Last year, I was a chaperone for a field trip for my one daughter’s school class. The field trip was to a local botanical garden, and required the students and chaperones to walk quite a distance to see the different gardens.
By the end of the day, many of the students were exhausted and out of breath. In fact, the parents and teachers kept up better with the tour guide than did the students! As we were getting on the school bus, the class teacher remarked to me that perhaps she needed to include some physical fitness goals as part of their class goals for that year.
The incident made me think about my own children. My child who was in the class had done a great job and really had no issues with the amount of physical activity that was required for that school day. I felt she was fairly active, but I wanted to keep it that way. How could I encourage her and her siblings to make healthy habits now that they would hopefully continue throughout their lives? How could I encourage them to adopt a healthy lifestyle? I came up with a list that I felt would encourage this goal which I’ll share with you!
One of the best ways to encourage activity with your children is to promote family fitness. It doesn’t have to be anything overwhelmingly complex or expensive. Taking a walk around the neighborhood after dinner is a great way to be active, have some quality family time, and also to meet your neighbors!
Limit Screen Time
I decided to limit my children’s screen time to 1 hour per day on a school day and 2 hours on a weekend day. This means that they can play video games and watch TV for a total of one hour per day during the week and for 2 hours during the weekend.
Get Out and Play
I encourage my children to play outside! It is actually shocking to see how many children no longer enjoy this simple past time. They’d rather be inside playing video games instead of playing kickball, or skateboarding. I personally have great memories of playing games like kick the can and shadow tag with the neighborhood children when we were growing up. I wanted for my children to experience that too.
When they aren’t playing catch or climbing trees, they are riding their bikes or skateboarding. Yes, even my handicapped children are able to skateboard a little bit. When it is warm outside, they all enjoy swimming in the pool or surfing at the beach. My two older children, who are legally blind, are able to “boogie board” instead of surfing.
Remember That Pets Need Exercise Too!
This is a sneaky, yet effective way to make sure that our children get a certain amount of activity each day. I have asked that each of the kids run their puppy around for at least 15 minutes per day. Not only does he get his “puppy crazies” out of his system; they also get a chance to bond with him and have some fun in the process. They are exercising and they don’t even know it!
Our city has several dog parks where owners and their pets can get out, meet other pet owners, and get some great exercise. I’d encourage you to check and see if there are any such parks near where you live. Our children love to take our puppy to the dog park and we do so most weekends.
Studies show that adults who are physically active reap numerous benefits from their efforts. I’d love for my children to be able to experience the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. That is why I’m starting now. I can’t control what they do or how they live after they’ve reached adulthood, but I can do my best to ensure that they have developed some healthy habits while they are young. Hopefully, the habits that they begin now will carry over into their adult lives.