View All Articles

It’s time to get up and get outside!

April 30, 2012

With summer just around the corner, what better time to get your kids more active? Concern over kids’ health and the growing obesity rates has been a hot topic for years, bringing to attention the fact that physical activity is a crucial part of kids’ health. Not only does it help to keep kids’ weight in check, but also plays a role in the development of cognitive and social skills.

Unfortunately, for many kids, playtime outside has been replaced with endless hours sitting in front of the TV, playing video games, or being glued to the computer.  These days, kids feel the need to be entertained constantly, which can be easily met with the ever-changing digital world in which we live in, making it more difficult for kids to get the physical activity they need for optimal growth and development.

Physical activity and outdoor playtime is especially crucial during early childhood years. A recent article states that nearly half of preschoolers are not playing outside. Research found that among 9,000 preschoolers, ages 3 to 5, half are not getting the outdoor interaction they need. They found that mothers took their children outside to play more than dads, and among these mothers, those who exercised were more likely to make outdoor playtime a priority. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids spend time outside for at least 60 minutes a day.

Here are some great ways to get kids moving:

Set a good example.

Healthy habits often start with parents. If you want your kids to be more active, be active yourself. Actions speak better than words here. If your kids see that you are excited about fitness and physical activity, they will be too. By making activity a priority, kids will see that it is important and will want to get outside more often.

Promote activity, not exercise.

Getting moving should be fun, not a chore. Encourage activity as a way to grow stronger and healthier. Encouraging physical activity and not just exercise will help kids, especially younger kids, to see that activity is not a punishment, but rather a way for them to take care of their bodies.

Limit TV time.

Limiting the time your child is glued to a screen is an easy way to get them outside. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under age-2 have no screen time, and those ages 2 and older have no more than 1-2 hours of screen time a day. Try to keep TVs out of kids’ bedrooms and turned off during meal times to help kids understand that screen time is a privilege, not a right.

Most importantly, make it fun!

Here are some great ideas to get your kids more active:
  • Enroll your child in a summer camp. Require that they get involved in at least one camp and let them choose which one(s) they are interested in.
  • Find a local playgroup. Sometimes it can be hard coming up with activities on your own. Find a group to get plugged into so that your child can interact with other kids his/her age. This will help them learn how to interact with other kids and develop social skills needed for healthy development.
  • Find a community bike trail and go for a bike ride. Check out this site to find a trail near you.
  • Pack lunch to go and head to the park for a picnic.
  • Plant a garden. Not only will this get kids active, but will also teach them responsibility through the need for continual watering and maintenance.
  • Camp out in the backyard. Let kids build their own “hideout” in the yard using a camping tent, or let them create their own tent using sticks and blankets.
  • Chalk up the driveway. Take arts and crafts to the streets by using chalk to draw pictures, write words, or play games, such as tic-tac-toe.
  • Play a friendly sports game with the family. What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than with a game of football (or basketball, soccer, etc.)? This will give kids something to look forward to and teach them how to play on a team with others.
  • Build a backyard sandbox. Learn how to build your own sandbox using these DIY step-by-step instructions.
  • Find a community pool. “It’s just too hot outside”. Kids say it all the time. However, that’s not an excuse to not play outside. Invite friends over to play in your own pool or find a community pool to cool off in. Swimming is one of the best forms of physical activity and a sure way to tire out your kids!
During the summer, schedules tend to slow down, which is a great time to encourage outdoor activity. We want to hear from you.

How do you keep your kids busy during summer days? What are some things your kids do to stay active?