Move It! 8 Ways to Keep Your Kids Active
When I see dozens of children over four (and some as old as seven) in strollers at fairs and theme parks, or even just around town, I cringe a little. For the record, I am not judging individual families that may choose a stroller because of injury, illness, or disability. But for the kids who are perfectly capable of walking, I start to wonder: shouldn't most of these kids be walking?
According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. Obesity puts children at risk for cardiovascular disease, pre-diabetes, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and poor self-esteem.
Staying active, on the other hand, improves health, mood, and self-esteem. Let's Move, First Lady Michelle Obama's fitness campaign, advises that children need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day...and here we are cutting out recess and gym class for our kids!
Barbara Gini, an Adaptive Movement Educator and Yoga Teacher, explains that keeping children moving is especially important for children with special needs, "not only for health and sensory integration, but for social learning as well!"
At least a dozen possible culprits have taken the blame for the increase in children's weight and body fat. As experts point out, a balanced diet and an active lifestyle go a long way toward combating obesity.
Get the kids moving to help promote a healthy lifestyle:
1) Exercise Together: No matter what they might say, your kids crave time with you. Yes, even the teenagers want your attention. Make exercising together a family priority. Step outside of your comfort zone and let your child teach you an activity! Melissa Taylor of Imagination Soup says, "the most fun is setting up obstacle courses with whatever we can find - frisbees, jump ropes, hula hoops. Then, she gets to set up obstacle courses for us. Lots of time we time ourselves to make it more exciting and fun."
2) Set Goals: Older kids will enjoy seeing their progress towards a goal. Rather than focusing on pounds or athletic prowess, set benchmarks that recognize effort. Miles biked, feet climbed, or new nature trails explored are all positive milestones that anyone can achieve with enough determination. Tech-loving teens might be extra-motivated using a device like Fitbit or an app. Just make sure to pick a healthy reward!
3) Think Outside the Gym: Exercise does not only happen at gyms and sports practices. Lisa Douglas of Crazy Adventures in Parenting says, "We dance while doing chores. Slap on some funky, booty-shakin' music and get going. This helps make the time pass and makes it fun!"
4) Find a Higher Purpose: By joining a walk-a-thon, cataloging the local trails, or helping younger children learn a sport, teens will make the world a better place and build self-esteem along with healthy habits.
5) Cool Down: As the spring heats up, it is important to stay hydrated and keep cool. Douglas also encourages her kids "to use the sprinkler when playing games outside in the heat (water soccer anyone?) so they stay cool while keeping active."
6) Ditch the Car Keys: As always, we have to model what we want to see in our kids. They can see hypocrisy a mile away. Walk or bike whenever you can rather than drive. It is good for the environment and good for your health.
7) Turn On the Television: Nope, that's not a typo. While less screen time is generally a good goal, sometimes you have to meet them halfway. If the kids are going to watch television on a rainy day, you might as well choose programs and games that encourage them to move. Gaiam has an excellent Yoga series for kids. Just make sure that fitness DVDs and games are substitutes for other screen time, not additional hours in front of the television.
8) Make it Interactive: As Barbara Giri suggests, a favorite book, television show, or tale can provide a springboard for activity. "I have the kids tell the story through movement," she explains. "I prompt the children to...make up the movements to go with it, such as swimming across the river or climbing a tall mountain... Its lots of fun and encourages healthy movement, cooperation, inclusion, and creative thinking, all at the same time!"
However you fit fitness into your life, keep it fun for your kids.
I want to hear your tips--how do you keep your kids moving?