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School-age Children at Play


children running in school field


School is a great new adventure for most children. Play is one of the keys to learning how to get along with other children and how to fit in. Here are some active play ideas and games for kids in the early school years.

What to expect: school-age play and games

Between the ages of six and nine years, your child will mature and develop a lot. Just by playing with your child, you help this process along.

New hobbies or interests might start to develop now. These can be a great basis for self-directed learning. Your child might love to read books and magazines on things that interest her – motorbikes, horses, bugs and more.

Your child’s social skills are also increasing. By nine years, your child might have formed special friendships with one or two other children.

Your older child might revel in being independent. Playing together can keep you close. Just kicking a ball around in the backyard helps to strengthen your bond and also develops your child’s physical skills.

Even though your child will probably enjoy the new adventure of school, he’ll still need nurturing and support to deal with any anxieties or concerns that come up. Playing with your child will help keep the lines of communication open.

Tip: When it comes to active play and your school-age child, keep the focus on having a good time, rather than on learning. Let your child take the lead with play. Learning follows naturally when play is fun.

Structured play and self-directed play

Your child’s day is now more structured to fit around school, with lots of rules to follow. Sometimes parents worry that their child isn’t doing enough structured activities after school.

In fact, self-directed, unstructured play – where children decide for themselves what they want to do and how to do it – is really valuable. That’s because it gives children time to:

  • let their thoughts and imaginations roam
  • explore ideas and think creatively
  • run around just for fun.

If you’re looking for more structured play activities, board games can help with math skills and turn-taking. And reading together builds reading skills and vocabulary.

Did you know?
School-age children still learn through play. Plenty of unstructured, free playtime helps balance formal lessons and also gives kids a chance to unwind after the routines and rules of school.

Active play ideas and games for kids

Your school-age child might enjoy:

  • school sports and games
  • riding bikes (with a helmet) or other wheeled toys
  • threading beads and string, and other simple crafts
  • making puppets with old socks or paper bags
  • dress-up games and pretend play
  • jumping and dancing to a favourite piece of music
  • doing puzzles and jigsaws
  • building forts
  • playing with musical instruments
  • gardening with you
  • helping to prepare dinner, using simple cooking ideas
  • trips to the local playground
  • painting and making prints with sponges or toothbrushes
  • simple card games or board games
  • watching a favourite TV show or video, especially if you watch together.
© Raising Children Network Limited, reproduced with permission.

Resources & Links:

HealthLink BC: Growth and Development, Ages 6 to 10 Years 


Last Updated: November 30, 2014