A Childhood Play Checklist – 24 Ways to Play By Age 12

Last summer, PartipACTION published A Foolproof Formula for Fun: the ParticipACTION Play List, a list of 24 ways they hope every child should play before they reach age 12. Given the mandate of the organization to get people active, particularly outside, examples of play that favor imagination over physicality — like “build a rocket ship from a cardboard box”, or “dress up like a super hero” — are noticeable absent.

Still, knowing that we are one-third of the way to this soft deadline for childhood evaluation, I asked my four-year-old how many of the ParticipACTION list she’s tried. Here were her replies and my rebuttals.

1. Experience total weightlessness at the top of a swing? “No”

Technically you have, Sweetie. Maybe not to the degree this list intends.

2. Skip stones across water? “No”

Not sure she has Dennis Eckersley’s technique quite yet.

3. Play leap frog? “No”

This one’s on me, we should fix this.

4. Hang upside down from a tree limb? “No”

Proper spotting and a reasonable height, we’ll see.

5. Jump into water cold enough that it almost takes their breath away? “No”

I call this good parenting.

6. Throw rocks or snowballs at a post from a distance until they get a bulls eye? “No”

I think we have some work to do before she can reliably hit the trash can with her tissue.

7. Ride a bike with no hands? “No”

Terrifying idea. I refuse to believe kids actually do this.

8. Paddle a canoe? “No”

When an opportunity presents itself.

9. Piggyback someone? “Yes”

Sorry, on YOUR back?

10. Roll down a big hill? “Yes”

Big is relative.

11. Try a sport that requires a helmet? “Yes”

True. Biking aside, she’s been ice skating.

12. Collect something in a forest? “Yes, sticks and twigs.”

She hunted long and hard to find some.

13. Make up a dance routine? “Yes”

Multiple times daily.

14. Slide down something on a piece of cardboard? “No”

Haven’t seen a lick of snow this winter, and I’m advising against trying this on the stairs.

15. Build a fort? “Yes”

And a house, and a castle, and a cave, and a restaurant… all with the same blueprints.

16. Hike somewhere for a picnic? “No”

To be resolved this summer now that both the kids are mobile and capable.

17. Bury someone they love in the sand? “No”

I smell a vacation request coming.

18. Play outside in the rain? “Yes”

In Vancouver, we just call this “playing”.

19. Jump in a pile of leaves? “No”

Right, I need to finish that fall to-do item.

20. Make a snow angel? “No”

Not this winter. See #14. That said, I’m pretty sure we’ve done this in past winters when she was younger.

21. Fly a kite? “Yes”

And what a highlight outing this was for her.

22. Create an obstacle course? “Yes”

At pre-school. We call this kindergarten boot-camp.

23. Swim in a lake or ocean? “No”

Not true, but I can forgive her failing memory of vacations before her first birthday.

24. Make up a game involving a ball? “Yes”

Never the same game twice. Today’s involved rolling a ball down the slide to be fetched by Little Brother.


So there you have it: 12/24 50%. A little over a third of the way to her twelfth birthday and ahead of schedule.

So, tell us, how do your children score?

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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