Just like the adult population in the UK, our children are getting fatter. Part of the problem is that parents are reluctant to let kids go out to play, and kids are increasingly distracted by the vast quantity of passive entertainment they are able to consume, slumped in front of a screen. The long term benefits of an active lifestyle are widely documented and numerous, from better concentration and performance at school through to decreasing the chances of suffering from weight related illnesses. Making a pledge to yourself and your family to be more active is one of the best things a parent can do for their offspring, and there is never a better time than now!
I can clearly remember long summers as a child when i’d go and call for my friends and we’d go off on our bikes, roller boots or on foot, spending the entire day being active. Building dens, climbing trees, making rope swings, running around, exploring and generally being a healthy, active kid! I’d return home at lunch time for a sandwich and scoff it down as fast as I could, before whizzing straight back out again, and we’d stay out until it started to get dark. For modern children, that kind of scenario is unfortunately alien, and they are much more likely to spend even the most beautiful summers day, sat in front of the TV, computer or playing on video games.
The new year is a great time to make a commitment to getting the family outdoors and active!
We now live in a time when many children are unable to entertain themselves, seeking instead constant stimulation whilst remaining completely passive and inactive. Parents have played an integral role in re-defining childhood, with some too scared or paranoid to let their kids play outside of the home and many working long hours, leaving them with little time or energy to direct their children’s activities. I know myself that when my daughter was little, working full time with a very long commute on top meant that I had very little time in the week to do anything apart from slump in front of the TV, but I tried to make up for it at the weekend with long woodland walks.
Our children imitate and learn from what they see around them, and many of us, don’t set a great example!
Living an active lifestyle will bring you heaps of benefits, not only will you be fitter and healthier, but you get to spend quality time with the family too. Getting active as a family makes a lot of sense, because if all of you are making changes at the same time, it makes it that little bit easier to stick to!
Choosing outdoor activities is a great ideas, as doing so provides you with lots of different options, many of which are absolutely free! Going for a walk or a woodland ramble is a fun and easy way to get active and you’ll find that once you get into the routine a couple of weeks in, that it’s really not too difficult to be mindful and make better decisions that will help to increase the amount of exercise you and the family get.
Tips For A More Active Kids
- Most children spend several hours in front of the TV or a computer screen every single day. Limit the amount of time both you and your kids are allowed to spend in front of a screen, instead, encourage them to do more active and fewer passive activities and make sure you lead by example by making sure you are not constantly connected and distracted.
- Take the kids out for a woodland ramble, and stop them getting bored by giving them a list of things they need to collect, or spot as they walk. Make your own list or download and print our woodland walk spotters list here.
- Go for a walk with the kids and let them take pictures or get them to collect leaves that they can use later on for craft purposes.
- Try a range of different activities, from swimming, to kayaking, to mountain biking. Set yourself a goal of trying one new family activity a month and you’ll soon find something you love and want to stick with!
- Set realistic goals. If your kids are real couch potatoes, don’t expect them to go from doing nothing to fitting in strenuous exercise daily. Start off with making a commitment to 1 afternoon a week and then move on from there. If you try to do too much too soon it can seem overwhelming and make failure more likely.
- Go for a weekly visit to the town park, play on the swings, feed the ducks or let them kick a football around.
- Instead of a family trip to the cinema choose an outdoor attraction to visit. It will probably work out cheaper and will definitely be much better for you all! There are lots of places all over the country to go to, from nature trails, to urban farms, to family adventure parks, so there’s no excuse to slump in front of yet another screen!
- Pack a picnic, football and Frisbee and go for a walk. Once you find somewhere pretty, unpack the picnic and blow off some steam with a kick around or game of Frisbee. When it’s fun and absorbing, healthy activities are much less of a drag and make exercise easy.
- Have your kids ever fancied dancing, gymnastics, Karate or swimming? Find out what classes are run in your local area, you’ll find everything from martial arts to yoga for kids, and give your kids some options and let them choose a new activity to try out.
- Encourage kids to go out to play and to call for friends. Most have mobile phones these days, so the chances of anything ‘bad’ happening to them is actually lower than you might think.
- Make a den! Your kids could opt to make a shelter in the forest, a den in the garden or even inside the house, it really doesn’t matter where, but getting them up off the couch is what counts.
So there you have it, lots of ideas for getting both the kids and the family as a whole up, outdoors and more active!