10 ways to help kids stay active
By Bianca Pang
Encouraging our kids to walk for trips of less than a kilometre banks an additional 10–15 minutes of activity per trip according to Dr. Mark Tremblay, chief scientist officer at Active Healthy Kids Canada. His organization’s recently released “Report Card” on physical activity suggests that 95% of our children are failing to meet recommended activity levels and encourages us to take a long hard look at why. If you think your kids might be in that 95%, here are 10 fun and easy ways to get them moving.
Choose the right activities for your children based on their ages, abilities and interests. This will keep them involved and inspired to continue. In addition, keep the focus on fun. Kids are generally engaged if they don’t feel they’re being forced or when they’re enjoying an activity. Make a game out of doing chores around the house or count how many jumping jacks you can both do during a commercial break. Be creative and offer positive feedback. Another way to increase the desire to exercise is by using it as a form of reward—let your kids take breaks from homework to play kickball or catch.
2. Play indoors
The weather is not always conducive to outside activities or your child might feel more comfortable staying at home, so plan to have fun inside! Practise stretching and moving around by playing Simon Says. Or put on some tunes and play Dance Freeze—dance while the music plays and then freeze in place when it stops. You can also do yoga together. Free videos can be found online or you can buy a DVD in a book or fitness store. Movements can be modified to suit the abilities of each child.
3. Encourage recess playtime
Breaks during the school day are great activity times. Clothes that don’t restrain movement and are comfortable will get kids running around. Consider packing an extra outfit so they’re not afraid to get a little dirty—sometimes it’s part of the fun!
4. Have fun at the park
As the weather gets warmer, the outdoors is one big playground. Put on sunhats and take your children to a local park. Check beforehand to make sure it is accessible if that’s a priority. Although sandy ground is safer for most children, a playground with pavement will be easier if your child uses a wheelchair. Think about taking along toys, balls, skipping ropes and so on. Also pack a snack, book and blanket for quiet time in between games, especially if you’re worried about the sun or overheating. The park is a great place to meet other kids and parents, and as a destination for future visits with friends.
5. Set up play-dates
Get to know the parents of your child’s friends at school meetings, or speak with parents in the neighbourhood who have kids around the same age. Make sure the children have common interests. For example, if several children are involved in sports or enjoy team games, set up a friendly soccer match over the weekend. Mum, dad or an older sibling can play referee. Water-balloon relay races are fun as well. Fill a few balloons with water and hand them out to everyone. Children who use wheelchairs can carry their balloons over the line or toss them on their lap. The winner is the first person to cross the finish line without dropping or breaking their balloon.
6. Join the “Y” or community centre
Check out your local community or recreation centre. Such places offer lessons, swim times and social activities that cater to different abilities. Joining a regular group is a great way not only for your child to stay active every week, but also to make new friends with similar interests. The Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada has programs.
7. Sign up for camp over school break
Many community organizations offer day or overnight camps. Many include trips to outdoor activity centres. Some have sports camps, longer sessions and special needs camps. There are also specialty camps that focus on the development of skills. Counsellors and activities help build confidence, a sense of independence and team spirit. The YMCA features various programs, as does Easter Seals.
8. Park the car
Take advantage of snow- and slush-free days in spring. If you live close to your child’s school, choose a few days of the week to walk to and from instead of driving. Pick out plants at a local nursery and do some gardening together. Plan a family outing and visit a forest that you know is safe and has an accessible path. Go for a family stroll after dinner and enjoy the sunset. This is a great way spend quality time together, and exercise at the same time.
9. Consider exer-games
If your child enjoys videogames, purchase ones that actually keep them moving. These are visually stimulating and can take kids into a different virtual reality or let them play everyday sports indoors. Many can be modified to suit a child’s height and weight. There are different intensity levels and most games can be played individually or with friends. Some can even connect to the internet, allowing your kid to play online with others around the world. Many games, such as those for the Wii Fit and Dance Dance Revolution, track movements onscreen, helping your child to set and reach goals.
10. Change the perspective of physical activity
Take a different approach to exercise by incorporating it into your daily routine. Going to school, wearing a seatbelt and brushing teeth are activities that promote health and safety and are not a subject of debate in most homes. The same approach should apply to children’s fitness.
Studies have shown that increased levels of physical activity:
• improve health outcomes;
• increase confidence;
• provide life lessons;
• help with goal-setting and teamwork; and
• improve concentration and academic performance.
More than 60 private-sector and not-for-profit sport, wellness and health organizations have offered support to provincial and territorial governments in order to introduce an hour of daily physical activity into schools.
Source: Community wire