It was a beautiful day. It was sunny, warm, and we didn’t have anywhere to rush off to. I love days like this. Until I look over at the couch and see my kids glued to their devices.
We know the benefits of being active; we’ve heard them for years. Active kids have improved cardiorespiratory health and build strong bones and muscles while controlling weight and preventing health conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Leading an active lifestyle can also reduce anxiety and depression, an increasing problem among youth in the United States.
If we know these benefits, why do we still struggle to get kids moving? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that only 24% of kids are active for 60 minutes daily. Busy parents need simple ways to combat these numbers.
Four Ways to Increase Activity
Increasing activity doesn’t have to be a battle. You can find things your kids will look forward to doing each day. It just takes a little intention and dedication.
1. Get out of the house: Sometimes it just takes a change of environment to get the kids excited and active. It can be challenging to do this all the time when you have other responsibilities, but a change of scenery can inspire your kids to move more. Some simple places you can go are the park, library, museum, zoo, friend’s house, or hiking.
2. Involve friends: Kids are more likely to be active when they have someone to play with. This is a great option if you need to be home to get work done. Plan a few playdates each week and give the kids something fun to do. Having these simple ideas will help make it easier: Sidewalk chalk, variety of balls, lawn games, printable scavenger hunt, shaving cream, bubbles, and large cardboard boxes and markers.
3. Reduce access to electronics: This is the idea kids usually aren’t fond of. It can be hard to limit electronics, especially if you need to get things done or the kids complain. As much as we don’t like battling with our kids, reducing electronics access forces kids to do other things. Some ideas to help:
- Have a plan for electronics use and be consistent.
- Set certain times kids can look forward to using their devices.
- Give kids a list of things to complete before electronics use. For example, kids may need to read, do something creative, and play outside for 30 minutes each before they can use technology.
- Model healthy electronics boundaries.
4. Join your kids: Often, kids want to engage with their parents. Being active with your kids is a great way to get them up and moving. This helps you and your kids’ physical, mental, and emotional health with the added benefit of being together.
Try playing a game of horse, taking a walk or bike ride, working in the garden, exploring a new playground each week, putting on music and having a dance party,
doing a yoga video together, or building something together
Fun Products to Get Your Kids Moving:
Obstacle Course Race: Create an obstacle course with things in your house or a prepackaged set like the American Ninja Warrior Competition Obstacle Course.
Wack-a-Tag: A fun pop-up tag game for kids from 18 months to get moving and increase hand-eye coordination. (Indoors or outdoors)
Stepping Stones Game: Discover endless fun and possibilities with a stepping stones game like Turtle Steps or Playzone-Fit Stepping Stones. (Indoors or outdoors)
Ninjaline: Improve balance and strength with this hanging obstacle line. You can set this up in your yard or bring it to a park or on vacation. (Outdoors)
Doorway swing: This hanging swing goes in a doorway, giving your little and big kid a fun way to get some energy out indoors. (Indoors)
Swings: Give kids a place to swing outside, even if you don’t have a swing set. Try a big swing like a Saucer Swing or a Slackers Swingline to give multiple swinging options. (Outdoors)
You can encourage your kids to get off the couch when you make it fun for them. They may argue or complain but don’t give up. Keep trying new ideas and remember the reason you want them off the couch: to be healthier.
Don’t worry about getting sixty minutes in each day. Instead, focus on finding things your kids enjoy. This will help them feel motivated to get off the couch and get moving!
Rebecca Hastings is a freelance writer, speaker and friend.