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Fitness and Kids | Going Outside to Play Is Not Punishment

It seriously seems as though all kids are stuck to one contraption or another. Whether it is TV, phone or computer, their eyes are glued and completely engrossed in what is in front of them. There needs to be a movement to get kids interested in playing outside again. There are both social and physical benefits to being in the fresh air. Here are some suggestions to getting your kids active again.

Fitness is not a 4-letter word

We all are guilty of spending a little too much time on the couch or stuck in front of a computer. So I guess that it will start with you, in order to change your kid’s behavior. It is important to demonstrate the behaviors that we want them to have. Easier said than done right? With obesity and health issues on the rise, we need to jump into action. So how do we start? 

Create an exercise routine with your child.  I know it sounds like pulling teeth, but if you make it fun and out of the ordinary they will take to it more quickly. First of all, try to pick a time when the whole family is available and it doesn’t interfere with after school activities. Incorporate fun things such as bike rides, walks or running. Be creative to hold their interest, you can play tag in a nearby park or take a nature walk and pick up plants and leaves that you can identify later. 

Rewards equal happy kids

Yes the little ones are motivated by what they will get out of it. Especially in the way of whatever rewards system you may already have in place. So if the family isn’t particularly interested in your new “playing for fitness” program, small bribes don’t hurt a bit. You could start a point system where they can earn points for certain activities that will result in toys or allowance.

Or it can be a time-based reward, such as active time  spent outside could earn them the things that they want to do inside. 

After awhile, the kids will learn their reward comes in a different form—such as winning a race, or helping their team reach a milestone. Feeling good about themselves will build self-esteem and makes them less likely to succumb to bullying or the myriad of disappointments that life throws out at us.  With a strong center, they will know they have the ability to move through the problems and come out on the other side. 

Why am I doing this mom? 

Chances are that the more that kids know about why they are doing this new exercise routine will result in greater interest. Explain to them the health benefits of exercise such as boosting brainpower and improving their mood or attitude (facts based on increasing endorphins and oxygenating the bloodstream). Check out some of Dr. Oz’s books from the library, such as “You-the Owner’s Manual,” which has amazing and easily understood drawings of how all of our body parts work. Kids can learn as much as you are willing to teach them.  Do your part to keep your children’s potential for obesity at a minimum, not just for right now but so they can take the lessons into their future.  

Socializing is another big reason for getting the kids outside.  You can involve other families in the neighborhood or get their friends together for outside activities. By taking your kids to the playground or scheduling play dates you can instill the importance of outdoor play and fitness, thereby creating a healthy habit. If you make your home the place where all the neighbor kids love to come and play, you’ve won the battle. Set up an obstacle course and invite them to create their own with simple items like chairs, balls, jump ropes and hula hoops.  Offer healthy and affordable snacks, like apples, peanut butter sandwiches and put out bottles of water in an ice bucket. 

The Science of it all

It is hard to find a good balance of getting your kids active in an age of technology. But it has been found that going back to the basics of outside play has a number of benefits to your kids; even taking small outdoor play breaks has been shown to actually increase the growth of the cerebral cortex. Pretend or imaginative play shows an increase in problem solving skills, as well as improvement in math skills. By encouraging your kids to go outside and build forts, or engage with other children, you can also boost their development of language skills.  

When you set the example, your kids will follow. Going outside is beneficial for the whole family. By creating a fun exercise routine, kids will start to make it a habit. If you can get them into the habit early enough you can change their health outlook for a lifetime. Instill a love of the outdoors in your children to give them the best possible outcome. Get them out of the house, and into a healthier lifestyle!


[author] [author_info]About the Author

Guest writer Sarah Jefferies is fitness instructor and in her spare time she works with parents groups and contributes content for playground equipment companies providing imaginative structures for kids–so they can spend more time outdoors in active play.
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