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Just let your children play

There was a time when children had fun with the simple things. Building your hideaway in the bushes, making your own adventures, planning each day of the school holidays.

I remember St Annes estate beyond Dollymount, when the old mansion was still the original home of the Guinness family. What a magical place, exploring the old ruins and pretending you were Count Dracula living in the mansion.

We were 10 or 11-years-old and had a real 16mm movie camera which we used to make our own Dracula movies, complete with a real coffin which we tried to put on a bus tram carriage to no avail.


We carried it all the way and waited until later afternoon when the sun went down. What great fun and adventure. It was a time of imagination when children were allowed to be children.

Today's parents are really over protective, the term 'helicopter parents' sums it up. Hovering about and stifling the natural playfulness that children have.

There are many parents who have their children's time mapped out like a military campaign: 9am swimming; 10.30am golf lessons; Noon, speech and drama; 1pm lunch; 2.30pm horse riding, and so on.

There is no time for fun. Children are meant to be children, not there to fulfil your lost dreams and ambitions of being the next Tiger Woods or Katie Taylor.

Children will rebel and eventually stop all activities from too much pressure. In some schools, I believe, they are overtraining at sports. A young body is not meant to train every day.

You need physical and mental rest time when you can have some fun. I don't mean playing video games which make the brain even denser.

What I suggest it to pick one activity and help them to be the best at it that they can be with encouragement and this is the time of year to experiment.

There are so many activities and summer camps out there to choose from. For example, one sport I think is fantastic is gymnastics for boys and girls. It teaches timing, flexibility, agility, strength and team work and it's a sport you can carry on with all your life and, with good coaching plus a healthy diet, helps people avoid the obesity trap.

Gymnastics can provide, I believe, the most balanced physique and posture of any sport. Just look at the Olympians who have great shoulders and arms, small waists, small hips etc, a perfectly formed frame with great posture.


This is a sport which will encourage children to eat healthily and it also teaches grace of movement and natural elegance.

There are so many fantastic sports to choose from so don't try and push children into doing everything. Find out where their natural talent lies. Experiment with a few sports and when they find what they are looking for just give gentle encouragement.

Of course, there is no denying that times have changed. Sadly even playgrounds in schools are becoming off-limits for play. It's not unusual for children to say when they fall in school yards that their parents could sue the school. Litigation has, unfortunately, taken over if a child gets a cut or falls during playtime. But a cut will heal. Kids' playtime is simple, after all it's just PLAY.