel your young athlete. Bananas are another favorite snack amongst athletes, they’re high in energy and provide a fast acting energy boost. Try cutting a banana in half lengthways, and then spread one side with peanut butter (go for one with no added salt or sugar), then place the other half on top so you have a breadless and delicious sandwich.

#2: Energy Balls

These are easy to at home and the recipe can be altered each time to keep them exciting. You’ll need a selection of nuts and seeds and an equal amount of dried fruit. Stick them in a blender and put it on high until they’re broken down. Then add some coconut oil and vanilla extract. Whizz together, roll into bite size balls and let them cool in the fridge. You could also try adding bananas, oats, peanut butter or dark chocolate, choose what your child likes best!

#3: Fruit Kebab

A more exciting twist on the traditional fruit salad, a fruit kebab allows your child to enjoy a rainbow of fruit goodness. Fill a kebab stick with slices of fruit including banana, apple, melon, orange and grapes. These will provide your child with a boost of vitamins and minerals that encourage mental focus as well as release energy. If your child isn’t a fan of eating fruit, try whizzing up the ingredients into a smoothie instead.

#4: Hummus Dip

Hummus is high in protein and a great way of giving your child some extra energy before a game. Take a pot of hummus and a selection of things to dip. Peppers, cucumber, apples, carrots and pita bread are all great options. Not only do they taste great, but they’ll provide a mix of essential vitamins and minerals that may help boost your child’s performance on the pitch. #5: Yogurt Fresh fruit and natural yogurt is always a popular choice, and a smart option for your young athlete. The fruit will provide energy as well as much-needed vitamins and minerals. The yogurt provides protein and makes the fruit irresistible, For added carbs, throw in a bunch of granola too. A sprinkling of nuts and seeds can be used to top it off as well, offering even more of a boost to your kid before the big game.


Volleyball Is A Rapidly Growing Women’s Sport – And A Great Option For Young Girls

Synopsis: Volleyball is quickly gaining in popularity with girls across the country, and thanks to the combination of excitement and discipline that it offers, it could continue to grow for years to come.


Over the years, volleyball has not been a sport that has received the same level of attention from girls as options like soccer, tennis, basketball, or softball. However, that is all changing quickly. Volleyball is now one of the most popular sports for girls to participate in, and college volleyball is rapidly growing as well.

When you take a closer look at the game of volleyball, it is easy to see why so many young girls want to participate. It is an exciting game that requires athleticism, eye-hand coordination, teamwork, and plenty of practice. If a girl has grown up playing other sports, the skills learned in those other games will likely translate nicely to the volleyball court. Balance, quickness, agility, and flexibility are all rewarded when trying to get the ball back to the other side of the net.

Not Just for Tall Kids

Many people think of volleyball as a game that is only for tall people, but that is a mistake. Yes, height can be an advantage when playing volleyball, but not every player on the floor needs to have height on their side. There are different positions in volleyball just like in basketball, so there is room in the game for players of all different heights. As long as a young girl has a passion for the game and a willingness to work hard and learn new skills, they will have no trouble fitting in with a volleyball team.

Learning Teamwork Skills

If you are the parent of a young girl who is interested in volleyball, you will love the teamwork skills that are developed in this game. Volleyball is all about passing with teammates, communicating while the ball is in the air, and sticking together as a group during tough matches. There are certainly individual skills that are developed while participating in volleyball, but it is really the team component of the game that holds so much value for young people.

It’s Just Plain Fun!

At the end of the day, sports should be fun for kids. Girls love playing volleyball because they can cheer for their friends, enjoy competition in a fast paced game, and hit shots that they will remember for years to come. Not all girls will go on to earn college scholarships for their volleyball skill, but they can still have great times and create lasting friendships while playing this exciting sport.

There is room on the volleyball court for girls of all different backgrounds and skill levels. Some girls will want to strive for the opportunity play in college, while others will only choose to play for a year or two. No matter what your daughter has in mind for her own volleyball career, this is a sport that she will likely look back on with fond memories.

Why Kids Quit Sports and What Parents Can Do About It

Your all-star has been playing little league for years. He’s gleefully gone off to practices and played like a champ season after season. Suddenly he’s saying, “No way” when it comes to sports play. What happened? The entire family has spent time (and money) on your child’s sport, and now it seems like he’s just giving up. The question, “Why did my child quit?” doesn’t have one easy answer. Likewise, there isn’t just one single way to get kids back into the swing of sports.513

The Win at Any Cost Mentality

The more that a child feels pushed to compete, the less he wants to play. If you had someone telling you to, “Win, win, win!” would you want to go out onto the field? Probably not. Overemphasizing winning puts unnecessary pressure on a child and takes the fun out of the game. Unless your child’s on a serious track to the Olympics (and very few are) there is no need to focus solely on getting the win. This doesn’t only apply to parents — often coaches and even other children on the team are at fault. Friendly competition and a ‘try your best’ approach are the way to go.

How can you prevent your child from losing interest in the game they love? Dial back the pressure. Help your child focus on enjoying the sport, learning and making the best of his time on the field. If the coach is the one who is pushing the win, have a talk about the possibility of easing up. Not every coach will agree with you but you might bring up good points and the coach may consider modifying his techniques.

Other Activities

Just because your child begged to play basketball when he was 7-years-old doesn’t mean that he has found his one and only extracurricular activity. As children grow and develop they begin exploring other options. A child who joyously hit the soccer field in first grade may discover that art is his true passion later on.

What can you do about it? Not much. Experimenting with different activities is part of growing up. You should encourage your child to investigate his options, and not limit him. If he has a real talent or is meant to play the sport, he’ll eventually come back to it.

Lack of Support

In some cases there is a real lack of support when it comes to sports and performance. A coach may ignore your child’s efforts, you might not be able to leave work early enough to show up to all of his games or he may never hear, “Good job” when he really needs to. A child may also perceive a lack of support when he or she misses or mistakes compliments and praise or compares himself to another child who is getting an overdose of support. When a child doesn’t feel supported, he’s more likely to give up than one who has a ‘cheerleader’ in his corner.

What can you do about it? Be the cheerleader, be present and be the one giving the praise.

School Stress

Moving up through the grades also means an upswing in the amount of schoolwork required. Spending a few hours a week training or practicing eats into study time. If your child is struggling in school, he may worry that sports take up too much time.

What can you do about it? Teach your child how to create balance in his life. Create a workable schedule that allows him to study and practice without stress.


A new set of friends may put new pressures on your child. Last week he was totally into soccer, and this week he’s telling you, “Mom, it just isn’t cool.” These don’t sound like his words, and you’re pretty sure that his new best bud is the one behind the sudden sports ditch.

What can you do about it? Help your child be his own person. Talk about peer pressure and teach him how to stand up for himself. Let him know that a real friend won’t judge him or make him feel badly for doing something different.

When all else fails, don’t push. Children’s sports shouldn’t be tasks, duties or obligations. They should be fun-filled learning experiences that build character and bring out the best in your child!

The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team is Inspiring a Generation

Synopsis: The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team took home the Women’s World Cup in 2015, and inspired a whole generation of young female soccer players at the same time.


One of the biggest sporting events this year has been the Women’s World Cup. Hosted in Canada. The United States team took home the title after missing out in last three editions of this competition. While the U.S. team looked a little bit shaky early in the tournament, they progressed nicely as cup continued and finished the job with a dominating 5-2 win over Japan.

Women’s sports don’t take the spotlight nearly as often as men’s sports, so it is always worth noting when a large event such as the World Cup captures the attention of the country. Not only is it exciting to watch these women perform at the top of their game, but it is also inspiring to a whole new generation of aspiring soccer players. Thanks to the performance put forward by the U.S. Women’s National Team, countless young girls will now be dreaming of becoming the next Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan.

  • A Great Game for Kids

Soccer is an incredibly popular sport among young people, and it is easy to see why. Kids love it because there are few rules – especially at the youth level. They can run around, kick the ball with their friends, and have a great time. Since soccer is a ‘hands-off’ game, kids aren’t held back by eye-hand coordination that hasn’t quite developed just yet. They can jump into playing soccer basically as soon as they are old enough to play with a ball, and it is a game that can be played with very little equipment.

  • Fitness is a Top Priority

As a game based on running, soccer places a high level of importance on overall physical fitness. In order to succeed in the soccer field, girls need to be physically active and overall fit. Even if they only play soccer for their early school years, the lessons they learn regarding fitness will be valuable as they move on into adult life.

  • Focus on Teamwork

Soccer is one of the most team-oriented games that kids can play. Working together is vital on the soccer field, as no one can defeat the other team all by themselves. Not only is it a great lesson for kids to have to rely on the help of their teammates in order to succeed, but working together with others is a good step toward developing social skills.

Although not all young athletes are going to grow up to play on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, but that doesn’t make the dream any less exciting. For young girls who fell in love with the game of soccer this summer, signing up for a team and making new friends will be a great experience. Whether they play for just a year or two, or go all the way to college and beyond, the passion that they feel for this game can be traced to the thrilling performance of their heroes wearing the Red, White, and Blue.

The Importance of Having an Emergency Action Plan

team-sports-and-child-devSynopsis: In the middle of practice the weather changes suddenly as the clouds darken and the winds kick up, bringing in a pop-up thunderstorm. As most of the parents have dropped off their kids for practice, there are not enough vehicles available to seek shelter. Coaches need to be prepared to handle the unexpected; be it a change in the weather, a freak injury to a player, or other surprise scenarios.

Coaches signing on to lead an athletic team generally know what is required to prepare a team to compete. Just as they may have to bone-up on some sport-specific fundamentals or seek for pointers on player treatment and handling parental issues, they should also research methods of developing a coach’s Emergency Action Plan.

Medical Emergency

Creating an emergency medical form to be filled out by parents, and to be present with the coach during all practices and games, is a ‘must do’ for anyone coaching youth athletes. The form should include:

  • The address of the child/parents
  • Home and mobile phone numbers of the parents (and at least one other relative/contact)
  • A list of any prescription medications the child is taking
  • A list of known allergies (food, bee sting, medications, e.g.)
  • A list of medical conditions (asthma, e.g.)
  • A section that permits the coach to transport (by car or official emergency vehicle) to the nearest hospital.

If there is more than one hospital locally, include a section, which allows a parent to list the preferred hospital (for insurance purposes, e.g.). Coaches should make copies of each form, keeping the original at home and placing the copies in a container to carry with them.

Medical Kit

Bumps, scrapes and contusions are a part of most athletic events. Coaches can prepare a medical kit (purchasing a trainer’s kit or a fishing tackle box, e.g.). Stock the kit with the basics: anti-bacterial ointment, adhesive bandages, elastic tape, elastic bandages, scissors, eye wash, hydrogen peroxide, petroleum jelly, non-stick gauze pads, gauze and medical gloves.

Players with asthma should have their inhalers readily available. Coaches need to be aware of the medical instructions for each player’s inhaler use and closely monitor players are using inhalers in accordance with the prescription directions.

Weather-Related/Unexpected Emergencies

Coaches need to be familiar with the surroundings of practice and game facilities. If the sport is indoors, it is a good idea to know the building evacuation routes available. If possible, have a diagram of the routes available (place it in the container with the emergency medical forms). If the team is a visitor, the coach needs to ask the home team coach about emergency exits, etc. If the sport is outdoors, develop a plan for evacuating the field when rain and thunderstorms occur.

Note: Players should be taken to the safest area possible at the first sign of lightning or the first audible thunder clap. There are also weather apps available for cell phones which provide lightning detection.

All coaches and parents should be aware of the evacuation plan. Take ten minutes of practice time to discuss these plans with everyone. It is a small price to pay for the safety of everyone.