It seems that kids today are spending less and less time playing outside or running around with their peers, and more time in front of screens. Televisions, phones, video games, and computers have replaced traditional toys and games, and reap much of their attention and preoccupation. Combine this with the incessant advertisements for junk foods geared towards children by the media they’re watching and you’ve got a recipe for trouble. The great news is that as parents or caregivers there are so many ways that we can help our children lead active and healthy lifestyles. Here are a few ideas.
- Lead by example: Growing up my Mom had a few quotes on her organizational white board that really struck her and were worth a daily reminder. One of them was “Children learn by example.” As a Mom myself now, I can truly understand how true this statement is. My son, still a toddler, wants to do everything I do and wants to eat everything I eat. What a perfect opportunity for me to teach him about things we value as a family, one of them being a healthy and active lifestyle. By filling my plate up with nutritious wholesome foods and working out at home or the gym, I’m proud to be setting a good example for him. As he grows up he’ll understand the importance of taking care of himself so that he can be strong, mobile, feel good, and learn how to manage stress in a healthy way.
- Get them involved: Younger children not only want to copy their parents’ activities but can feel a sense of importance in the family by doing so. Let them help you with physical activities such as raking leaves, gardening, shoveling, or picking up their toys. Make it fun for them by getting them kid sized tools that are appropriate for their age and the task at hand. Have a competition when it comes time to putting away the toys and see who can put away the most toys in a few minutes time. They might not end up helping you that much but they’ll be proud that they could contribute and spend some special time with you too.
- Limit screen time: Being a parent means making hard decisions that aren’t always popular but have the child’s best interest at heart. Step in and establish some ground rules on what is an acceptable amount of “screen time” for each child on the weekdays and weekends and post this sheet in a central area of the house so children will be frequently reminded of the rules. Make sure to have plenty of other games and toys easily accessible during non-screen hours. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises no screen time for children under two, and children over this age up to one to two hours daily at most. You can find more tips on screen time limits here.
- Go outside with a few basic toys: You don’t need an expensive trampoline or inground pool just to get your kids moving. A few basic, versatile toys will get their imaginations going and their hearts pumping faster as they move around and have fun. Toys like bouncy balls, various sports balls, jump ropes, skip its, pogo sticks, bubbles, chalk for hopscotch, or a bike (with helmet of course) all encourage active and creative play. If you don’t have a safe outdoor space by your house, try a local park and bring some of these toys with you. Don’t let the cold weather stop you either. Check out my previous post on winter activities here and check out the comments too for more great suggestions.
- Enroll them in physical activities: There are so many great enriching after school classes, sports, or activities that you can sign your child up for these days. The Lynch Van Otterloo YMCA offers numerous age appropriate kids classes that range from karate, strength training, bootcamp, rock climbing, swimming, skiing, and many others! In fact, the youth basketball league at the YMCA is what ignited my passion for the sport in the 4th grade. I can only hope my son will find a passion of his here too!
I’d love to hear thoughts from you! How do you get your kids to be more physically active? What games or sports do you love playing with them?
In good health,
Ryan Healy, BS, NSCS-CSCS