by Lynn Siprelle
hat do your kids do for fun? If you answer "watch TV" or "play video games," your kids may be facing a serious health challenge, especially later in life. Obesity and inactivity are sharply up among today's children, and while schools are trying to reverse the trends, the real battle is on the home front. You have to get them moving, and you can't depend on your child's school to do it for you.
You don't need to force pushups and squats on your children, or march them through an adult workout routine. Kids love to play. You just need to encourage them to channel all that energy into active play. Just being outside, running around the back yard is perfect for them.
If you don't have a good yard to play in, make a point of taking the kids to a nearby park or playground. The toys on a playground are built for exercise and your kids will automatically start climbing and running and sliding when they have the opportunity. But even in the absence of cool playground equipment, there are a few ways to encourage exercise and active movement.
Balls are the perfect prop for getting kids to exercise--you can throw them, kick them, bounce them, whatever you want. And you need no other equipment. Kids can easily make up their own games or set up goals, marked by rocks or jackets and play their very own version of soccer. Josie and Louisa love to play "Calvinball," the game from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes where the rules are never the same way twice! Your kids can exercise their imaginations along with their bodies with just a ball. Smaller children will simply enjoy running after the ball as it rolls away!
If there are hills near where you live, introduce your children to the joys of rolling down a hill. You remember the game, you lay flat at the top of a hill and then start to roll down it. At first, you need to push yourself over, but if the hill is steep enough, you just pick up speed and tumble over and over down the hill. It is wonderful fun, but the exercise part comes when the kids have to climb back up the hill again to try again. Drawback: Grass stains, but hey! Is it really a kid if it's clean?
If you have three or more children together, organize a game of tag. This gets everyone running around and laughing and is a great hit among younger kids. There are other versions of tag as well, including freeze tag and TV tag. See if your children can't come up with more ideas.
A dog offers endless possibilities for adding exercise to your daily routine. While you shouldn't get a puppy for that reason alone, it is certainly a big help. The whole family can participate in walking the dog around the block, plus children will enjoy playing and rolling around on the floor with their new pet, all great forms of exercise. Training a dog for agility competitions can give your child a workout along with the dog as well.
Kids these days don't get enough exercise and the best way to motivate them to move is to set a good example. If you are constantly on the move, walking and exercising from the time the kids are small, you shouldn't have a problem. The trouble begins when kids are allowed to sit on the couch and watch TV all day. Nip that behavior in the bud now, and help your kids grow up to be strong, healthy adults.