The long summer days have finally arrived and parents, like myself, often wonder how to keep their kids active and not spending so much time on the couch or on their electronics.
While I don’t think they need to have planned activities all the time (I’m not here to entertain them!) I do think it’s important they stay healthy and active. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. That can be all at once or broken up into smaller segments. Regular physical activity is important for their health. It keeps their muscles strong, promotes good heart and lung health, and aids in preventing and treating obesity.
Staying active is simply part of being a good steward of the body God has given you – and your kids. Here are a few ideas to help you encourage your kids to be active and take care of themselves.
- Limit screen time – During the summer my own kids find it too easy to spend a large chunk of their day in front of a screen – TV, computer, phone, etc. We all do it. You wouldn’t be reading this now if you and I didn’t spend some time at our computers. But it’s important not to spend all day there. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 hours screen time per day. For our family we have frequent times throughout the day when I declare it a computer or television free time. During those hours the kids have to find something else to do – preferably something that requires a good deal of movement.
- Provide appropriate tools – It’s hard to shoot baskets without a basketball or ride a bike without a bike. Try to provide play equipment that encourages physical activity: basketballs, baseball and glove, jump rope, Frisbees, bikes, badminton or tennis rackets . . . and the list goes on.
- Challenge them to a contest – At the request of my kids we’ve done a Physical Activity Challenge for the past two summers. Each member of the family keeps track of their exercise and activity on a document we designed. It encourages them to get out and stay active. Our kids are excited to see how much exercise everyone does, and they especially want to do more than mom and dad. I was glad to see them doing more than playing with electronics or other sedentary activities. It’s educational too as they get to see and understand what it means to have an active lifestyle. So I thought I’d share our Summer Activity Challenge 2013 sheet with you. Feel free to download it here and customize it for your family.
- Set an example – If you want your kids to be active, you need to be active yourself. Show them what it means to take care of yourself by finding an exercise or activity you enjoy and do it. And be sure to set your own limits on screen time. Stay active.
- Be active together as a family – Go for a long bike ride or walk after supper. Plan a hike for the weekend or go swimming together. In our area letterboxing is a favorite, and it gets people outside and moving around. This is time well spent, building strong family relationships along with strong, healthy bodies.
There are many things you can do to help your kids stay active and fit through the summer. What’s your favorite? How do you keep your kids active? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below!