How to keep young hearts pumping when you’re stuck indoors
Keeping Your Kids off the Couch this Winter
December 9, 2015 -- Some days, getting kids to exercise for the recommended 60 minutes is as easy as, well, a day at the beach. On a nice summer day your kids might be swimming, playing catch or kickball at the park, and coming home to a flashlight tag marathon that lasts well into evening. But when the long, cold and snowy winter months arrive, it’s easy to turn to playing endless video games or watching too much television.
“Sixty minutes can become a daunting task,” says Karla Adams, Family Nurse Practitioner with Bingham Memorial Hospital. “Kids don’t look at exercise as a chunk of time that’s separate from the rest of their day—as adults do. Children want to move. If you go to a birthday party, they’re running everywhere. But they don’t run for 30 minutes. They run in short bursts with rest periods as needed. That’s important.”
This winter season, look for blocks of five, 10 or 15 minutes where you can squeeze in a bit of active play. “Focus less on the aerobic stuff and more on fundamental movement skills. Research shows that children who develop these skills—kicking, throwing, balancing, jumping, running, hopping, skipping—tend to be more active in adolescence and adulthood,” says Karla.
Karla shares the following good advice to help keep your kids active, based on your child’s age.
For Toddlers and Preschoolers
They have plenty of energy, that’s for sure. With these open-ended suggestions and some adult participation, they will build motor skills and have fun:
- Try the classics. Simon Says has all kinds of opportunities for exercise. Or try Copycat, where children have to mimic your movements. When they get older, upgrade to Magnet—they have to do the opposite of whatever you do.
- Imitate an animal. Give kids animals to imitate and you’ll have them squirming like fish, hopping like frogs or scrambling like crabs.
For Elementary School Ages
School-age kids are bursting with creativity. Watch them add their own ideas to these tips:
- Create an obstacle course. “Use pillows or the cushions from the couch to make an obstacle course they can crawl through. They’ll love it,” says Karla.
- Host a dance party. Teach them the classics—chicken dance, anyone? Or just play music and move. Freeze dance is fun, too: Choose music your family likes, then pause the music at random intervals. When the music stops, everyone freezes in position, which helps build balance.
- Don’t call them “chores.” Put on music the kids like and see who can put their clothes or toys away the fastest. Or create a scavenger hunt—make a list of seven out-of-place items they have to find, show you and put away.
Minimize the eye-rolling response to adult suggestions with these activities:
- Challenge them. It’s kids versus adults. Who can do the most pushups, sit-ups or jumping jacks in one minute?
- Create a play. Act out a scene from a favorite movie or book. Love the Harry Potter or Hunger Games stories? Bonus points for alternative endings.
- Make chores active. Cleaning out a section of the basement or garage can be a workout. Join them, and use the chore time as an opportunity to teach correct lifting techniques.
For Kids of All Ages
These tips can help kids—and adults—of all ages squeeze activity into an “inside day:”
- Shop inefficiently. If you’re getting errands done, work in as much walking as possible. Zigzag between stores or departments. Skip the cart and see how much you can carry. At an indoor mall, you will be protected from the weather and still get in a bit of exercise—download a pedometer app to your smartphone to see how much you walk.
- Try “exergaming.” Active video games get kids moving. Choose more intense activities such as dancing and boxing over less-active bowling and tennis.
- Take a “fitness five.” Build five-minute breaks into your family’s schedule, in any weather. Take five minutes before or after school, after dinner or as a homework break for a mini-workout as a family.
- Splurge on exercise. Instead of spending a rainy day at the movies, visit an indoor pool or water park, a rock climbing gym, a trampoline park, a skating rink, an indoor play place or a bowling alley. And don’t sit on the sidelines—join your kids in the fun!
- Sign up for sports. If you live in an area prone to long hot summers or brutal winters, look for an activity your child enjoys. Dance, gymnastics, martial arts, basketball, swim team or indoor soccer can provide regular exercise opportunities in any weather.
Karla Adams is a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and has been working in the medical field for over 26 years. She started her career as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and later became certified as a Registered Nurse (RN). After graduating from Idaho State University, she now holds a Master of Science in Nursing as an FNP. Karla specializes in family practice with an emphasis on pediatrics, and chose family medicine because she likes making a positive difference in people’s lives. Karla is welcoming new patients in Blackfoot and same day appointments are available. To schedule an appointment, please call 208/782-3990.
If you enjoyed this article, you may like our other Health Matters for Women articles:
Keeping Your Kids off the Couch This Winter
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