Strategies to keep kids active and moving
It was feedback time at the preschool the other week and we were so happy to hear positive feedback from our twins` teachers. ‘They eat well, they play well with the other kids (most of the time), they have excellent fine and gross motor skills – and they love the outdoors.’ This last bit was uttered with some degree of surprise. Apparently not all kids in their group are keen in going out for their (almost) daily walk to the park or to the forest.
Mrs H`s post on ‘Raising Active Kids‘ got me thinking how did my boys, now almost 5, get to be so active and outdoor-loving? Probably because my husband and I are the same. And somehow we passed on our habits to the kids without consciously doing so. For those who are interested, we`d like to share some tips on how to keep kids moving:
- Leave the pram home.
The pram/buggy is a very convenient piece of equipment for parents especially when going shopping and walking long distances. But it can also be trap that can hinder a kid’s mobility and independence. As soon as my twins could walk, I would take them for a walk around the block without the buggy. There are lots to see: the vegetable gardens, the chicken run, the creek, a short stop at the playground. They learned the joy of walking and moving early. And they also learned how to behave on the streets early. Okay, sometimes they’d end up wanting to be carried and I’d do so for a minute or so (one kid at a time) but they knew rather early Mommy couldn’t carry them for long.
I remember a friend’s son of about the same age who was used to being strapped in his buggy. At age 3, he’d refuse to budge from his buggy and walk a few steps. He is now undergoing physiotherapy to strengthen his legs.
- Take the stairs.
Our world is filled with elevators and escalators that we seldom use stairs anymore. I remember a sign I saw once in a hospital right next to the bank of lifts that said ‘Walking is good for your heart. Take the stairs.’ Our twins love stairs, both the moving and the non-moving ones. We live in a narrow row house, with 3 storeys plus a cellar. As soon as they could crawl, I’d let them crawl up the stairs very slowly. I had no choice – I couldn’t carry 2 babies and the laundry basket at the same time.
Their preschool classroom is on the third floor and we always leave the elevator for mommies with baby prams on their way to the second floor daycare. I have to admit that stairs can be dangerous – one of my boys lost a tooth last year. Be sure to make your kids walk – not run – on the stairs.
- Leave the car home.
Don’t let the kids get used to sitting in the car. We use public transport most of time, even when going to the daycare and now preschool 3 days a week. We prefer taking the train than sitting in the unavoidable traffic jams of the morning and evening rush hours. The bus stop is 5 minutes away, the train station 15 minutes away from our place. In bad weather conditions, we’d drive to the train station, leave the car there, and hop on the train.
I know that there are places and certain situations where a car is indispensable. But there are alternatives out there – cycling or walking, for example. They’re not only beneficial to your health but to the environment as well.
- Take walks.
Make a family walk on weekends a routine. And make the walks are as fun and as interesting as possible: along the river, by the lakeside, a short stop at the park, perhaps an ice cream. We started our family walks when they boys were two. We started short and small: 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes on flat terrain. By the time they were four, they could go on half a day mountain walking. It’s not always easy, mind you. There’d be complaints, moaning, even an occasional tantrum. But at the end of the walk, they’d glow with accomplishment as their Dad gives them the statistics: number of kilometers, altitude difference, hour and minutes.
- Do fun runs.
Fun runs are great for little ones. Even nicer are runs for charity. My husband and I used to participate regularly in the Susan Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Run and the Chase Manhattan Corporate Challenge. We now have shifted to more family-oriented runs like the Zurich New Year’s Run. The family category consists of a 1.5 km stretch across town which we’ve done now twice. Each kids who finishes gets a medal. Remember, it’s not about winning – it’s about having fun.
- Invest in outdoor toys.
By investing in outdoor toys, you encourage your kids to go out, move, and have fun. Rather than spending a fortune on electronic gadgets and DVDs, we’ve invested a lot on bicycles and scooters – and of course the security helmets that should go with them. They need not be expensive. My boys have progressed to their 3rd bicycles (no more side wheel balancers) and we’ve bought all bikes second hand. Their latest craze though is street hockey – and each set of about 15 US$ would keep them hours playing outside in good weather.
Their 5th birthday is coming up and my husband can’t decide between roller blades and skis. I’d say we leave the skis till Christmas.
The trend is evident: kids everywhere are becoming overweight because they don’t get enough exercise. But it’s not only the extra pounds that matter but the health problems that come with them, mainly diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems.
We are happy that our kids are the active, outdoor-loving types. But that doesn’t mean to say we stop here and leave it at that. Keeping kids active is a continuing process. And it starts when we, parents, set a good example.