Today life is often disconnected from nature and the great outdoors meaning our kids often live a sedentary lifestyle that is detrimental to their physical health and their emotional development.
With regard to the physical effects, the less children engage in outdoor activities that get their heart pumping the more susceptible they will be to disease, and of course, the less they exercise, the more likely they are to become overweight.
Indeed, today, more and more children are becoming overweight as a result of poor nutrition but also a lack of movement. Once upon a time, our kids would be active we would need name tags for kids clothes so that we could keep track of their belongings, as they would throw down their jumper whilst playing football or use it as a post for rounders.
Kids today spend a lot more time sitting around whether this is in a car, a classroom, or in front of a TV, phone, or computer game. Whereas, once upon a time kids would be out and about playing hide and seek, tag, or playing around on a climbing frame.
This type of active play ensures kids get plenty of exercise and an abundance of fresh air that comes with a plethora of benefits in terms of a child’s physical well-being.
Indeed, spending active time outdoors has proven to lower the risk of hyperactivity and depression in children; the American Academy of Pediatrics notes children that spend more time watching TV and playing video games, than playing outdoors, tend to have shorter attention spans and are more likely to suffer from conditions such as ADHD.
In the spirit of encouraging your child to get plenty of fresh air and exercise here are five suggestions:
GO WITH THE FLOW
If your child is playing an organised game one minute then starts chasing after a bird or a butterfly – try to go with their flow, empower their curiosity and allow them to discover what they wish to discover, as when you allow them to explore the world on their own terms their creativity will soar and they will be much more engaged.
There are many ways to challenge a child without it being so challenging they feel pressure, for instance, the game of “tag” is a great way to keep your child active without feeling like exercise… it feels like fun, yet it’s a great way to get their heart rate up and tire them out.
Tag is both physically and mentally stimulating whilst creating an element of warm competitiveness which strengthens the bond between parent and child without loading pressure onto them to compete in a sport.
MAKE IT FUN
Look for ways to make active play fun, rather than competitive, and your child is much more likely to take to it. Compare your child swimming lengths in a swimming pool to playing on the floats and inflatables. Their activity level might be just as high as when they are swimming, yet they will barely notice the exercise component as they are so engaged in the process it won’t feel like exercise.
TURN OFF THE TV
Whilst it might not be feasible to turn off the TV entirely, it is a brilliant idea to restrict how much TV or computer games your children are allowed to consume each day; this way, you will encourage them to get out and about, rather than stay stuck inside, but you will need to come up with some engaging alternatives.
GET A DOG
A lot of children would love a pet dog, which is a great way to ensure the whole family gets plenty of regular exercise and bond by going on nice country walks with your new dog.
There is a danger, that the burden of walking a dog each day will fall on your shoulders if and when your kids lose interest though having a dog is a great way to teach responsibility.
In summary, having active kids is incredibly important, yet with today’s modern lifestyles it’s not always the easiest thing to ensure your child is getting all the exercise they need to be healthy. Therefore, we need to actively encourage and facilitate an active lifestyle for our children in order to keep them happy and healthy – but to do this in a way that is fun and engaging rather than regimented and routine, as children need emotional and playful stimulation to stick with something such as a sport.