No matter your child’s age, sitting on the couch for large amounts of time is not good for their minds or for their bodies. Exercise for kids is a must because it has multiple physical and mental benefits. But keeping your kids moving in today’s plugged-in world takes some intentional planning.
Here are some tips to get your crew off the couch.
1. Kids’ Sports.
One way to make sure your child gets scheduled exercise on a regular basis is to let him or her participate in an organized sports league. (If it’s summer and school’s out, see about summer leagues or pick-up games.) Look for leagues that encourage playing time for everyone, because your child won’t break a sweat if she never sees the field. And don’t overlook the less obvious options like swim team, martial arts, etc.
2. Make Outside More Fun.
Before you give another electronic gadget for Christmas or a birthday, consider an outside, active-play toy. A swing set or other backyard source of fun will pull them outdoors more. Plus, even toys like Hot Wheels or pick up sticks will keep your kids away from their electronics to use their minds and their bodies.
3. Limit Screen Time.
One way to encourage active play is to limit sedentary play. If your child can spend hours in front of a TV or computer, limit his time using these devices. If you do have to fall back on the electronic gadgets on rainy days or during the coldest days of winter, consider an active-play video game which requires full body movement.
4. Have Friends Over.
Some kids are more willing to venture out and engage in active play if they have a friend to play with (after all, it’s hard to play tag alone). Let your child have a buddy over, and set the ground rules before the guest’s arrival that this is an outdoor play date.
5. Get an Outdoor Pet.
We know, we know: pets are a lot of trouble. But so is fighting childhood obesity. A pet that needs to be bathed and walked gives an older child another built-in source of activity and gives a younger child that backyard playmate when other kids aren’t around.
6. The Family that Bikes Together…Stays Healthy Together!
Staying active is often a monkey-see, monkey-do thing for our children, and research confirms that kids of active parents are more active themselves. So find a family-friendly activity like biking (even the toddler of the family can ride along in a baby seat) or walking and head out together.
Staying active is often a monkey-see, monkey-do thing for our children, and research confirms that kids of active parents are more active themselves.
7. Don’t Sell It As “Exercise.”
Many adults shrink back in horror from the “E” word, and some kids are no different. Promote what you want your kid to engage in as a fun activity, not a drill or a requirement.
8. Rig the Chore List.
If you have a child who is reluctant to engage in active play, include a couple of chores on his weekly to-dos that require more physical effort like raking leaves, sweeping, or washing the family car.
9. Get the Right Gear.
You don’t have to break the bank, but the right gear can make some physical activities far more enjoyable. For instance, a quality bike with a comfy seat can make longer rides more realistic, and a jog on a local trail is easier in the right shoes.
10. Celebrate Physical Achievements.
Our children learn to value what we value. If you get excited about your daughter learning to do a cartwheel, she’ll be more motivated to acquire the next level of skill at gymnastics class so she can wow you again. If you praise your son for being able to ride his bike up the hills at the park, he’ll likely find other active ways to gain your praise.
Tell us! What do you do to get your kids moving?