Signing your daughter up for soccer is one way to ensure she stays active. For kids who don’t play sports, games like hide-and-seek can do the trick, suggests Robert S. Gotlin, M.D., author of Dr. Rob’s Guide to Raising Fit Kids. “Choosing a physical activity your child likes is the key to getting her moving.” Making it a family-centered activity is even better. ”Kids love the bonding and attention,” adds Dr. Rob. Here, the father of three offers ideas for reaping the rewards of family play.
Parent & Child: Why is being physically active as a family so important now?
Robert Gotlin: The free-play era, when kids played outside with their friends for hours, is gone. This is understandable for safety reasons, but one of the consequences is that kids are no longer as fit. The reason that so many more kids are overweight and obese today is because the physical activity level has dropped, while the amount of time spent sitting in front of a screen of some kind has skyrocketed. Gym time in schools has been cut, too.
P&C: What are some good fitness activities for families just starting down the road to getting fit?
Gotlin: It’s about moving. You can start with walking the dog, washing the car, or going for a bike ride or to the park to throw a Frisbee. You can combine it with another activity like going to a museum. Wear pedometers and see how far you walk through the museum.
P&C: Do you recommend different activities for kids based on their age?
Gotlin: Yes. Instead of saying, “We’re going to go out and run now,” you say, “We’re going to try this game.” You can make it up as you go along. Very young children just have to keep moving. Set up simple obstacle courses and little games like relay races. As they get older, play games that require more coordination skills like horseshoes or basket-shooting contests or taking swings at a big ball.
P&C: How can parents bring reluctant kids on board?
Gotlin: Kids are usually ready to go if what’s being offered is better than what they’re doing right then. Unfortunately, it is tough to compete with the video world, but if you offer something new and different, kids are apt to try it. Many children are fascinated with the games we played as kids like freeze tag, kickball, and hide-and-seek.
P&C: What should parents keep in mind so they don’t push their kids too hard?
Gotlin: Don’t come up with a goal for your child based upon your ability. The goal is simply for your child to move and to have fun.