If you have children, then you’re probably very familiar with this scenario: your kids finish their homework (or try to avoid finishing their homework), and then immediately want to turn on the TV and computer. It’s common for kids to want to engage with technology, but spending all their time hunched over the screen isn’t good for their well-being. In addition to being harmful to their health (and increasing their chances for obesity), lack of imaginative play can staunch their creativity. But how do you get them to WANT to play outside? Here are 5 ways to encourage them.
Make it a Family Event
Don’t just tell your kids to go out and play—go with them! Get out there and take a bike ride, head to the park or swimming hole, or simply play some games outside. Catch, basketball…the possibilities are limitless! You can even stay active indoors, dancing or doing yoga. If you have older children, consider signing up for a 5k so you and your kids can both work toward a goal by staying active. Instead of catching a movie at the theater on weekends, try heading outside for a half day activity, then do a movie night at home. Children learn by example, so set an active example, and your kids will become more active as well.
Get Involved at School
Organized sports can offer your kids so many benefits, including increased physical activity. They’ll also make new friends, learn to work with a team, and gain educational and economic boosts. Former student athletes enjoy significantly higher salaries, are more than twice as likely to have post-secondary education, and are more likely to be employed.
Build a Cool Outdoor Space
If you want your kids to go out into the yard, you’ll have to make your outdoor space as cool as possible. Engineer an amazing treehouse or clubhouse together—there’s no better way to have your kids running outside as soon as they come home. Adding an above-ground pool, a volleyball net, or a swing set are also a great way to get your kids moving.
Limit Screen Time
It can be painful to implement limits on computer and video time, especially if you look forward to the mini break these activities give you. However, many pediatricians agree that too much screen time can harm a child’s development, particularly in the first 18 months. After this age, one hour is considered appropriate for kids ages 3-5, and beyond that, the amount of time should be tailored to the individual child. When a child uses a computer or watches TV, they’re not interacting with the world around them, and they’re certainly not active. Limiting screen time can be a challenge, but it forces kids to be more active and imaginative.
Whenever possible, it’s best to start building good habits early. Children will follow your lead and get into the habit of being active if you encourage active and imaginative play and JOIN IN. As soon as possible, get out of the house and start being more active. Once you make this commitment, and make time for your family to exercise, it will start to become second nature. Starting physical activity early in our digital world can help your kids become happier, healthier adults.
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