As technology use increases to an average seven hours a day for children, childhood obesity rates have doubled in children and tripled in adolescents over the last 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parents, teachers and other caregivers can help children avoid the long-term effects of obesity, such as diabetes and cancer, by encouraging physical activity through play.
The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children have at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Coupled with a healthy diet, this creates a caloric balance to prevent obesity and the diseases that come with it. So have kids put down those smartphones, tablets, hand-held video games and computers and join you for some cardiovascular games and activities that will be so much fun they won’t even know they’re exercising.
Games for Toddlers
Walking is great sport for those just learning to do it. You can encourage them to walk more by throwing and retrieving a ball. Your toddler will enjoy racing you to grab it, and then trotting off to keep it away.
A game of ” Monkey See, Monkey Do” can help get them moving, too. You sit down, and then stand up, and then touch your toes, and then reach for the ceiling. Watch your little guy or gal mimic your movements, improving gross motor skills while burning calories.
As they get a little older, ” Duck, Duck, Goose” can be a great way to work in intervals of intense running. Of course, the kids will be so excited with the suspense of hearing “Goose” that they’ll be giggling away calories and stress while working out major muscle groups.
Children with a competitive nature may be motivated to better health by games like kickball, football, basketball, soccer or baseball. You can also put on your running shoes for a game of tag, Capture the Flag, or other chasing game. Race from one end of the yard to the other. Consider a game of frisbee, badminton or volleyball at the park followed by a healthy picnic lunch. Even if your child isn’t competitive, throwing a ball around is a great way to exercise, and you’ll both enjoy the quality time you spend together.
Hula hoops and jump ropes can provide hours of inexpensive fun for kids of all ages. Add a dash of fun and literacy skills to your play with chants and rhymes. You can also use these tools to help build outdoor or indoor obstacle courses. If you’re outside, line up some balls, add a step or a couple hurdles, lay the jump rope on the ground and place a series of hula hoops in pairs. Have your child run in and out through the balls, jump on the step or over the hurdles, do 10 jumps with the rope, and then jog through the hula hoops with one foot in each. If you’re indoors, you can use your furniture, toys and stairs to create a whole-house course.
If your child loves to perform, consider creating and practicing a dance routine. Let your child pick the song and create their own dance routine with turns, leaps and acrobatics. You can easily learn and teach the Electric Slide, Macarena, Bunny Hop, Boot Scootin’ Boogie and other line dances. Invite some friends over. They can be backup dancers or your audience. These routines can evolve into daily fun as your child practices and discovers new dance moves.
Enjoy the Elements
No matter the season, there are plenty of activities that seem more play than work. For example, raking leaves into a pile and then jumping in and through it (repeat as desired). Sled riding usually involves trekking up a hill just to slide down and trek back up again. Spring and summer are great opportunities for bike riding, rollerskating and swimming. Never underestimate the exercise value of a nature hike during all seasons, as there is always something new to discover.