To stay healthy kids need exercise too. Providing active play opportunities is the best way to help your kids reach their fitness goals.
Preschool kids should be regularly active throughout the day. At home, buy active toys such as balls, strollers for the dolls, big trucks, or tricycles. Limit screen time to less than 2 hours per day.
Ages 6 and up should get 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day. This should include vigorous play (like running), bone strengthening exercises (like jump rope), and muscle strengthening exercises (like climbing) three times a week.
Here are some tips to help you reach your child’s healthy fitness goals:
Start young. Younger children are naturally active. They love to run, jump, dance, climb, and play! Take advantage and make daily family active play a part of your family’s culture.
Take your kids to playgrounds regularly. Choose active family vacation destinations such as the Lake, hiking in the mountains, or game parks. (Consider leaving electronic devices at home)
Playing in the water generates active play. Get a pool membership and go often. Put a basin of water in the back yard full of containers to splash each other with. Let the kids play with the garden hose. If there’s no lightning, let your kids run in the rain! Go to the Lake. (Be sure to take bilharzia precautions)
Teach your child to ride a bike while young. Join or start a kids’ biking club. Take your bikes with you when you travel. Ride a bike to school.
Make your yard activity friendly. Install a basketball hoop. Buy a trampoline with a safety net. Put up a ropes course. Install a tire swing and/or rope ladder. Put up football goals. Set up an obstacle course and time each family member. If living in a flat, ask the owner to install a playground.
Schedule intentional active time. This is especially important when kids don’t get recess or P.E. at school. Turn off the TV and take away electronic devices. You can give your kids ideas or plan the time. For P.E. for homeschool I liked to turn on the music and set the timer for 30 minutes. We would play follow the leader dance as the children take turns sharing a move that we all have to follow.
Use electronic devices to promote active play. I love wii fit. With some video games, my son jumps up and down when he’s trying to win (that counts, right?). Buy active kids games or apps and announce an activity break that the whole family can participate in. Check out the NHS Disney games – 10 minute shake ups.
Invite friends over regularly for active play. Make sure other parents and kids know that it’s active play time and phones and devices can be left at home. Sports, organized games such as capture the flag, trampoline, tag, and nerf wars are always great ways to get kids active! I have gone in with friends and rented inflatable slides and bouncy houses for hours of active play.
Make walking a habit for your family. Walk to school, a friend’s house, the store, the restaurant, or even as a regular family activity. Family hikes are a great way to meet fitness goals and spend time together.
Choose a school that values physical activity. Choose a preschool that has active learning with lots of time on the playground and encourages movement as part of their learning experience. For primary and secondary school ask: Does the school have recess and P.E.? Does the school have intramural sports? Are there sports teams your child can join? Do they provide active based field trips? For homeschoolers: Are there after school sports clubs or activities nearby that my kids can join?
Set a good example. As a general rule, if parents are active themselves then kids are more likely to be active.
Here are some websites that have ideas for promoting active play at home:
CDC: How Much Physical Activity Do Children Need?
Check out these 49 fun physical activities to do with kids aged 2 to 4 from Active for Life
Here is a must read article about Motivating Kids to Be Active
The Change for Life website by NHS is amazing! It’s geared towards promoting healthy, active families.
Here are some places where you can be active in Malawi: Active Places for Kids to Enjoy in Malawi