How to Know if Your Child Is Getting Enough Playtime

This is a guest post.

Social media “wonder” moms seem to have it all. Their houses are spotless, and their organization is Pinterest-worthy. They post an endless sea of pictures parading the crafts, projects, and games they do with their kids and the activities their children are involved in. You end your social media session wondering how these ladies manage to keep up and how much playtime a child needs to be happy.

As a single parent, you’re likely just trying to keep your head above water and barely have time to play with your kids. Too much scrolling through these “perfect” highlight reels of someone else’s life can make you feel less than and guilt-ridden, but that’s not how God wants you to live. He gives this reminder:

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (ESV Isaiah 41:10)

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Learn more about playtime for kids and lean on the Lord for the rest.

How Much Playtime Does a Child Need?

The Centers for Disease Control recommends 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity. However, that doesn’t cover the whole picture — plenty of essential development comes from less intense, imaginative, or creative play.

Experts agree play is a child’s most important occupation, so a general guideline would be to give them playtime opportunities similar to work hours. School structure makes that mark impossible for most kids to reach. A more straightforward and adaptable response is giving your child as many hours as they can reasonably fit into their schedule.

Signs Your Child Needs More Playtime

How much playtime does a child need to enjoy all those benefits? The answer will differ from kid to kid. Watch for these telltale signs. Your child may need more time to play.

They Can Quote Their Favorite Programs

If your child knows their favorite TV shows by heart, they probably aren’t getting enough playtime. Too many hours spent in front of a screen is detrimental to their development and health.

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They’re Experiencing Significant Mood Shifts

Playtime deprivation can cause changes in mood and behavior in kids. Some common symptoms are depression and an increase in aggression. Your child may also experience sudden and frequent emotional shifts or tantrums.

They Have a Hard Time Falling Asleep

Sleep comes much easier for kids when they’ve had ample opportunities to get all their energy out during the day. Getting enough playtime will make getting your children to bed less chore.

They’re Not Meeting Milestones

Play helps children meet their developmental milestones for social, physical, and emotional skills. With enough playtime, your kids will be more likely to stay on track because they’re getting more practice with basic movements, mental challenges, and social encounters.

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Benefits of Playtime for Kids

Playtime is an essential part of childhood. It encourages kids’ development across many spheres.

Improves Health

Active play gets kids moving — their blood pumps faster, their lungs pull in more oxygen, and their muscles work hard. Regular movement will improve your children’s long-term health, strengthening their muscles, hearts, and lungs.

Increases Motor Skills and Balance

Every type of play involves multiple forms of motion. Fine motor skills involve the hands and fingers, and gross motor skills use the core, arms, and legs. As your kids play, they work on all these vital movements, learning to use their body parts together and balance.

Fosters Creativity

Imagination runs wild during playtime in every activity, from arts and crafts to active games. Children can suspend their disbelief and create magical worlds to explore stunning works of art.

Improves Social Skills

Playing with other kids or adults allows children to practice and build social skills. They’ll learn to win and lose well and experiment with verbal and nonverbal communication. Even when playing independently, kids create dialogue for their imaginary characters and play out social dynamics.

Quick Tips to Boost Playtime as a Single Parent

When you’re struggling to keep all your balls in the air, getting enough playtime for your kids sometimes takes a back burner. These quick tips can help you prioritize getting your children enough activity without derailing your careful balance — a win-win.

Join a Church Playgroup

Ask a pastor or elder at your church about opportunities to get your kids more involved in their ministries. Many churches have meetings for parents to study God’s word and get encouragement while offering safe child care where your children can play with others. You may also find playgroups held by other parents in the congregation or hosted at the church.

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Schedule Fun Activities

Giving your kids undivided attention for playtime doesn’t happen by accident — especially as a single parent. Look over your calendar at the beginning of the week or month and see where you can fit intentional playtime with your children. It may sound callous to schedule time with your kids, but making an “appointment” demonstrates its importance to you and ensures this essential bonding and development time happens.

Learn to Say No

Odds are your kids feel as frazzled as you. School is more demanding than ever, and extracurriculars, lessons, and homework seem like an endless war for their attention. You can save them from the struggle with a single word — no. Say no to obligations or extra “stuff” that’s getting in the way of an actual childhood.

Letting go of the majority of their structured lessons and afterschool activities will give your kids the time they need to play and explore. Plus, it will free your budget and schedule. Let each child pick one activity they want to continue and ditch the rest.

Give It All to God

Ensuring your kids have as much playtime as they need is valuable. Thank the Lord your child’s success and development aren’t all on your shoulders. Your job is to do your best with the time and resources God gives you and lean on Him for everything else.

Spend time in prayer asking for help to make room for intentional playtime with your child. Ask Him to bless them with the benefits of playtime for kids and ultimately give them a childhood that brings them closer to Himself.


Beth is the content manager and Managing Editor at Body+Mind. She writes about parenting, fitness, mental health, and nutrition. You can find Beth on Twitter @bodymindmag.