I’m sure you know what it’s like when it’s a weekend or a day in the holidays and your kids are saying they are bored and asking to play on some kind of computer game. What do you do? My boys are pretty active and enjoy being outside and yet they still ask, sometimes to the point of me wanting to throw them outside, the computer games, not the kids! So how do you keep the kids active and why does it matter?
Childhood obesity is no doubt on the rise with a worrying number of young children now classed as being overweight or obese and I definitely don’t want my children to join this number, giving them an increased risk of developing various health problems, not to mention likely weight problems in adulthood.
The World Health Organization (WHO) regards childhood obesity as one of the most serious global public health challenges for the 21st century. The latest figures, for 2014/15, show that 19.1% of children in Year 6 (aged 10-11) were obese and a further 14.2% were overweight. Of children in Reception (aged 4-5), 9.1% were obese and another 12.8% were overweight. This means a third of 10-11 year olds and over a fifth of 4-5 year olds were overweight or obese.
The Government is trying to battle the trend but worringly, research commissioned by playground equipment provider ESP Play found that 68% of a child’s PE lesson is spent stationary. Thankfully, it also discovered that using ESP’s methods and playground environments increased physical activity by 19%. This includes things like multi-skill zone playground markings and providing training. As a teacher myself I’ve been lucky to have had extensive PE training and I know the importance of keeping the kids moving throughout the lesson with tips and tricks to do this, however being able to use good quality equipment makes it much easier.
Over the long summer holidays I came up with some ideas on how to keep the kids active, for free.
A list of activities they have to complete before they earn screen time with one of them being play outside for at least 30 minutes (we didn’t include cartoons early hours before you start panicking). This was definitely the most successful if sometimes a little unpopular, however I can’t claim the idea as I think I saw it on Facebook. The list included things like, make your bed, read a book, do something creative, play a game, build something and they could do them in any order, but had to complete them all to earn the computer time. Most days they managed to get engrossed in something and didn’t end up asking for or using the computer bar the initial moans before getting going.
Walk or ride a bike instead of driving. As we live in a village we do need to drive to some places, but if we need something from the shop we can walk there. I wish we still lived close enough to walk to School as it was so much easier. Sometimes the boys can be encouraged to go somewhere by suggesting we use the bikes which they love!
Visit a country park or local park. We are lucky enough to live near some beautiful Country Parks and places we can visit. Parking isn’t always free but our most local Country Park asks for a £1 donation. If we go to the village playground the boys either walk there or ride their bikes so it’s a win, win. A picnic or snacks for half way around, or at the end works well meaning you don’t spend money on food and drinks there and can also act as encouragement to explore and get moving.
Play with them. The boys love it if I stop doing whatever important job it is that I’m doing and join in with them. Water fights and piggy in the middle have proved very popular recently. It also means I’m out in the fresh air with them and getting active myself. If the weather isn’t great you could try some indoor sports, just move any breakables first.
Go Geocaching. We tried this in the summer and it was a hit, definitely keeping you active especially if the 5 and 8 year olds are in charge of the directions. It’s free and relatively easy to do once you get our head around the fact it’s basically a modern treasure hunt.
If you are outside, dress for the weather. It can be pretty miserable if you aren’t warm and kids will soon get grumpy and want to go back inside and sit doing something less active. Equally if you are planning on standing and watching, make sure you are dressed appropriately or you will be keen to get back. I know as I have done this too many times, making sure the kids have everything and forgetting for myself. Always take a change of clothes so activities aren’t cut short due to a run in with a puddle or mud. I always keep sun lotion in the changing bag so that if the sun suddenly appears we can stay out and I have found over the years that layers work well for all weathers.
How do you keep the kids active? I would love to know if you have any more ideas.
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Disclosure: This is a collaborative post written with ESP Play.