Physical activity decreases during winter months: From Halloween through New Year's Day, eating tends to increase, with lots of candy and treats. So caloric intake rises while activity levels decrease. Not to mention that kids have lots of holiday time away from school. They're not necessarily learning during this down time. They're potentially driving each other (and their parents) crazy while they're cooped up indoors.
Let's consider some healthy gift ideas for a change this holiday season! Here are some ideas that are healthy and educational.
Adventure to Fitness
This is one of my favorite gifts for kids this holiday season. It's an incredibly innovative program that takes kids on video adventures where they learn, from healthy lessons such as the benefits of good nutrition to core educational topics (math, science, social studies, and language arts). More importantly, the kids actually get up and move with the story, running, jumping, and generating lots of physical activity. It's perfect when the weather is poor outside, or simply when you want a healthy and educational activity for your kids at 6 a.m. in the morning! While the program has been around for several years and is used in over 90,000 classrooms, the company just released home versions this past summer.
Spartan Race for Kids
Some of the hottest trends in adult fitness are obstacle races like Spartan Race or Tough Mudder. The interesting thing about Spartan Race is that they also have the Spartan Race for Kids. Kids have a blast going through these safe obstacle courses, where they compete and have fun. Parents can register them for a nearby race and then promote fitness by encouraging their kids to prepare for the event.
Wii Fit or Xbox Kinect
Medical experts are generally critical of video games because they promote sedentary activity. The Fit and Kinect product lines differ in that they offer games with active participation like Wii Just Dance or Xbox Dance Central. That said, kids often gravitate towards the pure video games (e.g., Grand Theft Auto) so if you're going to give them a game console, make sure you're giving them plenty of active games and that you monitor or limit their usage.
Kidz Bop CDs
If parents don't want to promote video games, or fork out the money for a gaming console, they can still generate the fun and excitement of dance parties with their kids. Kids love to get moving with music, which can be a great way to drive indoor activity. While any music can be used, Kidz Bop provides clean versions of popular hits and the singers are kids.
Pedometers and Fitness Tracking Devices
Whether you opt for traditional, inexpensive pedometers or the new digital tracking devices -- like Fitbit, Nike Fuel Band, or GeoPalz -- parents can use these to encourage kids to monitor and increase their activity levels.
One of the challenges with these devices, particularly with kids, is that they're often excited initially but lose interest. A way to combat this dropoff is to set goals and offer rewards, with actual prizes or with 30 minutes of gaming/TV. Another suggestion is to have kids wear the device with something like Adventure to Fitness videos or dance games, where they "get credit" for having fun.
Apps and e-Books
Nearly every parent knows how adept kids are with tablets and computers. While experts express concerns about increased screen time and sedentary activity, many apps and e-books can be great sources for learning. MeeGenius provides a fun, easy-to-use library of e-books for children across multiple platforms. Oceanhouse Media is similar, providing a lot of children's favorites like Dr. Seuss books as apps on all the popular devices.
Puzzles and Traditional Toys
Though puzzles and traditional toys like LEGO blocks don't necessarily involve physical activity, they do get kids to work their minds and develop fine motor skills. Many parents are not aware that LEGO has an educational line that promotes learning across different age ranges and subject areas, such as Language Arts. The products are mainly used in schools but are also available for sale to the public.
Kids get lots of gifts. Let's give some that build healthy minds and bodies!