Are you constantly nagging your kids to put down their phones, get off the computer, and do something active? If so, welcome to the latest challenge of modern parenthood. But don’t give in; physical activity is essential for kids’ physical and mental health and well-being.
The problem is, just telling them to go outside and play or join a sport doesn’t work too well. Kids learn more from the environment around them and watching their parents. The solution? Setting up family activities that get everyone moving and make fitness part of family life.
1. Limit Screen Time
The more time kids spend on phones and tablets, using the computer, watching TV, and playing video games, the less time they have to be active. And the result of all this screen time is a rise in obesity and weight-related conditions such as diabetes. In addition, a new study has found that screen time is linked with lower brain development in preschoolers. In older kids, higher screen time has also been shown to increase depression and anxiety. So set limits on screen time and enforce them consistently. Many parents find it works to use trade-offs: one hour of screen time for one hour of activity.
2. Take Family Outings
You don’t have to teach the whole family to play softball, unless you want to, of course! Taking a trip to the zoo, having a picnic in a local park, or enjoying a day at the beach are all great ways to spend time together. Bring roller skates, a frisbee, a ball or even a kite and double your fun – and fitness. And don’t let cold weather stop you – there are plenty of fun winter family activities to do in the snow.
3. Nurture Kids with Nature
One recent study found that being in nature and participating in activities involving the natural world builds kids’ confidence and self-esteem. In fact, anything involving wildlife is extremely beneficial for kids, easing stress and depression as well as increasing self-reliance.
4. Walk or Bike to School
Many communities have made it a priority to create safe routes to schools, and have special days set aside to celebrate this. You can also pair your child with an older kid, or organize a group of kids who live in the same neighborhood to walk together. Even walking a few times a week can make a big difference.
5. Get Kids Involved in Chores
Gardening, yard work, even vacuuming are all physical activities, and there’s no reason why the parents should be the only ones doing them! Split up the chores and get everyone involved, or plan a project together, like planting a vegetable garden.
6. Join in After-School Activities
Some kids excel at sports, some don’t, but the experts are right when they say there’s something out there for everyone. Encourage your child to try different things. Maybe he or she would like to learn to swim, study karate, join the track team, or take a dance class. If you can make the time, volunteer yourself so your child sees you enjoying the sport or activity too.
7. Plan Active Vacations
There’s no better way to bond with your kids than while doing something new and adventurous like swimming, skiing, kayaking, or cycling. As kids get older, they like to test themselves and take risks. Family adventures give them a safe place to do that. And the kids will love sharing the photos with their friends.