Seven Simple Tips to Grow Active, Healthy Kids
by Carol Torgan, Ph.D.
Kids cannot stare at a screen and their hands are not available to text or play video games when they are building a snowman, splashing in a stream, scaling a rock wall, digging in a garden, or climbing trees.
1. Lead by example: You are a role model for your kids. If they see you plop on the couch and watch TV they will be inclined to recline as well.
2. Think outside the box: Give a child an expensive gift and they promptly rip it open and… start playing with the gift paper and box. Skip expensive toys and break out glass jars to catch and release insects. Use gift boxes and shoe boxes to display and stow keepsake shells, rocks, dried leaves and other found treasures. It is often said the best toys are 10 percent creation and 90 percent imagination.
3. Watch and Listen: What do your children enjoy doing outside? What activities do they talk about doing? (Ask them). Encourage those activities and build on them.
4. Share: What are your favorite childhood memories of outside play? Share them with your family and then go on a night hike, build a tree house, or run through the sprinklers to create new family memories.
5. Sculpt: By providing your children with opportunities to move and create, you are sculpting their brains. Play fosters new neural connections and prunes existing ones. As kids sculpt snow and sand, they sculpt their futures.
6. Meet: Safety is one of the major reasons parents are hesitant to let their children play outside. Organize a play-date that really is about play.
7. Create opportunities: Do not over schedule your children or yourself. Leave open little windows of time – even if only for 10 minutes – just to goof off and move around and explore outside. Any outdoor activity is much, much better than sitting inside staring at a screen.
8. Resolve: Make a resolution to join the National Wildlife Federation’s Be Out There Movement and take the pledge to get your kids outside.