When I was a youngster, you could hear all the mothers up and down the block saying the same thing: “Go outside and play”. And play we did!! If one of the neighborhood kids was not outside playing with us, we automatically assumed that he or she was sick. Nobody wanted to stay indoors.
Things are very different today. Kids have access to so much more technology choices than we ever dreamed of. And sadly, parents are more concerned today than ever about the safety of their kids, so they will often keep them confined to their own yards, if not inside their own homes.
But what has that done to our society? Sure, we can supposedly “do” more, faster. We have access to so much more information, quicker. But more and more, we are allowing our kids to become a society of observers, and not doers. And while there are so many downsides to that, the one that concerns me the most is childhood obesity.
Many people don’t want to think about it, let alone discuss it, but these obese children will grow up to be obese adults with a great many health issues. And while healthy nutrition, water and sleep are incredibly important, most kids don’t even want to hear the word “exercise”.
But exercise doesn’t have to feel like work or punishment. In fact, it’s simply a way to have fun, reduce stress, sweat out toxins and get oxygen moving through the body. Here are 7 of my favorite ways to engage in exercise with the kiddos:
1. Dancing. You don’t need any fancy equipment or a lot of space for this exercise. And, chances are, your kids won’t think of this as exercise. Simply turn on some music and move. Your kids will love it and I bet you’ll have a few giggles before you’re done!
2. Bike Ride. When the weather is pleasant, take a ride through the neighborhood. If you can, pack up the bikes and go somewhere further away from home. Treat it as a new adventure. Be sure to take the necessary safety precautions and take plenty of sunscreen and water.
3. Hula Hoop. Remember these? I loved these as a little girl! They’re readily available and very inexpensive. Have a little competition with your kids to see who can “hula” the fastest, or the most, or while standing on one leg! Again, have fun and get moving!
4. Jump Rope. Again, readily available and very inexpensive. These handy little gems are a great cardiovascular workout and a great deal of fun. If your boys balk at the idea, remind them that many professional athletes use jump ropes to get in shape for their sports seasons!
5. Mini Trampoline. First, let me say that I’m not a big fan of “regular” trampolines. I know that many families have them, but my pediatrician and I agree that the dangers outweigh the benefits, as evidenced by the amount of emergency room trips there are every year. However, I do own a “mini” version and under direct supervision, this can be quite fun and it can be done indoors. Put on some music, do the “twist”, leg lifts…whatever you can dream up.
6. Water Play. There are many ways to enjoy exercise that includes water. If you don’t have your own pool, maybe you can visit a public pool or join a beach club. Swimming is GREAT exercise. You can set up sprinklers in the yard and have the kids run through them. Try a “slip and slide” or even water balloons. Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be boring!
7. Skating. The beauty of this exercise is that it can be done year round. You can use in-line skates during the Spring, Summer and even Fall months. You can ice skate during the Winter and, if weather doesn’t allow for outdoor skating at all, there are indoor skating rinks. These are just a few of our favorites.
With a little imagination, try to add at least 20 minutes of movement to your kids’ schedules each day. Physically, they’ll be stronger and healthier and your family dynamic will be stronger and healthier as well!