Put a Spring in Your (and Your Kids'!) Step
The days are longer, the weather's nicer, and you're chasing the kids outside to play. Why not join them instead? Playing softball or soccer, cycling or blading, even walking, with them is a great way for everyone to have some fun—and get in shape!
According to the experts, obesity is now "the most chronic health problem among American children." And while our "super sizing" culture is partly to blame, it's not the only thing contributing to the problem. Kids today are far less active than they were even a decade ago. But there's hope: those experts also say that kids are more active when they have the support, and company, of their parents.
There's another plus—spending time outdoors with your kids gives you those quality moments on which memories are based. And they also get to see you as a real live person, not just as "mom" or "dad." They see you struggle with a skill, learn from how you handle the inevitable fumble, and discover how to balance responsibility with fun and adventure.
How do you get started? Here are seven simple steps:
- Partner Up. Rik and his 11-year-old daughter, Molly, like to go cycling together. "It's something they both like to do," his wife Diane explains, "and so they do it together."
- Share a Passion. Bob's two boys (ages five and seven) love baseball—in large part because Bob does. "Bob got a tee for the ball when Thomas was only two years old," his wife Louise says. "And as the second child, Michael was hitting the ball at 18 months!"
- Make It Routine. Dee and her two toddlers walk whenever they can. "Most of the time I don't use a stroller," she admits.
- Be Creative. Don't have enough room for a full-blown game of soccer? That's okay—create a family version instead! "We've played modified versions of just about every sport," Louise shares. "Right now the boys use one wall of the house as the bullpen. They can throw at it, and then try to catch their own ball as it comes back."
- Dee points out that kids' imaginations are endless. "They'll find the activity themselves…they'll make anything active—if you let them," she says, and Louise agrees. "My three guys have developed a new game called 'Garbage Pickups.' They go out for a walk armed with garbage bags so they can pick up the litter they find. It becomes a contest to see who has the most, who has the strangest, etc."
- Get Wet. The kids have rain gear, use it! "Rainy days are great times for walks and puddle-stomping," Louise shares. Nearby there's a college with a stream, and a small lake with ducks—both favorite rainy day destinations. "You see different things in the rain than on sunny days," she says.
- Take a Trip. Rik and Diane's family schedules their vacations around being active. "Whether it's a ski trip, or just a location where we can hike, we make sure that where we go there's stuff to do," Diane says. One summer, Diane and Rik even stayed at their kids' camp. "We went swimming and hiking and did all that cool camping stuff."
- Make It a Family Affair. Got extended family nearby—or coming for a visit? Great! "Kids will do things with aunts and grandparents that they'll never do with their parents," Susan says. She ought to know. "I've gone rollerblading, swimming, and bike riding with my niece over the past 11 years. We've even taken the dogs for walks—a chore she normally avoids."
Remember: kids learn more by what you do than by what you say. And if they see you having fun with an activity, they'll expect to find it fun, too.
The Experts Say...
The Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) has compiled the most current research on kids' obesity. Check out Weighing In: Helping Girls Be Healthy Today, Healthy Tomorrow. Read the executive summary.