Play Together Stay Together

Teamwork Strengthens Family Ties



The adage that a family that plays together stays together is more valid than ever. Yes, healthy individual sports are good, but recreational activities that involve the whole family deliver bonus benefits—from more exercise for more people to fierce, yet fun bonding that affords fresh opportunities and makes memories worth revisiting.

Sample Scores

Baseball expands the father-and-son tradition of tossing a ball back and forth and turns a yard or local park into the family’s own Field of Dreams. Go inclusive and offer mitts to other family members, as well. Anyone not into throwing and catching can still participate by running around those that are passing the ball.

Basketball hoop shooting can be as loose or structured as participants like. A game known as Horse provides fun for family and friends. When someone scores a basket, others take their shot from the same spot on the court; those that miss are assigned a “penalty” letter of the word. In consecutive rounds, each player that reaches the complete word is eliminated until only one (that day’s winner) remains.

Bicycling beats a drive around town; it’s heart-friendly in more ways than one. Pedaling sustains satisfying group interaction, joyful aerobic exercise and a healthier planet. Local club rides and charity events add zest. For bicycle-friendly states, user tips, events and information on local clubs, check BicycleFriendlyCommunity.org, USACycling.org and RoadBikeJourney.com.

Disc golf moves the recreational pastime of Frisbee-tossing to an intriguing level of competitive accuracy and wholebody exercise. Participants toss a flying disc toward and eventually into a raised basket at the end of each “hole” at a special course; the player with the fewest total tosses (like a golfer with the fewest total strokes) after nine or 18 holes wins. Backyard putters practice getting closest to the pin and in. For more information, including local courses for this fast-growing sport, visit pdga.com.

Tennis for four is perfect for Mom, Dad and two offspring to strengthen skills and relationships via doubles play. Strategizing between partners engages teamwork and laughter. Many nearby public parks or school courts are open in the summer. For tips or updates on local leagues, visit usta.com.

Benefits Transcend Exercise

According to Make Physical Activity a Family Event, a recent study sponsored by the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, “Participating in family physical activities helps children gain life skills, as well as health benefits,” such as learning teamwork, leadership skills and quality decision-making. Other positive aspects cited include appreciating sportsmanship, positive role modeling and strengthening intrafamily relationships.

Young adults often credit their parents as their sports or fitness role models.
~ Association for Applied Sport Psychology


The study further recommends noncompetitive family activities to round out the potential for whole-family benefits. Working in the yard, group scavenger hunts, early morning calisthenics before work and school, walking the dog and volunteering at a local shelter all make the grade.

Two Trending Activities

Since establishing its first stroller fitness franchise in San Francisco 12 years ago, Baby Boot Camp (BabyBootCamp.com), headquartered in Sarasota, Florida, has been maximizing and expanding moms’ predilection for taking their newborn out for a walk or light run. One-hour classes led by nationally certified fitness experts prompt group stroller power walks, as well as strengthand interval-training sessions, predominantly at malls and recreation centers.

“It’s not just about reducing weight. We inspire mothers to know that it’s possible for them to become even stronger and fitter after having a child than they were before,” says founder and CEO Kristen Horler. “It also provides a larger sense of community, a glue that holds them together and keeps them coming back.” Recently, many of the 150-plus franchises in 25 states, (especially prevalent in California, Florida, New York and Texas), began offering free Saturday sessions for dads.

Yoga facilities are also engaging extended family members. One example is Bloom Retreat; originally founded as a mother-and-child community center in Walnut Creek, California, it now offers couples yoga. “Practicing yoga together offers another way to physically play and communicate,” observes founder and owner Michelle Long. In family sessions, poses include all family members holding hands while balancing on one foot, and touching knees during sitting poses.

“Some children are a little threatened by competitive sports, even though others feed on it. When they see this is different, they find a calmer center within themselves. They also see another interesting side of their parents,” remarks Long. Kids’ yoga birthday parties are also on the upswing.

Overall, when it comes to ways for eliciting healthy family recreation, the more, the merrier.


Randy Kambic, a freelance editor and writer in Estero, FL, regularly contributes to Natural Awakenings.

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