At the dawn of the millennium, we worried about youth getting hooked on video games and fighting over whose turn it was at the computer. Now, with a phone in everybody’s hands, the potential to get hooked on a variety of apps and social media diversions is endless.
Most people would agree that we all could do with less time at our devices, and especially kids. Yet disturbing trends to the contrary are only rising. According to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, only a third of children are physically active daily; kids spend over 7.5 hours each day in front of screens.
In today’s world, it’s more urgent than ever to get our kids off their phones and tablets, out of the computer seat, away from the TV – and get some exercise. Even just hitting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day will set a solid foundation for your child’s fitness and prevent them from settling into sedentary patterns.
Here are some ways to kickstart your child’s fitness habits.
Kids don’t like doing chores, but we all know at some point they’re going to have to accept their share of responsibility. There are some ways to ease them in. Positive scripting is a basic trick that works wonders – and so does offering rewards, as long as you do it right. Don’t offer sweets or added time in front of the screen; instead, you can promise to take them out or cook their favourite food, for example.
Parks and outdoors
The neighbourhood children’s playground offers a ready-made area that’s designed to get kids excited and physically active. And with the right landscape architecture, parks and play spaces can be visually stimulating as well. Kids get to socialise and explore with all senses; their interaction with the environment and other children is beneficial to their physical and social development.
If you don’t have a suitable venue nearby, or would like to take a step further, consider outdoor activities. Enjoying the outdoors is a wonderful experience for people of all ages, and one of the best ways to sell your kids on the idea that no virtual reality can replace the wonders of nature. This can also be a great opportunity to teach them outdoor skills like swimming or biking, which will last them a lifetime.
Organised sports can be challenging, and parents all dread seeing their kids get discouraged. While the decision always lies with you, keep in mind that kids can only rise to a challenge if one is presented. Sports build character in how each child responds to difficulty and failure.
Moreover, team sports provide a foundation for your child’s social development and sense of belonging at school. They also give kids a sense of common purpose and what it’s like to practice coordination, cooperation and discipline.
Perhaps the easiest way to increase physical activity in your child’s daily life is by making it a part of the family lifestyle. Parking further away, you can drive less and walk more when taking your kids to school or shopping. Morning or early evening walks can become a family habit. Dancing together to your favourite music can also be a subtle and fun way of introducing exercise.
The biggest takeaway, though, is that it’s important to lead the way and be involved. As a role model, you have great influence on how your child behaves. Seeing their parents step away from the screen to be more active will encourage them to follow suit and join in the fun.