At school, kids have P.E. class and recess to keep them active, so you may think they are getting plenty of physical activity, but maybe not. The American Heart Association recommends at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day for children. The challenge is finding ways to bring that home, on nights and weekends, to keep our kiddos active and build healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
Below are some ways that you can maintain healthy activity with your children, as well as provide great family bonding experiences.
Limit screen time. After a long day, it’s all too easy to hand babysitting duties over to our friends, “Spongebob,” or the Playstation, etc. And a little bit of TV, computer time, video games, or other screen time is okay, but set a limit. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies under age two have no screen time, and no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming for children age two and older. Learn more about screen time. When children aren’t engrossed with a screen, they’re more likely to play outside or use their imagination.
Enroll in after-school activities. Activities like sports, dance class, karate, etc. give kids a fun way to stay active, helps them make friends, learn important skills, and explore their interests. Even though it seems like so many children are involved in these activities already, it may not be as many as we think. In 2008, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association found that only 30.2 percent of youth ages 6 to 12 were active to a healthy level through sports, organized or unstructured and, by 2015, that number had dropped to 26.6 percent. It’s time to put down the remotes and controllers and time to lace up those tennis shoes.
Roughhouse. Boys and girls both enjoy laughing wildly while wrestling and being playfully chased by a gentle, loving parent. Laughter is a healthy way to relieve anxiety and the silliness promotes bonding. Here are some more ideas for enjoying playtime with your child.
Go for a walk. Staying active is just as simple as going for a walk. It’s fun, it helps keep you active as a family, and best of all, it’s totally free. Keep things fun with your kids by playing “I Spy” as you walk, or ask them to come up with stories about the houses and buildings you pass. As a bonus, ask them to lead the way home from different places you walk. This will give them a sense of leadership, help them to become familiar with the streets around the neighborhood, and teach them how to find their way home in case of an emergency.
Turn anxious energy into a game. When your child gets antsy while standing in line or waiting somewhere, put their busy bodies to work. Make it a game by asking them to hop in place while you count the hops or hold your hand up over their head and ask them to jump up and touch it. You can even play a quick game of “Simon Says” and take turns marching in place, patting your head, or snapping your fingers.
Get outside. Most of us live within a very short drive of a campground, park, or maybe even a lake. Spending time outdoors gives us a chance to reconnect with nature and unplug for a while. Leave the tablets at home and turn off the phones for a few hours. Just spend time with your children and nature. Camping gives you a chance for nature walks, fishing, fun camp games, and all sorts of other activities. If you can't get away for a weekend, a simple tent and little charcoal grill in the backyard will go a long way in the eyes of your child.
Work in the yard. It may seem a like a little bit of a stretch to talk your children into working around the yard, and it definitely takes a little more effort than just telling Junior to go outside and fire up the mower. By making it a family activity and finding fun things to do, it will be less like work and more of a bonding experience. Let your children help pick out new flowers for the garden, mow and trim alongside them, or decide on a tree as a family and find a prominent place in the yard to plant it together. Not only will the physical activity be healthy for the kids, it will also create a sense of pride of your help create memories that will last a lifetime.
Walk the talk. Explain to your children that it’s important to be active for a healthy body, and lead by example. Being physically active is a great way to unwind and spend time together.
This is far from a complete list of things to do with your children to help maintain a healthy and active life, but I hope these ideas will help inspire you to keep your family’s health in focus. Remember that doing anything will always be better than sitting around doing nothing.