Now that the school year has ended, the kids are home, and the temptation to sit in front of the TV watching cartoons all day is great. It’s unbelievable that active, energetic children can turn into couch potatoes so quickly. The good news is that this is easily reversible. Children have a natural inclination to want to move, jump, fidget, skip and dance. Playing outside, swimming, running races and riding bikes are all forms of exercise, and kids looks forward to all of it. It’s all fun and games in their eyes.
The key to raising an active family is to set a positive example as active parents, to surround your children with opportunities to be active, and to harness your children’s natural playful spirit.
Here are a few of our tips to help you raise an active family. You can do this on a financial budget of any size!
- Limit your kids’ time in front of the TV. One simple way to reduce TV-watching time is to pre-record your kids’ favorite shows. When it is time to watch a show, you can quickly fast forward through the commercials and cut back on the time that they are in front of the screen. We also recommend setting aside a specific time of day to watch TV. Pick a time that doesn’t interfere with physical activity—Maybe an hour before bed or an hour early in the morning before breakfast.
- Set a good example. Let your kids see you exercising. If you disappear for each of your workout sessions, your kids are not seeing you being active. Don’t cancel your gym membership, but make it a point to do some form of exercise at home that your kids can witness. Pushups, sit-ups, squats and yoga are all great examples of effective exercises that are doable right in your living room.
- Get active with your kids. Children get a kick out of seeing their parents playing, and it encourages them to join in. I have my own jump rope in the garage. When I take it out and start jumping in the driveway, the kids run and get their jump ropes, too. It’s just not possible for them to stand and observe. The urge to move is too great, and they join right in.
- Make it a daily habit. Being active doesn’t mean that you must commit to long five-mile runs or day-long bicycle rides with your kids. You can raise an active family just by making it a habit to move every day. A ten-minute game of tag counts as movement!
- Create a fun environment at home that encourages activity. Set up a volleyball net in your yard. Install a basketball hoop outdoors. If you don’t have the budget to install any sort of nets or goals, just keep a few different balls on hand in a large bucket. Kick a soccer ball around after dinner or play catch. The idea is that if you build it, they will come. Go ahead and create an inviting area for play.
- Keep a ball/frisbee in your car. Be prepared for spontaneous fun! You never know when you might run across a large grassy field that is perfect for an impromptu game of catch, kickball or frisbee.
- Blend inactivity with activity. Think about all of the inactive things that you do with your kids regularly, and find a way to make some of those activities more active. For example, instead of driving to the ice cream shop after dinner, walk there. Instead of parking your car right in front of the movie theater, park on the other side of the mall/parking lot.
- Research your town’s recreational activities/programs. There are plenty of summer camps, private swimming clubs and sports camps that run all summer long, but if that’s not in your budget, contact your town to find inexpensive or even free activities for your kids. Playgrounds are free, some local zoos have free admission days, state parks offer great hiking trails, and some local bowling alleys offer free bowling for kids all summer long.
- Build movement into their chores. This will obviously depend on the age of your children, but even little ones are happy to help rake leaves in the fall, plant flowers in the spring, and pull weeds in the summer. Older children can drag the garbage cans to the corner, get the mail from the mailbox each day, scrub bathtubs, etc. Allow your children to build a sense of responsibility while also moving their bodies and staying active.
- Encourage your kids to get outside every day. With the exception of a few days a year that are dangerously cold or hot, your kids can dress appropriately and do just fine outdoors. What do they do once they get out there? Well, it’s a strange phenomenon, but they always find something to do.