Wednesday, 20 June 2018

From Xbox to exercise – how to encourage your children to be more active

There are many blogs that outline the virtues of spending more time outside, indeed we have written some ourselves – take this one, for example: http://firstpsychology.blogspot.com/2017/03/exercising-for-health-and-wellbeing.html.

Given the ever increasing pull of electrical devices, it’s even more important to do all we can to get our children outside whenever we can. It won’t be easy, but with a bit of effort it can be done – and the kids will really thank us for it! And with National guidelines suggesting 30 minutes exercise, five days a week, the sooner we start, the better.

Do as I do – and as I say

We're all guilty of staring at our phones a little bit longer than we should – is it any wonder that our children follow suit? The key to unplugging our kids and getting them outside is to provide a positive role model for them to replicate. Set yourself certain screen times during the day when you can check your own devices – and make sure you dedicate some time to exercise too, preferably when your children can see. Perhaps there are exercises or activities that you and your kids could do together?

Find me in the club

There are an array of organised clubs and exercise groups for kids, many of which offer free trial sessions before you have to sign up. As much as time allows it, encourage your children to try as many different activities as they can until they find something that they really enjoy. If your children like football, rugby and cricket, it will be easy to find something that peaks their interest. But it doesn’t have to be traditional sports clubs, there are lots of activities that will get your child moving – try street dance, cheerleading or children's yoga and see what they think.

Take advantage of the great outdoors

Exercise classes and teams can take a lot of time and money. If both of these are against you, then it’s time to look closer to home for your kids’ daily exercise fix. It could be that your work means attending groups at the same time every week is difficult, or maybe the equipment needed and class fees make joining an organised group difficult, however there are plenty of way of building exercise into your child’s daily routine, it just takes a bit of creativity and effort. Here are some suggestions:

· Play in the park – most are free to visit and you can usually find one within a reasonable distance of home. If you have to walk there, why not consider either walking with a purpose or organising a nature treasure trail en-route. Find out how here: http://firstpsychology.blogspot.com/2018/06/the-benefits-of-getting-closer-to-nature.html

· Choose some chores – you’re never too young to do chores and most provide excellent exercise too. What’s better is that you can use the chores to reward your children with appropriate, time-limited screen time once they’re complete. We’ve outlined some child-friendly activity chores here: http://firstpsychology.blogspot.com/2017/07/surviving-summer-holidays-on-budget.html

· Step back in time – set some simple equipment aside (like a tennis ball, some hoops and some chalk, for example) and encourage your kids to play outside, like children used to way-back-when. Don’t tell them what the equipment is for – leave it to them to decide what to play and how to organise themselves. You can find some ideas and inspiration here: https://www.wired.com/2013/03/30-classic-games-for-simple-outdoor-play/


We hope these ideas will help you to not only set aside some electronic-free time for you and your children, but also discover some fun and frivolous activities that will get your heart rate going and put a big smile on everyone’s face!

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