I work at the Y and it makes me so happy when I see kids using the mini-weight machines (correctly) in the tween center instead of watching TV or playing on their tablets. When I was a kid I remember playing outside for hours, or at the very least my brother and I imagined we were adventurers and our playroom was the grand land of something. Needless to say, the likelihood of kids playing these kinds of games anymore is limited with the rise of the “too-much-screen-time” epidemic (which is a real thing). And just as active play has become a thing of the past, a rise in childhood obesity has become a very prevalent part of our present.
There is no doubt that by reducing screen time we can start positively impacting the rates of childhood obesity, and by combining this tactic with others we can start reversing this epidemic. Did you know that children should be getting at least 1 hour of physical activity a day? The scary part is that so many of America’s children are not getting this 1 hour of physical activity, especially with the drastic cuts of gym class in schools across the country.
So, how can you get a kid to be active for an hour every day? Here’s a few tips:
- Active Games – I used to be a Site Coordinator for an after school program and the kids loved playing games like soccer and kickball where they could get really competitive (if you’ve got super competitive kids make sure they’re grouped age-appropriately so a kindergartner isn’t flattened by a fifth grader though).
- Get them on a playground – by the end of the school year we would take our kids outside as soon as homework was done and let them loose. When there’s no iPhones and tablets they can play forever on the jungle gym.
- Let them play active videogames – we have a few Xbox’s with Kinect in the tween center and we have a couple of games that involve at least some sort of movement. This isn’t a complete solution, but it can be a gradual step if a child has been addicted to the screen for awhile.
- Make family time active time – children mirror the behaviors of the parents, and if their parents are taking steps to be active throughout the day the kids will too. Incorporate a 20 minute walk together after dinner, or maybe go and shoot some hoops at the park.
- Gradually introduce formal training – as the child gets older, if they’re interested in formal strength and cardio training, begin incorporating it gradually.
If any of you have other tips for getting kids active, please add them in the comments! After working with kids for such a long time I’ve definitely picked up a few tricks to incorporate physical activity so kids can reach that hour-a-day recommendation. Little changes can really begin to create the healthier country we’re aiming for.