If you have a dog, you probably know how hard it is to pull him or her into a crate or any space behind a gate. You tug, push and eventually you (hopefully!) win. For some parents, this is what it feels like to get kids exercising…you push, drag and (hopefully!) you get them moving.
As a mom, I know all about this. Like you, I worry about my young children (ages 4 and 7) getting enough activity–especially given that the recommended guideline from the American Heart Association is for kids to get 60 minutes of activity a day. As recently as last month, Science Daily reported that a study that went further to suggest up to 85 minutes for some children. Because fewer schools are offering a daily gym class, parents are under more pressure to make sure our kids are getting enough exercise. This is especially important for elementary age kids that are yet be involved in organized sports or older children that aren’t interested in joining their school teams.
Having just returned from Acadia National Park–a place that no doubt inspires exercise, I have a few thoughts to share about how to get kids moving…
My children spent the majority of our vacation outdoors. Whether it was simply walking around the cabins we were visiting, strolling along the bay to look at tide pools or kicking a ball or playing Ladder Ball, the kids were always moving. Of course, whether it is going to your local park or your own backyard, you don’t have to be on vacation to encourage your kids to get outside.
Make it a group activity
If you have ever been to Acadia, you know that a half-mile hike can bring you to the summit of a mountain that offers unmatched views of mountains and sea. In this environment, I even got my “I’m-too-tire-to-walk-around-the-store” son to hike. Of course it also helped that his cousins were doing it right along with him. Bottom line: whether it is hiking, biking or other activities…make it big! Invite along other families and get moving with them because kids inspire kids.
Put on music
Put on music they love and kids start moving. The emphasis will be on dancing and having fun…not on the fact that they are actually exercising. Do this and you are sure to meet your activity goal even on a raining day.
Seek local activities
Throughout the summer, the Parks and Recreation Department in my town has offered weekly track “meets” for any children that want to participate as well as affordable tennis, soccer and other programs. Many schools offer a before school running group (led by parent volunteers) and plenty of other activities for kids to take part in. The message here is that you can enroll your kids in gymnastics, dance or karate but you can and should take advantage of free or very inexpensive programs in your town.
Local gyms, YMCA and more
These days, your gym, YMCA and other similar places are likely offering children’s programs. For some kids, this structured, regular weekly classes balance well with other activities. I highly suggest adding these into your weekly schedule- especially if it gives you time to exercise too!
For more creative ideas on how to encourage active families, schools and towns visit the Let’s Move, Get Active site.