For Women & Co. by Heather Spohr, TheSpohrsAreMultiplying.com
Do your kids get at least an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise a day? If not, they're getting less than the Department of Health and Human Services recommends, but this mom isn't judging you. Between the use of computers, smart phones, MP3 players, video games, and big screen TVs, it's a wonder that moss doesn't grow under our kids' feet. All is not lost, however: With a little nudging (okay, a lot of nudging), it is possible for parents to teach even the most technologically inclined 21st-century kids that staying active and healthy is an important part of their lives. How, exactly? Here are my tips:
Teach by Example
This will sound crazy to those of us who grew up playing outside until the sun went down, but it's true: Kids today don't seem to know how to have fun away from technology. This is why it never works when you tell your kids, "Go outside and get some exercise!" Kids need to be taught, and parents make the best teachers.
Take the time to go outside with them to kick around the soccer ball, teach classic games like "Capture the Flag" and make up games of your own. By modeling how much fun being active can be, your kids will be much more likely to want to play outside instead of logging onto Facebook for the thousandth time that day.
Try Less Common Sports
With so many technological distractions these days, many kids are less interested in traditional sports like baseball, soccer, basketball, or football. If your kids fall into that category, expose them to "outside-the-box" sports like rugby, lacrosse or Ultimate Frisbee to see if any of those sports spark their interest. If team sports aren't your kids' thing, introduce them to solo activities like judo, ice skating, gymnastics, dance, hiking, and lifting weights. The key is to continue exposing your kids to different physical activities until they find the one they will be passionate about.
Setting clear guidelines for how much time your kids are allowed to use technology can go a long way. My sister-in-law has "technology-free hours" in her home, and though her boys were resistant to the concept at first, they now shut off their technology themselves at the top of each technology-free hour and run outside to play.
Use the Technology
Then again, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em! Instead of fighting technology, use it to your advantage. One way is by encouraging your video game-loving kids to get off the couch and play some "exergames" made for the Wii, XBox Kinect, Playstation Move and other gaming systems.
Technology can also be used to inspire your kids to exercise. For my daughter, Annabel, I downloaded a game for our iPad where she controls a little boy on a bike, then, after letting her play it for a while, I asked if she wanted to ride her tricycle like the boy in the game. She did, and now she runs up to me unprompted and says she wants to "ride my bike like the boy."
We may have to work harder than previous generations to make sure our kids get exercise, but it can be done. With a little effort, maybe soon our kids will be Facebooking about their latest jog or Tweeting about their dance class!
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