In just one generation we have seemingly gone from carefree days spent playing down the street or at the local park, when we wouldn’t come home until the street lights came on, to a generation of children who are becoming much more sedentary.
As well as improving their wellbeing, getting kids up and moving can help kids learn about social skills, develop imagination and creativity, build confidence and independence and increase strength and fitness. The key to encouraging kids to increase their activity is to find ways to make it fun.
Fun ways to get kids moving
1. Get up and dance
Instead of putting the TV on for ‘background noise’, pop some music on. It is amazing how it gets everyone moving! Musical statues is always a favourite for little kids and older kids can show off their talents in a dance-off. If you just can’t get them away from YouTube then have them hunt out some ‘how to’ dance videos and record their efforts. Learn to ‘whip nae nae’ or, try the latest crazes, ‘the floss’ and ‘hype’. Show your future hip hop stars the ‘running man’ or the ‘sprinkler’ for a good laugh!
2. Create an outdoor toy box
It may be an oxymoron, but doing a bit of preparation beforehand can encourage kids to engage in spontaneous activity. Setting up an outdoor activity toy box will give the kids easy access to some equipment they can use in energetic play, ie hula hoop, skipping rope, balls, rackets. Let’s face it, if the kids have to go hunting for the things they want to play with, they are more likely to just plonk down in front of the TV instead! You can also use the box as a ‘homework recess’ – an incentive to work through a set amount of homework before having some time out.
3. Game on!
Do you have a family movie night, sat for a couple of hours with a bucket of popcorn? Why not change it to a fun activity with the added bonus of getting everyone moving? Try mini golf, ten pin bowling, laser tag, paintball, roller skating or ice skating. Keep an eye out for local events too. If you want to stay home, Nerf wars, scavenger hunts, karaoke, Twister, bowling, and even charades involve plenty of movement, especially if you really get into it.
4. Video games … no, really!
A lot of kids these days (OK, now I sound like my mother) are very involved with video games. When they’re not playing them, they’re watching other people play them – what’s that about? Rather than removing the games altogether, encourage them to spend most of their gaming time playing games that require movement. The gaming world may have moved on from playing tennis or ten pin bowling with a controller strapped to your wrist, but these old school games are still great fun. New VR technology unleashes another dimension of movement-initiated gaming.
5. Let’s walk
If the kids are the competitive kind (is there any other?), consider a steps challenge. There are various activity trackers available, including the popular Fitbit, which will give you a daily steps count. Whoever gets the most steps for the week, decides on an activity for the weekend. Encourage kids to use the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, walk to school or the local shops, walk to after-school activities, or park at the far end of the parking lot. Entering into fun runs/walks, kids’ triathlons and training for school cross country or athletics days also gives the kids something to aim for.
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