From Parenting 24/7: University of Illinois Extension


Physical activity = family fun

Posted May 30, 2008.

Physical activity = family fun

Physical activity has lots of benefits for children. Research has shown that they sleep better, eat better, are healthier, and often behave better when they have participated in physical exercise. In addition, physical activity can help a child to develop a more positive self-concept and reduce stress.

Childhood obesity is a growing concern in America. Young children are spending more hours in front of the TV or computer screen than being active. Research also shows that:

  • Young children are typically heavier and fatter today than they were 20 years ago.
  • According to Mediawise, a national institute on media and the family, kids today spend more time in front of a screen than any other activity except sleeping.
  • Overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults and develop illnesses related to being overweight.
  • Preschoolers are already starting to imitate the lifestyle behaviors parents are modeling.

Children like being active when it is made to be fun, enjoyable, and part of a family routine. Parents are role models for children and are in a position to promote positive attitudes toward physical activity. This may be challenging for parents especially with young children who have fewer independent skills than older children, or who need supervision. And sometimes a parent’s own motivation to maintain an active lifestyle when tired and stressed can be a challenge.

Here are some ideas for family fun:

  • Young children can help with active household chores made to be fun (or part of a game). Setting the table, sweeping the floor, raking leaves, carrying groceries, washing the car, weeding the garden while playing music, dancing, or having a contest helps make the work fun and hold a child’s attention.
  • Take your child and tricycle to the park or other safe area where you can walk while the child rides beside you. You will both benefit from the exercise and your child will develop motor skills.
  • Water has greater resistance than air and makes exercise more effective. When at a pool or lake, always stay within arms reach when your child is swimming or playing in water.
  • Use a large ball to play kickball, volleyball, or badminton.
  • Take extra balls to the tennis court. Kids can hit and chase balls while adults play tennis.
  • Play family hopscotch, Frisbee, or fly kites together.
  • Try horseback riding, bowling or skating. Your child will develop new skills and you’ll be modeling active fun at the same time.

If your child likes to spend hours in front of the TV, limit TV viewing. If your child likes to eat while watching TV, provide nutritious and low-fat options such as fresh fruit and whole grains snacks.

Good lifestyle habits are often caught rather than taught. Exercise will provide you with more energy and help manage your stress. It will increase your family’s physical and psychological well-being.

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