Healthy Together: More Play, Play More

Healthy Together: More Play, Play More

Plenty of Fun Needs to be Had

We hear you! COVID-19 has greatly changed how families play and have fun. You’ve worn grooves into every board game. Everyone in the house knows the good Hide and Seek spots. You’ve done every puzzle. Twice.

Plenty of fun can still be had. And needs to be had. Our earlier Stay ‘n’ Play story talked about the importance of play. This story offer more tips, advice and suggestions for your family.

Act, Create & Pretend

Play can be divided into three types:

  • Active play involves action and whole body movements such as tummy time, running, jumping, kicking, throwing and catching.
  • Creative play uses hands and minds to build and create. This includes arts, crafts, blocks and puzzles.
  • Pretend play uses language and thinking skills to learn about the world, develop imagination and solve problems. This includes acting out real-life and imaginary situations.

You can weave all three types of play into everyday activities with your child.


Babies learn how to move by reaching for and holding items and exploring how they look, feel and taste.

Your baby begins to explore movement by reaching for and holding things. This includes you, books and toys. Toys for babies don’t need to be expensive. Household objects, such as empty containers and wooden spoons are great for exploring. Caring For Kids recommends toys be unbreakable, have no loose parts or sharp edges and be the right size.

Games such as Peek-a-Boo, stacking toys, objects that make interesting sounds and soft fabrics are good ways to help your baby explore. Learn more about playtime with your baby at the Zero to Three Foundation.

Other activities include:

  • Engage: Watch, listen and respond to your baby’s cues. Back and forth communication with your child is the foundation of serve and return interactions. It is also a key building block for brain development.
  • Get face-to-face: Talk, sing, smile and make faces together.
  • Tune in: Some babies need energetic conversations to engage with you. Others will respond more to gentler tones. Some babies need both. Find what works for your baby.
  • Play with language: Use finger games, nursery rhymes and songs with actions to help your baby understand words.
  • Read: Start looking at books with your baby from birth and read with them every day. Point to and talk about the pictures in children’s books. Choose books that are safe for your baby to chew. If your baby wants to flip the pages or play with the book, let them. You can also read anything that interests you out loud—even the newspaper sounds interesting to a baby. Find more tips in our previous Healthy Together story about reading to your child.


Activity is key to keeping toddlers happy and healthy. Luckily, at this age, a simple game of kick the ball helps them explore their environment.

Playtime for toddlers becomes more active as they begin to walk, run and explore the environment around them.

Together, you can pretend to be different animals you might see in the neighbourhood (such as squirrels, rabbits or birds) or you can kick, roll or catch a ball.

The Zero to Three Foundation’s website is filled with insight about the first three years of children’s development. The At-Home Activity Guide offers great practical tips about spending days with your little ones.

Activities include:

  • Play I Spy (keep it simple, “I spy something blue” or “I spy something that moves”).
  • Collect rocks or leaves, then sort by size, colour, and shape.
  • Try running and chasing games such as Red Light, Green Light or What Time is It, Mr. Wolf?
  • Kick, roll, or toss a ball back and forth.
  • Dig in the dirt (don’t forget buckets, bowls, measuring cups, spoons, gardening tools, whatever you have!). Some families create a mud garden. It’s as messy as it is fun.


Having school-age kids draw a picture of what they enjoyed best about a virtual field trip helps them retain what they saw and learned.

At this age, your children’s world begins to expand as they learn and explore outside the home.

While museums, libraries and galleries are gradually beginning to open, you can also safely visit them online. Together with your child, you can take a virtual field trip to places such as the Royal Tyrrell Museum or the San Diego Zoo. Afterwards, children can:

  • Write or talk about what they saw and learned
  • Draw a picture of their favourite part
  • Build something they saw using LEGO, blocks or recycled materials
  • Do some research and turn what they learn into a report, presentation, slideshow or video (older children)

Find more virtual tours at the YMCA of Northern Alberta, as well as science experiments, creative crafts and outdoor activities.

The TELUS World of Science brings the wonder of science into your family’s home. The Calgary-based science centre offers do-it-yourself science experiments for the whole family.

For example, in one cool experiment you make invisible ink. See how oxidization can reveal secret messages.

What you need:

  • Lemon
  • Water
  • Cotton swab
  • Paper
  • Light bulb

What you do:

  • Squeeze lemon juice into a bowl and add a few drops of water.
  • Dip a cotton swab into the mixture and write a message onto a piece of white paper.
  • Wait for the juice to dry so it becomes completely invisible.
  • When you are ready to read your secret message or show it to someone else, heat the paper by holding it close to a light bulb. (You always need to do this step with your children to be safe.)

The Government of Alberta also has online collections available from the Provincial Archives of Alberta, the Provincial Art collection, the Alberta Foundation of the Arts and the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

At the Provincial Archives, you can explore Alberta’s history through art collections and books, maps and photos.

Try the Apple School’s Home Challenges. It offers many fitness activities for the whole family. Among them are: 12 Days of Fitness, Don’t Hibernate—Participate! And the Family Olympics Challenge.

Recess is a fun and active part of the day for school-aged children. Make it part of your day at home with Recess Guardians’ YouTube channel. The Saskatchewan organization posts several simple, whimsical activities a week to get the whole family up and moving.

Examples include:

  • Play beach volleyball with a simple balloon or beach ball and table as a divider
  • Get outside and play balloon keep up. Use one or two balloons and try to see how long you can keep them in the air. You can challenge yourself by adding more balloons to the mix!


With a computer at their fingertips, teenagers can explore the world through cybertours of museums and countries.

It might be tough for teens to adjust to staying home during this pandemic. They may be missing friends and important milestones, such as graduations, sporting events or awards.

To keep them busy, the Calgary Public Library offers online resources to help make creative crafts. In addition, teens can explore thousands of titles in the Teen Book Cloud. The cloud includes e-books, enhanced novels, graphic novels, videos and audio books.

Help your teens make a digital escape with Google Arts and Culture. They can explore more than 2,000 museums in 80-plus countries. Destinations include the streets of Hong Kong, England’s Dulwich Picture Gallery and contemporary Asian art at the Singapore Art Gallery.

To get teens up and moving, the YMCA provides virtual fitness classes. YThrive GROW workouts help kids build balance, strength and endurance. Workouts are available for all ages and abilities.

You can also encourage your teens to be active outdoors. They can be inline skating, cycling, skateboarding, walking and running.


Adults need playtime, too. Set aside a few minutes of your own every day to have fun, melt stress, combat boredom and be happy. With your kids or on your own.

Adults need playtime, too. Set aside a few minutes of your own every day to have fun, melt stress, combat boredom and be happy.

AHS’ Coping at Home for Families has two-dozen pages of suggestions for adults and kids. Those sure to appeal to grown-ups include:

  • Have a karaoke night (page 8)
  • Play board and card games (page 9)
  • Learn about writing music or playing an instrument (page 15)
  • Learn to paint with watercolours (page 19)
  • Take a walk in a labyrinth (page 21)

Learn how to make or fix almost anything at which includes step-by-step instructions for electronics, woodworking, crafts, cooking and more. Examples include: a time-delay switch circuithow to make a giant cardboard dragonpet furniture from wood scraps and brussel sprouts with teriyaki sauce.

For parents, it can be overwhelming trying to balance playtime and everyday work. When you take care of your own needs, you are able to create a healthy family space. Take time for yourself to get fresh air, read a book and watch a movie.

And if you’re living with a spouse or partner, make time for one another. Plan a simple ‘date’ with your partner. Make time for intimacy, provided, of course, neither of you have any symptoms of COVID-19.

Let’s Go Outside

It’s healthy to get outside. Take advantage of warmer weather to play outdoors. Jump, run, climb, swing, balance and roll while being creative, practising skills, challenging yourself and exploring.

Kids can connect with nature by climbing trees, throwing rocks in streams, jumping through tall grass, inventing new games or just digging in the sand or mud.

When children are outside, they find any number of ways to play.

Keep a close eye on your children and remind them of social distancing rules. Wash hands well with soap and water when you come inside.

See our Healthy Together story on summer safety.

Quiet Time

After an active day with kids and teens, change it up by setting aside some quiet time to relax. EPL From Home provides resources for all ages.

For three- to five-year-olds, Storytime Station offers songs and rhymes to help develop early literacy.

For teens and adults looking to learn more about Canada, visit Canadian Geographic (free digital subscription with in-app purchases). Or explore the world with the entire archive of National Geographic; subscribe for $12(US) a year.

Activities for Development

The Edmonton Public Library’s Daily Five is a list of activities to help stimulate brain activity and cognitive development. Those activities include reading, writing, singing, talking and playing together.

Fun in Small Spaces

Small spaces don’t have to limit the fun. Areas such as kitchen tables and living room tables can be turned into craft areas and living areas can be cleared to make space for active games. Here are a few ideas for indoor games in small spaces.

Welcome to Healthy Together, your guide to family and home life during COVID-19.