My kids are nestled on the couch—one has a Nintendo DS in his hands, the other an iPad. With the heat sweltering in the 90s and humidity so heavy it feels like a wet towel, there seems to be little hope to get them outside.
Many parents feel the same pang of frustration, the same need to move the kids outside and make them do anything that resembles physical activity. No parent wants to raise a couch potato.
We all know that kids need to exercise, that they need to put their bodies in motion and get outside to stay healthy and strong. Although most pediatricians recommend that children spend at least one-hour each day being active outside, many kids resist outside playtime in favor of video games or watching television, with fewer kids meeting that one-hour recommendation.
As parents, our job is to ensure our kids do what they need to do to grow up healthy and strong. Encouraging kids to maintain an active lifestyle doesn’t have to be a torturous task…it just takes a bit of creativity and sometimes maybe even a little bit of bribing. Here are five fun ways to get your kids moving toward a childhood enriched with lots of fun physical activity:
1. Make exercise enjoyable.
Even adults dread exercise, if exercise is approached as a chore. Make exercise fun. Encourage kids to go roller skating, ice skating, swimming, or bike riding. Grab a hula hoop and see which kid can keep the hoop in motion the longest. Or use the hoop as a jump rope. All of these fun childhood activities also work muscles and give kids a workout.
2. Get moving as a family.
Set a good example for your kids by getting outside, too. Go for a hike as a family. Schedule a time each day to do yoga together or take a walk around the neighborhood. Enter a half-marathon or 5k together; most races have fun runs for kids. Train for the big race and be each other’s biggest fans on race day. Whatever activity you choose, do it as a family.
3. Be a team player.
Encourage children to play a sport of their choosing. Being part of a team teaches children to work together and builds good sportsmanship. Playing a sport also boosts confidence and provides a great workout.
4. Encourage outside playtime.
Take kids out to the playground for an hour and let them run around, climb and be kids. Popular playground activities like climbing rock walls and sliding down fire poles also help hone motor skills. Remember, skinned knees will happen…and that’s a good thing. A pediatrician once told me she was happy to see my son’s knee scrapes, as they were signs that he was outside playing and being active.
5. Start a reward system.
Some kids just won’t drop the DS even with every fun outside activity at their disposal. For children that refuse to budge from the couch, give them proper motivation to move. Reward kids for getting outside. Insist that for every half-hour a child spends outside, they receive a half-hour of indoor time to play on devices.
Active healthy children become active and healthy adults. Childhood is the prime time to instill healthy habits that will benefit them for a lifetime.