What do I know about kids?
I know that kids;
– Are funny. Especially when they aren’t trying to be. When they are trying to be funny, they are usually obnoxious.
– Are honest. You want a straight answer, ask a kid. Or a drunk adult.
– Have, on average, less impulse control than I do. And that is saying something.
– Go from heartbroken to content, and back again, in about 14 seconds. Adults could learn from this.
– Should not be trusted with pie. Or money. Or secrets.
….but I digress…
And yet, I am going to address the subject of kids in this blog. Because I think you have an obligation to your kid. I think you owe them a particular thing. You owe them a good start, health-wise. It’s up to you to give them a shot at developing healthy habits. You can’t control what they eat, drink or smoke, and what activities they choose to engage in. Eventually they are going to run face-first into the world. They are going to see other lifestyles, foods, activities, and they are going to make their own choices. But what you CAN do is make sure that they at least know what vegetables and fruit taste like. You can make sure that they have experienced hiking, hockey, dance, running, kite flying, whatever. That sad facts are;
- Only 1 in 3 children are physically active every day.
- Less than 50% of the time spent in sports practice, games, and physical education class involves moving enough to be considered physical activity.
- Children and teens spend more than 7 hours per day on average using TVs, computers, phones, and other electronic devices for entertainment.
- About 1 out of 3 children is either overweight or obese in the United States.
- Overweight teens have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.
I know a lot about these last 2. I was obese from the age of 13 to 25. During the puberty, discovering the other sex, dating, prom years. Without getting too “ oh poor me” about it, I wouldn’t recommend it.
So, what does regular activity and healthy eating habits do for a kid? Glad you asked.
- Kids age 6-12 need physical activity to build strength, coordination, and confidence — and to lay the groundwork for a healthy lifestyle. They’re also gaining more control over how active they are.
- School-age kids should have many chances to do a variety of activities, sports, and games that fit their personality, ability, age, and interests. Work with your kids on activities that feel right. Most kids won’t mind a daily dose of fitness as long as it’s fun.
- Besides enjoying the health benefits of regular exercise, fit kids sleep better. They’re also better able to handle physical and emotional challenges — from running to catch a bus to studying for a test, if they are well rested. Less temper tantrums? Sounds like a deal to me.
- Expose them to fruits, vegetables, and other healthy options. They may not love all of them, or even most of them. But at least give them a chance to like these foods
So, how to go about exposing your children to an active lifestyle? Here’s a few tips;
- Talk with your child’s doctor. Your child’s doctor can help your child understand why physical activity is important. Your child’s doctor can also suggest a sport or activity that is best for your child.
- Find a fun activity. Help your child find a sport that she enjoys. The more she enjoys the activity, the more likely she will continue it.
- Choose an activity that is developmentally appropriate. For example, a 7- or 8-year-old child is not ready for weight lifting or a 3-mile run, but soccer, bicycle riding, and swimming are all appropriate activities.
- Plan ahead. Make sure your child has a convenient time and place to exercise.
- Provide a safe environment. Make sure your child’s equipment and chosen site for the sport or activity are safe. I guess the days of metal “monkey bars” sunk into cement are over. I think I still have scars.
- Provide active toys. Young children especially need easy access to balls, jump ropes, and other active toys.
- Play with your child. Help them learn a new sport or activity.
- Turn off the TV. Limit TV watching and computer use. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours of total screen time, including TV, videos, computers, and video games, each day. Good luck with that But you can at least try to keep it reasonable, and find time for active options.
And here’s a big one. Model the behavior you want your child to engage in. Uh-oh. You mean I actually have be active? I actually have to eat healthy foods?
They aren’t dumb, your kids. They are going to see right through your “ Yum, try this delicious kale salad” while you’re munching on a Big Mac. Kids who see you eating well are more likely to do the same. Children who regularly see their parents enjoying sports and physical activity are more likely to do so themselves.
Another important point. Do not overdo it. One of the delightful things about kids is that many of them have yet to discover moderation. You may have to be that “moderator” for them. Exercise and physical activity should not hurt. If this occurs, your child should slow down or try a less vigorous activity. If exercise or a specific activity starts to interfere with school or other regular aspects of life, talk with your child. If you’ve got questions, talk to your child’s doctor.
It’s the holiday season folks. The season for giving gifts. This is one of the best gifts you can give a child. It’s not the gift that they are going to thank you for. Not right now. But developing healthy habits is a gift that , to use a cliché, lasts a lifetime. And having healthy children is a gift you are giving yourself.
This piece sounds a little preachy.
But I’m going to stick with it.