Are worried about your child not getting enough exercise? Parents (and other adult well-wishers) are always fond of talking about the way things used to be. For many of us, there were many more opportunities to play outdoors when we were growing up. Urban areas had more open spaces and many towns were smaller and had more places where children could hang out. Of course, parenting was different then, too, with kids often being allowed to roam on their own for hours, away from the house.
But now, many children in the western world tend to spend a lot of time in front of the TV or a computer, not to mention always being attached to a mobile phone or a tablet. These can certainly be important educational tools, but they also lead to a sedentary lifestyle that can result in children becoming overweight. Unfortunately, childhood obesity has been linked to many serious health problems in later life, so it’s important to make sure children are fit and healthy. Apart from preventing future problems, this will help them develop healthy habits that they can carry with them into adulthood.
Below are some ways you can get children interested in exercising and spending more time outdoors. It’s important to point out, though, that children, like adults, have different body shapes. The fact that a child appears large does not necessarily mean he or she is unhealthy. Also, children can be sensitive about their bodies, so it’s important not to body shame them into exercising. Use positive language to encourage children to participate in things they find interesting and fun, rather than scare them into doing it by calling them overweight.
Cycling is a great life skill that many children want to learn. It’s a fun activity that children love doing with friends and you can do together, too. If you yourself can cycle, it should be easy enough to teach your kids how to do it. But even if you’ve never cycled yourself, don’t worry. There are plenty of other options for teaching kids how to cycle – ask a relative or a neighbour or even send them to a class, there are often after school classes for teaching kids how to cycle safely.
You can help prepare even very young children for cycling by getting them a trike or something similar and get them moving around. You can then get them a real bike when they are older. The great thing about cycling is that it doesn’t feel like exercise – it’s something kids use to get around. But it does get them outdoors and it does work on both cardio and muscle mass.
After school classes
It’s worth trying to get your kids interested in after school activities and classes, such as martial arts or dance, sports or even less overtly physical activities that get them outdoors. Even large cities often have urban farms where kids can learn about agriculture by effectively gardening outside. Many classes offer an initial trial class where kids can see if they like the activity. Of course, there’s no guarantee your child will like any of these or want to stick with any of them. This is where many parents struggle to find the balance between making their child give something a chance before quitting versus allowing the child to leave something he or she don’t like. A good rule of thumb is to agree a set amount of time for your child to stick with a certain activity before deciding to give up on it.
Family time outdoors
If your kids never see you hanging out outside and doing things, they’re less likely to be interested in spending time outside themselves. Make sure at least some of your family quality time involves playing outside, hanging out at the park, maybe going on easy hiking day trips, hanging out at the beach or the swimming pool, etc. If you make being outdoors a fun experience for them, they are more likely to want to do it.
Augmented reality games
Video games have been getting a lot of criticism for keeping children outdoors. As a result, gaming companies have come up with all kinds of weird and wonderful games that encourage kids to get out there, walk and interact with their friends. Pokemon Go is a popular one and while that trend has somewhat died out, there are many more augmented reality games that can be played outdoors. If your kid is not interested in doing stuff outdoors, you can encourage them to play such a game outside instead. It may not be the same as your dream of raising the next football star, but it will still get your kid running around outside and doing some exercise. This could be a good way of getting even the most reluctant kid to join you on family outings outdoors.