Some homes feature playrooms, but Rachel Wiegand has taken her family’s movement aspirations to the next level. A mother of two girls, 6 and 2, in Sheboygan, Wis., Wiegand was inspired in part by biomechanist Katy Bowman, MS, founder of Nutritious Movement and author of Grow Wild: The Whole-Child, Whole-Family, Nature-Rich Guide to Moving More to revamp her home in a big way: The Wiegands installed monkey bars on basement crossbeams, added a climbing wall upstairs, and swapped traditional living-room furniture for a floor couch and plyo boxes.
Wiegand’s goal is to inspire her kids to move as a part of daily life. “I’d like them to develop an awareness of what it looks like to move in different ways without a stigma attached — not just play sports and have that be their movement. It’s been a really big change in ways I wasn’t expecting,” says Wiegand, whose daughters now set up obstacle courses and jump in pillow piles every night.
Making your home movement-friendly doesn’t have to be so extreme — nor does it have to be complicated or expensive, says Bowman.
“Make space!” she suggests. “Create some open floor for tumbling, set up a box or item for jumping on or off, and get a low-cost chin-up bar for hanging. Play games or watch shows while stretching on the floor. Set up a couple of weekly meals outside. Change the rules of the house so they don’t discourage movement.”
As the Vuckovic kids have gotten older, the family discovered that what they really needed in their home was more open floor space and less stuff that could be knocked over or broken. “A lot of times, the kids will want to play hide-and-seek, or dance, or just sprawl out on the floor. We cleared out some coffee tables in the living room and rearranged the couches, and now this is the room they hang out in the most,” Hunt says.
“Children are wired to play. Take them up on it — drop what you’re doing and play with them.”
For outside play, they hung a Ninja-line between trees in the backyard, which offers opportunities for climbing without the investment of a large play structure.
Whether you have a fenced-in yard, share a courtyard, or just live near a patch of open green space, you can encourage more outdoor play by keeping outdoor toys accessible and making sure your kids have appropriate gear for any weather.
And when your kids want to roughhouse, throw a ball around, or dance in the living room, engage with them. “What they’re telling you is that play is key to their development as human beings,” says Tom Farrey, founder and executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society Program and author of Game On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children. explains. “Children are wired to play. Take them up on it — drop what you’re doing and play with them.”
This was excerpted from “How to Help Kids Thrive Through Physical Activity” which was published in the September 2022 issue of Experience Life.