Due to cutbacks in physical education, increased academic pressures, busy family lives, and ever-growing portion sizes in restaurants and at home, kids are increasingly overweight. Add to that some bad weather that just makes everyone want to cozy up in front of the TV, and you have a recipe for serious health concerns.
Try these seven strategies to get your family moving — all year-round.
- Start young. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) advises parents to get kids moving early in life to foster healthy development and keep sedentary habits from taking hold. Even your toddler needs at least 30 minutes of structured physical activity every day and should not sit still (for example, watching television) for more than an hour at a time.
- Provide safe indoor gear. Encourage active play with balls for throwing and rolling (soft, lightweight ones are safe for indoors — try beanbags, foam balls, or beach balls) and scarves for dancing. Playing with these supports hand-eye coordination too.
- Pump up dramatic play with themed props. Inspire energetic play and imaginations with extras like medals and trophies for sports games or music and costumes for dancing. Encourage your child to act out his storybooks or give a concert of her favorite songs.
- Designate an indoor action spot. If you have room, set aside a portion of your basement or family room for active play. Put up an indoor basketball hoop, tape a hopscotch outline to the floor, or make a track for ride-on toys.
- Move every day. Dancing, housework, and climbing stairs all help you stay fit and don't require extra room or gear. Have your child dance along to a workout tape or just some rockin' tunes, or blast some music and parade through the house playing follow the leader.
- Find community resources. Try bowling, ice skating, swimming, or other indoor options. Check out whether your child's school or a local university or community center offer an "open gym" time, where you can go and shoot hoops or use other equipment.
- Be a cheerleader. In one study of 200 students in grades 2 through 11, kids of all ages said they wanted their parents to help them stay active. So whether you join in the games or shout words of support from the sidelines, show your child that activity is a priority every day.