"Wanna have a catch?" Ray Kinsella asks his father in the last scene of the movie Field of Dreams, a story about a father and son who share a love for baseball.

Ray, the main character, reminisces about an earlier time when he had a close relationship with his dad but forfeited it during his rebellious teen years. The strain between them culminated when Ray refused an invitation to play catch with his father. The regret haunts him for years until they are united at the end of the film and reconnect through two mitts and a baseball. The film makes an important point: Playing together can strengthen the bond between a parent and child.

Whether it’s baseball, tennis or a walk in the park, physical activity gives parents the opportunity to make a strong connection with their children. Playing together allows parents and kids to talk, laugh and get to know one another better.

Take the time

Setting aside time for playing may be hard to schedule in a single-parent home. At the end of a long workday, you might have just enough energy to make a decent meal for the kids, help them with homework, get them to bed and prepare for tomorrow. Nevertheless, physical activity is essential because it:

  • Combats a sedentary lifestyle by getting kids away from TV and video games
  • Increases fitness, agility and overall health (when done consistently)
  • Improves self-esteem by developing confidence in physical skills
  • Regulates mood through endorphins which are produced and released with continuous exercise (a sense of euphoria)

The key is to start when children are young and make physical activity a part of each day. When you do, the discipline will turn into habit throughout their lifetime.

As a single mom, I remember taking my daughter, Melissa, on her first sports outing – a ski weekend with friends. Melissa was three years old, and her little skis were only two feet long. We caught a ride on the chairlift to the top, then started our descent. I positioned her tiny body between my skis and we leisurely snowplowed down the slope. She found her edges on the third run, and we’ve since enjoyed years of skiing.

Coach and cheer

Note the activities your child excels at or needs encouragement to do. Over time, identify the one or two activities you both enjoy and focus your time on improving your skill. Nurture your child’s athletic interests through lessons or school sports programs.

Whatever activities you choose, remember to have fun. Schedule the time on your calendar so it is something you both look forward to on a regular basis.

Bonding between a parent and child can also take place by allowing the child to explore different physical outlets that she might like on her own. Melissa played soccer, ran track and took dance and tennis lessons. Even though I didn’t participate with her, I supported her and cheered her on. She gained confidence, learned to take risks and found affirmation that I was her biggest fan.

The tie that strengthens your family

So whether you’re playing flashlight tag on a warm summer night, washing the car (good excuse for a water fight), taking a walk in the rain (umbrella optional), running around the block or planting a garden, get out and do something fun and physical with your child. God gives us many creative ways to bond with our kids, and enjoying physical activities together may be the tie that strengthens your family even as it improves your health.

© 2007 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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