Raising Active Kids
According to an article on American Trails, visits to the United States National Parks have been steadily decreasing over the years. And everywhere we turn, experts are warning us about the negative effects of our increasingly sedentary lifestyle, the number one being that our children are becoming the same. Coupled with the unhealthy eating habits children are mimicking their parents, this has resulted in a never before seen number of overweight, even obese children.
In today’s digital age of iPods, HDTVs, PSPs and XBoxes, it seems kids today have less and less reason to play actively. But as parents, consider what your kids could be missing out on: a love of nature, an outlet to burn energy, and a boost to their health. Studies across different countries have shown that kids who were more active had “healthier numbers for blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin” (Source: Live Science).
As a mom of a 7 mo. old, and a mom who has, let’s just say “big bones”, I worry about what this nation of fast-food and sedentary play will do to my baby. My husband and I already vowed to never bring her to the ubiquitous McDonald’s and their counterparts, unless she in the future begs to go and only for special occasions. I also want to introduce her to the outdoors, and the number one promise: limit her TV to 1 hour a day once she’s a bit older.
She shouldn’t have any TV yet at her age anyway. The American Academy of Pediatrics discourage TV for children under the age of 2. The AAP cites that this age is critical for personal interaction, especially parent to children interaction. They urge parents not to use TV as a babysitter. And I tend to agree.
It’s never too early to instill the habit of active play, and this means that as parents, you must be the example, and the one to actively entice your children to physical activity. As much as possible, try not to just let them veg out in front of the TV.
What can you do to make sure your child isn’t always parked in front of a TV or computer?
- Enroll them in an activity that involves lots of action like karate, gymnastics. I’m not a big fan of Gymboree but they at least offer an outlet for babies to crawl and meet other babies (and for parents to meet other parents too).
- Set aside time several times a week to bike with your children, visit the park, or walk around the neighborhood pushing the younger kids in a stroller while the older ones try their scooter . Kids love spending time with their parents, and this activity ensures that you build memories with your kids while being active at the same time.
- Encourage your kids to play outside with friends. Of course monitor who they hang out with, and give them clear boundaries on where they can and can’t play. I know parents in my neighborhood who park themselves on the driveway or porch in lounge chairs, chatting with each other while the kids play on the street. For parents with younger kids, set up playdates.
- Build a kid-friendly backyard. If you have a house make your backyard a friendly place for your kids to want to hang out: a swing-set, a trampoline (but monitor them), sandbox, a tree-house or a fort. Make it the kind of place their friends would want to come over and play in as well.
- If you live in an apartment, make good use of the kiddie pool that is in most apartment complexes.
- Limit TV, Computer, Video games to a set time and your kids will be forced to become creative with their play!
Applying even a few of these suggestions will help ensure that your kids not be one of the statistics of unhealthy children in our country. Hope they help!
What about you? What do you do in your home to encourage active play?