Want Your Kids to Grow Up Fit? Encourage Them to Play More

With childhood obesity on the rise—a recent study found that nearly one-third of all American children qualify as either overweight or obese—it’s imperative for parents to take a proactive approach to the problem. Here’s why it’s so important to encourage children to remain active and the steps you can take as a parent to help that happen.

Active Play Is Critical to Childhood Development

Play is more than just a means of diversion; it’s an important social function that helps to foster strong childhood development. That’s why daily PE and sports are part of the elementary school curriculum. Active play helps children develop coordination, sportsmanship, and a sense of fairness. Children who don’t engage in enough active play may be less developed socially as well as physically, leading to issues with anxiety and depression down the road. In addition, the endorphin boost provided by exercise is bound to help children maintain a positive attitude and regular sleep patterns.

Set Limits on Screen Time

It seems as though this advice can be found everywhere these days, and with good reason. Children who spend the majority of their waking lives in front of a screen are far more likely to be overweight than their peers. They may also have more difficulty engaging with children or adults face-to-face, which can lead to behavioral problems or anxiety. Set a maximum for total screen time per day and stick to it. You may want to tack on a little extra time for weekends versus weekdays, especially if you don’t feel able to stick to the regular schedule yourself. But, continue to stress that outdoor time should be spent engaging in physical activities. It’s equally important for parents to set a good example by following their own advice in this regard.

Go to the Playground

One of the best ways to encourage children to play outside is to visit a neighborhood playground. Equipment like jungle gyms, monkey bars, seesaws and hand-turned merry-go-rounds all encourage children to play in ways that encourage their mental and physical development. They can also enjoy running around and interacting with other children. When you take kids to the playground, you’re allowing them to have some measure of freedom while keeping an eye on them at all times. 

If you’re a protective parent who worries that your children might injure themselves during these types of activities, try to lay your fears to rest. Playgrounds are a lot safer today than they were back when you were a kid. Innovations like rubber playground flooring, guard rails and sunshades facilitate the kind of free-form play that children crave while helping to prevent injury.

Sign Them Up for Sports

Organized sports offer a great opportunity for children to learn the importance of teamwork. They’ll also learn how to win gracefully and how to handle defeat. The discipline and guidance they acquire will be beneficial in many aspects of their future lives, even if they aren’t necessarily gifted athletes. They’ll also gain physical strength, which will help condition their bodies to remain injury-free. Encourage your children to try as many new sports as they’d like to try. Be supportive if and when they decide a certain activity just isn’t their cup of tea, but also stress the importance of living up to one’s commitments. They shouldn’t just drop a sport because of a bad day, but make sure that they know that they don’t have to continue with a particular sport once the season is over and can explore new opportunities.

Make Family Game Night a Part of Your Routine

The term “family game night” usually refers to playing board games, but there’s no hard and fast rule to that effect. During the summer months, organize family badminton or corn hole tournaments, and allow the winning team to choose which celebratory event they want to engage in once the weather turns cooler. Invest in a ping-pong table that you can set up in the basement or rec room during the winter. If it’s in the budget, introduce the whole family to Nordic skiing. It’s easy to learn, can be done just about anywhere, and provides a better workout than its Alpine cousin.

By encouraging children to participate in active play during their formative years, you’re directing them on the path to a healthier, happier life overall.

Cheerleading is also a great way to keep your kids fit. Contact us today if you are interested in signing your child up for some fun exercise!