Active Kids Active
Think back to when you were a kid. Do you have fond
memories of spending hours outdoors playing chasing,
climbing trees, riding your bike or perhaps hitting a
six in an impromptu game of cricket in the street?
Unfortunately many of today's
children never experience these things that we took
for granted. No, this isn't a description of the world's
most disadvantaged communities - but rather our so-called "well-off" Australian
children. And they are well off - most Aussie kids have
just about everything they need; good shelter, plenty
of food, tons of toys, computers and games, and a loving
home. But unfortunately, all of this wealth doesn't necessarily
provide one of the most important things that they need
- physical activity! A chance to play and run and jump
and climb and discover.
Children and teenagers need at least 60 minutes of physical
activity every day. This doesn't mean putting them on
a treadmill for an hour, but rather giving them the opportunity
to play actively or participate in sport. In this era
of computers, televisions and play station games, it's
all too easy for children to swap the active leisure
time that we enjoyed as children for passive indoor activities.
So what can you do to help your kids be more active?
Read on for some creative tips and ideas.
1. Be a good role model
If your children see you regularly enjoying physical
activities, they're much more likely to follow your example.
It's never too early to introduce children to the joys
of exercise - start taking regular walks with your baby
in a stroller and they'll continue to expect it to be
a part of everyday life as they grow older.
2. Make opportunities for exercise
Take every opportunity you can to step up the pace of
your everyday activities. This is called incidental exercise,
and every little bit helps. Research has shown that exercise
doesn't need to be done all at once, it can add up over
the day - 10 mins here, 20 minutes there and so on.
- Try walking or cycling with the children for short
trips, instead of automatically driving the car
- Park further away from the entrance when you go shopping
- If you go on a bus ride, jump off a stop early and
walk the rest of the way
- Make a game out of household tasks - for example,
first one to race out and bring in the most clothes
from the clothes line gets to choose the next game
- Surprise your children by doing unexpected things,
like racing to the car instead of walking, or pretending
to walk like a dinosaur instead of just strolling
- Keep a tennis ball, football or bocce set in the
car - you never know when you might have a chance to
3. Play actively
When you can, involve your children in active play (such
as chasey, football or riding bikes) rather than passive
activities (like drawing or computer games).
There are tons of active games that children love to
play, try some of these ideas:
- Totem-tennis, table tennis or frisbee
- Swimming, water volleyball or duck diving for coloured
- Throw, catch or kick a ball
- Build a cubby house or sculpture out of boxes
- Throw water balloons
- Make up imaginary characters and act out a play
- Shoot some basketball hoops
- Have piggy back races or one legged races
- Go for a bike ride
- Climb trees
- Play fetch with the dog
- Put on some music and dance
- Sometimes children are reluctant to play actively
on their own - you can encourage them by joining in.
A game of catch is much more fun when Mum or Dad play
4. Make birthday parties active
Try a piñata!Choosing an active party theme
has lots of benefits. As well as getting some exercise
and burning off some of that endless energy that only
kids have, there's no time to get bored which means
less chance of them bickering with each other or becoming
Many places hold organised party activities complete
with carers and play leaders. Try roller skating parties,
pool parties, laser games, mazes and fun play centres.
If you're holding a party at
home or in a park plan plenty of games, such as egg
and spoon races, piñatas,
treasure hunts or tag.
You can also give presents which encourage activity,
such as a skipping rope, football or bike.
5. Restrict television and computer time
Monitor the amount of time your children spend in passive
activities, such as watching television or playing on
the computer. Sure, these types of activities aren't
bad for your child, but when they are done for long periods
of time and in place of more active activities they do
have an impact on the health of your child.
Studies have found that a huge 97 percent of Australian
children aged 5 to 14 watched television or videos during
their free time. Other studies show just how bad large
amounts of television watching is for their health -
with those children in the study who had watched more
than two hours of television per day more likely to develop
serious health problems as young adults.
Keep television, computers and videos to an enjoyable
treat, watch only the shows that are suitable for your
children and turn off the television when the show finishes
- don't just keep it on all day as background noise or
as a babysitter. One hour or less per day of these types
of activities is a good goal.
6. Organised sport
When your child is old enough,
they might find an organised sport enjoyable. As well
as improving their fitness, they'll also make friends,
learn about team work, improve their coordination and
motor skills, and learn about rules and being a "good sport".
Make sure it's a sport they enjoy, and that the focus
of the team is on having fun and participation rather
than on being highly competitive, especially for younger
children. Older kids might enjoy the challenge of a little
healthy competition, but keep things in perspective.
There are many types of organised sports, including
football, soccer, basketball, netball, hockey, volleyball,
athletics, swimming teams, tennis - even dancing (ballet,
tap, jazz, ballroom, hip hop and so on) is a form of
organised sport. Find something they're interested in.
Watching live sports matches might help to encourage
them to participate in a game at their level. You can
also follow up the watching of a match with a backyard
game of your own.
Don't forget to make safety a priority and ensure your
child is well protected with the appropriate helmets,
mouth guards, protective pads and so on. Removing jewellery
before a game is a good idea too.
7. Make family activities active
When you're planning family activities make them active
- Take the whole family out for a walk after dinner
- Go for a cycle around the river or lake, stopping
for a picnic half way
- Go bowling
- Organise a picnic with other families or friends
and be sure to include a game of cricket
- Set up a frisbee golf challenge - it's like golf
but using a frisbee! Take turns choosing the next 'hole'
(target) to hit and keep track of your scores
- Have a friendly game of 'piggy-in-the-middle' or
- Hire tandem bikes for a day
- Get everyone in the family
to choose their favourite songs and dance to them
all - the kids will think your "daggy" music
is hilarious and you'll have a laugh trying to dance
to their "modern" music
- Try catamaraning, sailing or canoeing
- Go for a bushwalk in a national park
- Explore an area in your city by foot - follow an
historic trail or make your own route based on your
- Take a wander around your local markets - as a bonus
you might even pick up some fresh healthy produce for
Teenagers are very different to younger children. The
teenage years are often about determining their own identity
and asserting independence.
While your teenager may have loved participating in
games and physical activities as a child, this could
stop suddenly once they hit the teenage years. Many teenagers,
both girls and boys, become very self-conscious. Girls
may worry that they'll look silly, that people are looking
at them, that they might trip in front of their latest
'crush' or they may feel uncomfortable about their changing
shape. Boys may feel embarrassed if they're not naturally
gifted at sport or don't have an athletic body type.
School sports change rooms can be a place of anxiety
for many teens.
Helping teens keep up their activity levels requires
thought, compassion and encouragement. Maybe your teenager
would prefer to join a gym or take aerobics classes,
or maybe an organised sport would help them combine social
desires with fitness?
Even if they don't participate in organised activities,
you can still make sure your teen gets plenty of physical
activity by encouraging them to join in family activities,
such as a game of cricket in the back yard or an evening
walk with the family. Maybe you can start a routine with
your teenager where you walk regularly together, giving
you the chance to spend some quality time with them as
well as helping both your and their fitness?
Talk to them about fitness and how important it is to
their health now and in the future. Ask them what types
of activities they would enjoy participating in, and
help them to maintain a regular exercise routine (this
might mean being the taxi yet again as you ferry them
to soccer training or to the gym).
Think broadly, be creative and
be clever - if you don't announce that it's "exercise" they
just might not notice!
Reproduced with permission from CalorieKing.com.au. All material copyright CalorieKing.com.au