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It’s a sad (and somewhat terrifying!) statistic that kids these days are more overweight than ever. Incidences of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are on the rise at astronomical rates in generations younger than ever before. In fact, I heard a statistic the other day that was downright terrifying. For the first time in recorded history, our generation is expected to live longer than our children. Because these diseases are climbing at such an alarming rate our current life expectancy is projected to be longer than it is for our children. That’s alarming! It’s shocking, terrifying, and downright awful. In an age where information and technology is literally available at our fingertips, physical activity, make believe, and imaginative play are literally dying (not wanting to be hypocritical at all – it’s been a battle to get my 6-year-old to give up the game controller).
The good thing is it doesn’t have to be this way! There are things that you can do right now as mom and dad (or other care giver) that can increase your child’s activity level immediately. They don’t have to be difficult to be life-changing to be effective. For example…
1. Turn off the TV – Did you know kids ages 6-11 spend an average of 28 hours/week in front of the TV? That’s 4 hours every day!! Sitting, doing nothing, and most likely eating something while doing it. Combine that with DVR’s these days and it’s just all-too convenient to get stuck in front of a television for hours and hours. The quickest way to increase activity in your kiddos is to unplug the TV and then pretend like you don’t know why it’s not working the next time they try to turn it on. It might be a little hectic for a couple of days, but I promise it will be worth it!
2. Hide the video game controllers – While you’re at it, hide those video game controllers as well! Recent statistics show that 91% of American kids play video games; many for 6-8 hours/week. Once again, this is time spent sitting not doing anything (unless you count it as a thumb workout). On a personal note – my 6-year-old son used to be included in this group. He would sit in front of our Wii for an hour or so each day after school after he got his homework done. We didn’t mind letting him play a little; it kept him quiet and we were able to get some work done around the house. But we noticed it really started to change him. He started to become defiant and oppositional when we would tell him it was time to turn the game off to do something else. It was after one of these breakdowns (after we put them all to bed) that I went and unplugged the Wii, hid it in our basement, and it’s never returned. I’ll tell you right now that was one of the smartest things that I did for my son. Sure it was rough for a couple of days, but he’s back to imaginative play with Legos, super heroes, asking to play with friends, and going outside. There were a couple of rough days after we took it from him, but the long-term reward has so been worth it!
3. Play a game inside – There are plenty of active games you can play with your kids – hide and seek, twister, pictionary, Barbies and action figures, just to name a few!
4. Play a sport with your kids – One of my personal ways to spend time with my kiddos! Throwing a football, shooting a basketball, playing catch with the baseball, frisbee, croquet, field hockey, bocce ball, etc. etc. The possibilities are as endless as the memories will be timeless.
5. Chores – One of my personal favorites :). Helping around the house not only instills work ethic, but it’s a great way to get a little more activity into your day! Have your kids clean their room, fold their laundry, do the dishes, sweep, vacuum, etc. This will help keep your house a little cleaner, take some of the demand off of you, and encourage walking, squatting, lifting, pushing, pulling, etc. that kids need to stay active.
6. Walk or ride a bike to and from school – Now it may not be feasible in all areas, but wherever possible walking to and from school is a great way to encourage a few more steps in your kiddos’ day. I personally love this time as it’s easy and natural to talk about how their day at school went, what was for lunch, how are their friends, and what they played at recess while strolling home from school.
7. Use your weekends wisely – Our weekends are sacred time. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the workweek, we love to put everything away on Saturday and Sunday and spend quality family time. Whether it’s a family bike ride, a hike, doing chores around the house or in the yard, or even just playing some of our favorite outdoor games, we do all that we can to turn off the TV and other screens on our weekends and enjoy quality time together.
8. Provide your kids with active toys – Take a moment to think about the last few toys that you purchased for your child. Were they DVDs, handheld devices, and video games? Now think about some of the other options that you could get for that same amount of money… basketballs, squirt guns, ski passes, kiddie pools, and even sidewalk chalk. All are going to promote imagination as well as activity.
9. Enjoy the great outdoors – Looking for a great activity you can do together with your family that everyone can participate in and doesn’t cost any money? Simply go for a hike. Find a local trail and get out and enjoy nature. I am constantly amazed at how much my kids love this one trail that we go on that’s pretty close to my house. They can spend hours at one spot where there is a bridge and a stream – throwing rocks, collecting sticks, and just exploring. It’s not only great family together time, but an easy way to burn a ton of calories without even realizing it.
Make it happen,