Strategies for Getting your Child Moving
Alexis knows she should get her son, eight-year-old Shane, out of the house and away from his video games.
“But he is so preoccupied with playing video games,” Alexis says, “that it’s a real hassle to get him outside every day.”
Edward doesn’t give it a second thought. Even though he works during the day Monday through Friday, he leaves strict instructions for his three children: Everyone has to spend three hours outside every day.
Not only does he have this rule, he follows up with his children when he gets home. And on weekends, he schedules outdoor activities that they will all do together. Edward varies the scheduling so that his children are surprised – and delighted – by the activities he plans. It May be a trip to the zoo, riding their bikes on a bike trail through a park, or softball at a school playground.
All of us parents are well aware of the benefits of children playing outside. According to one survey, the number of obese children has doubled during the last three decades. That tends to coincide with the rise in popularity of video games and the Internet. But it is not just the problems of carrying around too much weight that should concern us. Children’s cholesterol levels and blood pressure have also increased in recent years.
The antidote to obesity and other health concerns is getting kids outside and involved in physical movement. If your child isn’t getting outdoors enough, here are some strategies for getting them out of the house and involved in the physical movement children need:
- Establish a schedule. Many children are perfectly content to passively watch TV or play video games. So, you may have to structure your child’s life to get him or her out of the house every day.
- Get involved yourself. If you have a child who complains about getting outside or won’t go out by herself, you should get involved, too. Your child is more likely to see time outside as enjoyable if it involves family fun.
- Get creative. In addition to the traditional outdoor activities – such as bike-riding, playing ball, jumping rope, playing tag, or swimming — get creative in finding things that will make outside fun truly enjoyable. Here are some keywords for being creative: water, picnic, animals, dirt, and books.
- Think water. Children love getting wet and playing in the water. All you have to do on hot days is turn on the sprinkler and suggest she puts on her bathing suit and a pair of goggles and you’ll have your child outside in no time running through the water.
- Plan a picnic. Invite other children, pack a picnic basket, take sports equipment along, and your child will have a grand time playing while you prepare food they can eat on a blanket or a picnic table.
- Include animals. You can combine a trip to the zoo with a picnic on zoo grounds. Walking from one animal exhibit to another and then having a picnic at the zoo should keep your children moving all day long.
- Let them get dirty. What could be more fun than getting dirty in the summer time? Put old clothes on your child and show him how to play in the dirt. Your son might like building dirt roads and pushing his cars and trucks along the dirt or sand. Or let your daughter make mud pies. Or start a small vegetable garden. Your child will likely be fascinated at the idea of planting vegetables, watering them, and watching what grows.
- Don’t drive to the library, walk or bike. Make it a special outing to visit the library and check out books. But consider finding books about plants, flowers, birds, or insects that you can then use for a trip to a nature center or your backyard to try to find some of things pictured in the book.
With a just a little effort and creativity on your part, you can get your child away from the TV or video game screen and outdoors getting physical exercise.