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Remember those active days when coming home from school meant throwing down your school bag, doing a quick U-turn to grab a snack, and then making a bee-line for your bike so you could join the other neighbourhood kids tearing up the back streets? I do!
Or summer vacation days when you’d be out from dusk ‘til dawn climbing trees, sliding down grassy hills on cardboard, running through sprinklers and throwing water bombs? I do!
I know it’s clichéd thinking, but weren’t those days just the best when the only “devices” you got glued to were your bike or roller-skates?
Sorry to snap us out of that trip down memory lane, but the unfortunate fact is today most of our kids and teens are spending anything from 3 hours to more than 7 hours a day glued to a screen – between phones, tablets, computers, and video games.
This means for all the time spent on a screen, our kids are not being active. And an inactive or sedentary lifestyle as a child and teen makes it far more likely they’ll turn into sedentary adults, increasing the likelihood of health conditions such as:
• Heart disease
• Type 2 Diabetes
But by adding just a few minutes a day to playtime or helping older kids reach new fitness goals, you can make a difference to the health of your family. Here’s how:
LEAD BY EXAMPLE – Get Active!
It’s easy to think “Do as I say, not as I do,” but we can’t expect our kids to be active when they see us glued to a device, or struggling to get out from under the TV.
If we want our kids to be more energetic and physically active, we need to go device-free too, until a designated time and place.
CHANGE YOUR MINDSET – Think Active!
Devices have become part of our culture and made life more comfortable in a lot of ways, but they’ve also made us more sedentary than ever. In 2018, it was estimated that only 1 in 3 kids are physically active each day.
And while I hear a lot of parents say, “Well, it’s just the way it is today,” as the adult in the room, do we really want to make that your mantra?
What helps a lot is to model the behaviour we’d like to see in our children. Kids who regularly see their parents having fun with a sport or physical activity are more like to want to get active too.
Getting and keeping our kids active doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some ideas to make it easier:
Activities To Do With the Family – Choose What Feels Fun & Developmentally Appropriate
Just like us, the more our kids enjoy doing something, the more they’ll want to keep doing it. Guide them into trying different things by doing activities together initially. Go:
• Kick the football around
• Try rock-climbing
• Play volleyball or basketball
• Play catch
• Throw down some old blankets and wrestle
• Set out an obstacle course at the park or beach
• Play some water games at the local pool
• Hiking for a day or for less than an hour
Help them by making sure the activity is appropriate for your child’s physical abilities so that it’s fun for them, and challenging enough too so they get to experience a sense of accomplishment as well.
When in doubt, make it FUN first, and as long as everyone’s safe forget about the rules 😉
If it feels right, encourage other families or children to come join in with you. More often than not, the more the merrier, and being with others often helps our kids to get out of their comfort zone.
Don’t let the season determine how active your kids are. With a little forward planning, they can always be getting a little sweat on. Kids also do well with routine and knowing that on certain days of the week, or weekends of the month, they or you as a family, are going to be doing something.
So get out your agendas and work out when a set activity works best with each of your schedules, in between homework and other commitments.
While team sports and set group activities are obvious choices, here are a few more novel ways to keep your kids active in the summer versus winter, and outdoor versus indoor activities:
OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES FOR THE SUMMER – Active Summer Fun
• Talk a walk in the local park, or along the local beach – extra fun points for taking a ball to throw to each other as you go
• Blow bubbles and have your younger children chase after them
• Chase each other with sponge water bombs
• Introduce them to tag, hopscotch or one of your favourite childhood games
• Play mini-golf
• Go to a fun fair
• Go fishing / biking / camping / hiking / frisbee’ing
• Go strawberry or wild-flower picking
• Set up a scavenger hunt
• Picnic and play badminton
• Egg and Spoon races
• Jumping Sack races
• Play back-yard or park Summer Olympics
• Catch fireflies at night
• Go for an after-dinner scooter ride or roller-blade when the sun’s still high
• Happy Sacking
OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES FOR THE WINTER – Winter Active Fun
• Build a snowman-family and paint them with spray-bottles
• Go skiing, or snow-tubing, snow-shoeing, sledding or tobogganing
• Go ice-skating
• Play back-yard or park Winter Olympics
• Go hiking
• Play tug-o-war
• Make a winter camp-fire
• Make snow-angels
• Run around catching snow-flakes
• Play Ice-hockey, or if that’s not possible Road- or Ball-hockey are also just as fun
INDOOR ACTIVITIES FOR SUMMER AND WINTER – Indoor Active Fun
• Build an indoor fort
• Cover your sofas and chairs with sheets and let young kids run over them, making sure they don’t fall into the hot lava below!
• Play Twister
• Tape down some paper and play indoor hopscotch
• Have a pillow fights
• Find an indoor Play Centre and encourage the kids to go wild
• Indoor rock climbing
• Pull out your old exercise DVDs, crank up the music and get your kiddos joining in!
• Play Keep-the-Balloon-Up
• Have a stacking contest or see you can walk around the longest with a book on their head
• Dance it out!
• Musical chairs
• Indoor obstacle course
AFTER SCHOOL ACTIVITIES – Clubs, Hobbies and Interests
Sometimes walking home from a long day of school is more than enough physical activity for our kids. But if you don’t live within walking distance of the school, or it’s appropriate for your kids to do more, here’s a list of after-school activities that will keep them physically active:
- Dance classes
- Swimming classes or clubs
- Team sports like football, rugby or hockey
- Martial Arts
- Scouts or Guides
- Cadets – Sea, Air or Army
ACTIVITIES FOR OLDER KIDS
Of course, the older kids get, the more they’ll want to make their own choices. But it can also be a time when they need more guidance or an extra push to get moving. Besides team sports, and all the other age-appropriate activities listed above, here are some other ideas for Teens:
• Join an indoor gym or outdoor Bootcamp specifically for teens
• Bocce Ball
• Slack Lining
• Disc Golf
• Mountain Biking
Electronic devices don’t have to be the enemy. Kids can also get a good workout from playing particular video games. But when we lead by example and instil in them the desire to be active first and have screen-time later, our kids’ screen time will naturally lessen, and wanting to move more will be what they prioritise. Our own daughter does Air Scouts, RAF Air Cadets, fencing and of course her ponies and horse riding!