No one is more excited to watch their toddlers take their first steps than mom and dad, but soon enough you are secretly wishing they would just “sit still for one moment.” Parenting toddlers and children with endless energy is exhausting and seemingly never ending, but somewhere along the way to the teen years our kids start logging more screen time than play time. They not only slow down, they stop moving!
How can we keep kids motivated and ensure they are getting enough activity every single day?
How to Raise Active Kids
People look at our family and love to say “you are so lucky your kids are so active,” as if my kids just naturally wake up running a 5km and magically appear at dance classes, on ski hills and at the top of climbing ropes. There is a very good reason my kids are active.
We sign them up, we drive them, we practice with them, we bike, run, swim, climb, and we get their butts off the couch and away from the screens. I started when they were very young, the kids and I were always on the move.
My kids now are totally normal 9, 11 and 13 year old kids. They wake up and head straight to the couch, iPod in one hand and tv remote in the other. They would honestly do this all day. They do have down time and they do slouch in front of the tv, but they log maybe 4 hours a week outside of school ‘doing nothing,’ the rest of the time we keep them engaged, outside, active, and doing something.
They resist, but I insist.
You know the drill, Mom says “come on kids, lets go for a hike” and you get moans, groans and complaints from everyone. . . .except the dog – the dog is at the front door, leash at the ready! I get that too. Every. Single. Time. But I insist. Everyday will have some kind of activity in it. If they are not in a dance class or meeting friends to play or hanging out in a pool, then we are geocaching, hiking, going for a long bike ride or going to the tennis courts at the park. We are doing something.
Once we get out there, everyone has a great time. I already know this will happen and that is why I insist.
For those days when the family isn’t all home to do something together, we keep a bin stocked in the garage with tons of toys that inspire creative and active play.
How Can You Raise Active Kids?
Make a list as a family of ideas for active things you would like to do together, some favourites and some that you have never tried before. When an empty Saturday comes up, pick out an activity from the Activity Jar and enjoy. Our favourites are biking, roller blading, swimming, rock climbing, hiking, geocaching, apple picking, farm visits, and when we go somewhere new like summer camp, we try everything they offer.
I am talking to you Mom and Dad. Getting outdoors and active is good for you too, not just the kids. They will model an active lifestyle if they see you living an active lifestyle. Make being active or outdoors just part of who your family is. Sign up or a couch to 5K together, go canoeing together, learn to belay so you can take the kids to indoor rock climbing, look for adventure and inspire the kids to come up with active ideas you can all do.
Build an Activity Bin
My husband always says you need the right tools for the job. In raising active kids you need some tools on hand such as balls, hula hoops, kites, frisbees, potato sacks, skipping ropes, fishing nets, running shoes and sidewalk chalk. This list of the Top 30 Toys for Active Kids will give you plenty of ideas for simple items that will inspire hours of active play time.
Start New Traditions
Around here Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Thanksgiving, Birthdays and even Christmas is a time for family togetherness and being active. A long bike ride to the ice cream shop on Mothers Day, 9 holes of golf with the kids on Fathers Day, ice skating at Christmas time and a Fall family hike on Thanksgiving before the big turkey are traditions we look forward to every year.
Getting the kids to be more active doesn’t mean signing them up to a dozen after school activities but it does mean encouraging them to join school activities, to make family time about being active together, having soccer balls and skipping ropes in the garage and modelling an active lifestyle as an adult that will have a positive influence on the kids.
How does your family stay active?