The problem with most kids today is they know more about their smartphones than about Nature and the world around them. Television, the Internet, and video games are a top priority to many kids and outdoor games and activities are ignored. This is an alarming trend in most developed countries and can severely impact the health of the children. Technology has turned our kids into couch potatoes. Awareness of the importance of being physically active must be conveyed at the earliest.
Leave alone the adverse health effects later their lives, many suffer from obesity and other health conditions even in childhood. In the US, the percentage of children with obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s. Today, about one in five children aged between 6 and 19 has obesity.1 If your child is spending too much time indoors glued to gadgets, then these simple ideas can prevent them from becoming couch potatoes.
1. Reduce Screen Time
Encourage the kids to avoid the TV, the Internet, and video games and ensure that they don’t spend more than an hour at the most with these tech devices. Media technology has provided more ways to access TV content, such as on the Internet, cell phones and tablets. This has resulted in an increased TV viewing time. Researchers from the University of Michigan found that watching TV for more than two hours a day was a risk factor for three and four-year-old kids being overweight.2 Motivate the kids to go out and play in the garden, park or the playground. Allow them to roll on the grass and play in the soil. Start by removing TVs from their bedrooms, supervise their Internet usage and enforce ground rules on phone usage.
2. Involve Their Playmates
Children love to hang out with their playmates. When you take your kids out for activities, encourage them to bring along their pals. Children enjoy being in the playground with friends and they are more likely to involve in team sports with their friends in tow. Even if it’s to play in your garden, allow them to bring their friends from the neighborhood over. This teaches kids about social relationships and playing with kids of different age groups. Teach them that involving in the game and having fun is important, and not winning or losing.
3. Reward Them With Physical Activity
Some kids may not instantly like the idea of playing outside and perform physical activities. Forcing the kids is out of the question as it will only result in resentment and resistance. So, make the exercise as an incentive for completing their homework and assignments. Exercise imposed on them will only look like a punishment and they may develop a dislike towards exercises. Tell them to take a break from homework and play outdoors for a while.
4. Make Fitness A Mandatory Routine
Like we said before, physical activities should not be forced on kids. At the same time, make the children understand that playing outdoors with friends is a part of their schedule just like going to school or brushing their teeth is. It is not an option but more of a mandatory routine. Regular exercise is an absolute necessity for their mental and physical health. Allocate a certain time of the day for these activities and ensure that they spend this time outdoors playing with their peers.
5. Set An Example
Children learn by observing and imitating. So, if you laze around the house not doing enough physical activities, them you are setting a bad example. When you instruct children to get outdoors and exercise while you are stretched out lazily on the couch watching the telly, your kids aren’t likely to respect the restrictions you set on their screen time either. Modify your behavior before you advise them on fitness. Set an example and be their role model. Where ever possible, consider walking instead of driving; take the stairs instead of the elevator.
6. Partner With Them In Activities
As children grow up spending most of their time with parents, they love to play with their parents and consider their parents as their first friends. An evening in the drawing room with the whole family playing a board game or all of you involving in outdoor games as a family can be real fun for the kids and you too. Go on a small hike and introduce them to the beauty of Nature or go on a short cycling session.
7. A Different Ball Game
Just because most kids play common games such as soccer, basketball, and baseball, it doesn’t mean that your children will like it too. Introduce your kids to hiking, rock climbing, martial arts, dance forms and other less common activities. Allow them to explore their interests and observe If they show keen interest or extraordinary skill in any particular sport. If they do, then pursuing these sports may become a life-long love affair. Some kids may also show an inclination to motorsports.
8. Let Them Steer Themselves
Once an activity or exercise is identified, chalk out a schedule for them and make it their responsibility to ensure that the schedules are met. For instance, specify that each weekday evening a time slot is dedicated to outdoor activity. Allow them to monitor their improvement in the game and share their experiences with you. This gives them the feeling that they are in control of their game. This makes them pursue the activity more seriously with passion.
9. Encourage Them With Positive Evaluation
Your words of encouragement can do wonders to boost the enthusiasm and performance of the child. Avoid being too critical and give them positive feedback. Appreciate them for just participating even if they don’t win and emphasize on the fun factor in the game. Teach them to accept defeat with grace, and that life is not always a race. Criticism and negative feedback can damage their self-esteem and make the child feel discouraged. Ensure that you watch their game and cheer for them. A little praise will go a long way.
10. Teach The Importance Of Fitness
From an early age, making children aware of healthy food habits and the importance of physical activity can help them take up sports actively. Inform them about various disorders that arise due to a sedentary lifestyle and how exercises and physical activities improve overall health. Educate them about how specific activities can positively benefit physical and mental health. Once they realize the importance and make fitness a priority, even you cannot stop them!