As most of our lives become increasingly hectic, with work demands, after-school activities and church and civic commitments, one of the first things to go is playtime. Sure, we spend time with our kids, but too often that time is while we are doing something else, like preparing a meal, working around the house or garden, or driving to or from an event. When was the last time you took time to play outdoors with your kids?

Relearning How to Play

Playtime, by definition, is spontaneous. It appeals to that uniquely childlike quality of seeing something intriguing and seizing the moment. By limiting playtime, we as parents not only squelch that curiosity, but also encourage more sedentary solitary activities that can lead to childhood obesity and social awkwardness. But how do you reconinstitute playtime? Here are a few ideas:

1. Make the time. Don’t leave outdoor playtime until all of your “to-do” list items are ticked off. For most of us, those lists never quite get completed. Instead, forgo mowing your grass or sweeping the living room and use that time to play catch or dig for worms or go on a neighbor scavenger hunt.

2. Limit the electronics. Video games, television and Internet access all have their benefits. But, none equals the health and social benefits of playing outdoors.

3. Eliminate an extracurricular activity. I know this is heresy, but many of our kids have such a rigid schedule of sports practices, music lessons and other weekly activities that there isn’t much time left for spontaneous play. Ask yourself: are your children as interested in all those activities as you are? If not, give up that they are least enthusiastic about and use that extra time for playtime.

So, while the summer is still young, set aside the laundry, forget about those to-do lists for a while and embrace the outdoors with your kids. You might just enjoy yourself.