Every couple of days, after my run, my boys join me for a run up the hill in front of our house. The total distance is about .3 of a mile, not far at all. My oldest sprints off and crushes the hill, while the four-year-old and I bring up the rear. Their little feet smack the black top in a quick rhythm, and their breath comes in small whispered gasps. And I love it. I love how active my kids are.
This little activity, which probably takes less than 10 minutes total, is such a fun times for my boys and I. (And let’s be honest, I love anything that burns off some of their tireless energy.)
More and more I hear stories and news reports of obesity in America and how it’s affecting our kids. I’m sure their are all sorts of reasons why this is happening, lack of exercise may be one. This is mind boggling to me.
Kids love moving, squirming, running, and jumping. You don’t have to bribe them with a “non-food reward”, they just do it, because they have fun with it. Raising active kids is a lifestyle: a combination of regular habits the entire family embraces. It’s not always easy, especially if exercise and activity are new to you, but it can be done!
As best-selling author, Rachel Cruze says, “more is caught than taught.” If you want your kids to be active, YOU have to be active, and they have to see you do it. You can tell your kids to go outside and run around, but if they watch you run, whether at home on a treadmill or finishing a race, they are more likely to mimic your behavior. Children learn by modeling adults. If you’d rather sit on the couch and play video games or watch TV, guess what? That’s what your children will do.
We are often told as parents to model the behaviors we want to see in our children. (e.g. manners, respect, kindness…) But the same is true for activity. If we want our children to be active, we first must be active. (Check here for a little motivation to get started!)
Do It Together
Remember when I ran up the hill with my kids? Sharing something I love, like running, with them, is special. They feel happy and grown up that they get to run with mom (and beat her! “Mom’s so slow!”); it’s a special treat for them.
Children crave time with their parents. What better way to spend some time with them, by doing something you love? Go on family bike rides, take family hikes, swim together, play basketball, whatever! Find the things you love to do and share it with your kids; they will probably love it to!
Make it a Game
This past winter, while we were all stuck inside during the cold, frigid days, we figured out a way to have fun and burn some energy: make an obstacle course. The boys went nuts. They were building their own obstacle courses, and running through them trying to go faster and faster. It’s amazing what some bean bag chairs, a baby play gym, and a football can become when you’re sick and tired of being stuck inside.
We’ve done so many crazy things inside and outside just being silly and having fun. Some ideas that I’ve use in the past are: jumping “hurdles”, putting tape on the floor and “walking across a tightrope”, tumbling, races, Simon Says (“Jump up and down!”), or even just timing them to see how fast they can run around the house. Just about anything can be a game, and kids will have so much fun with it.
Make it Family Time
Before we moved to the country, we use to take family walks and bike rides almost every day when it was nice outside. It’s one of the things I miss the most about living in town. There are plenty of simple ways to be active together as a family and spend quality time together simultaneously.
It doesn’t have to be fancy or require a lot of money. Simply playing outside with your kids is enough. Kick a soccer ball around, or toss a baseball to each other. If you have young kids (2-6) blow up a balloon and play “Don’t Let It Touch the Ground.” I’m serious, it will keep them active and moving forever. (And I bet you won’t be able to resist playing with them!)
Take Advantage of City Programs
Many cities and towns have great programs for kids. Whether you’re looking for sports, play groups, activities, or lessons, you can find something. I’ve finally sign my kids up for swimming lessons, and I’m so happy about it. Don’t hesitate to use some of these available programs.
My one caution with this is, just be sure that the other tips are not ignored. It’s easy to sign our kids up for everything, but then forget to model active behavior or spend time doing things with them. The long terms healthy habits are formed by the daily practice within your family, not through a lesson or sports camp. So take advantage of the programs, but don’t rely on them.
Raising active kids is totally possible and a lot of fun! Staying active is an important part of being healthy. If you can instill active habits in your kids, it will become a part of their life and carry into adulthood.