It's no surprise that the biggest health issue today among children is obesity. But avoiding extra weight is not just a food issue. Nutrition experts have been telling parents for years that exercise is just as important as healthy eating. However, when we say exercise, most people think of activities like jogging on treadmills and taking yoga.
There's more ways to exercise than that. Our bodies were meant to move—a lot. And no, sitting in front of a TV and getting up for a snack does not qualify. But enrolling your child in so many activities that he doesn't have quiet time is not the answer, either. How do we teach our kids to effortlessly build movement into their day? By making it a natural part of their waking hours.
Try some of these play-and-move activities with your little ones.
Clean-up Basket Toss
Put an empty laundry basket on a chair in a room that needs to be tidied up. Avoiding any heavy or breakable items, challenge your child to a game of â€œtossâ€�—pitching toys, socks, and other items into the basket. Set a timer and make cleanup a game. The person getting the most items into the basket before the bell rings wins! Blocking, jumping, running and laughing are all part of this activity. For those of you who are competitive, please keep in mind that your child must be allowed to win fairly often, but not every time, to keep it exciting.
Using a wreath hanger on your child's bedroom door, hang a plastic laundry basket on the hook. Again, challenge your child to a rousing game of basketball with those dirty socks and pajamas on the floor as the balls. What's fun about this game is that once you get into it, your child will even start pulling out the clothes he has hidden under his bed to take more shots! Not only will the room be cleaner, but you both will have burned some calories!
Dancing With The Dinner Plates
Instead of sitting your child in front of the TV so that you can clean up the dishes, put on music. Find something with a moderate beat and a great tune. Then, the two of you can dance your way to a neat kitchen! This activity gets your heart pumping as you get your chore done, and teaches your little one that cleanup doesn't have to be boring.
Story Book Play
Have your child pick a favorite story. While you read, let him acts out the parts. This activity should include lots of movement. Remember, elephants sway their trunks, lions roar and pace, princesses dance, and Hansel and Gretel trek through the forest. Make this even more fun by letting your child read to you while you act it out. I'll bet the story changes!
This classic game teaches listening, responding and, for some strange reason, balance. It seems that kids love to see their parents standing on one leg!
Take 20 minutes out of your day, put on any kind of music and dance with wild abandon. It's important that both child and parent get involved. It's a great stress reliever for you and encourages wonderful movement and memories for your child.
Purchase an inexpensive bath poof and toss it around. This can be done as a team or alone. Playing teaches eye-hand coordination and makes participants move because kids usually can't throw straight. Best of all, the lightweight poof will save your antique lamps!
These are just a few ideas to try. See if you come up with activities of your own. What's most important here is that you play and move with your child. Kids learn from their parents. If you make movement a part of their day, they will do it on their own as well. Plus, these play times give children wonderful opportunities to laugh with Mom and Dad. Who knows? Your child can probably teach you some fun activities, too. Have a great time!
Susan M. Leisner RD, IBCLC, RLC Nutritionist & Lactation Consultant
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.