Sunday, July 5, 2015

It's spring! How can I get my child active outside?

Exercise physiologist Lauren Falini offers advice and tips on making physical activity a part of your child's daily routine.

It's spring! How can I get my child active outside?


Is your child watching TV, playing video games, on their cell phone, or on the internet after school?  Do you remember running outside, playing sports, tag, building forts, and jumping over creeks? Is this a memory of your childhood and not your child’s? The weather is getting nice! Now is a great time for your kids to start playing outside and continue through the summer and fall.

Make it routine!

Schedule outside time the same time everyday for your child so it can become a routine. Be firm! It is not your child’s choice, but your choice as a parent. It can be first thing after school, after homework, or after dinner. Connecting outside time to before or after something else done regularly helps reinforce the routine. Studies have shown that kids are most likely to be active right after school. That’s when there is light and school sports are right after school. Once they are settled inside, it becomes downtime and it is more natural to relax. This can be a good thing – it’s easier to set a mindset for homework later on as tensions dissipate.

Be prepared!

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Plan where you are going to play:  back yard, front yard, park, or playground. This eliminates debates and again, reinforces the routine. Be realistic about where you want to walk or bike, are there sidewalks? Is the road busy with traffic?

If it is cold out, dress your kids in coats, sweat shirts, hats, or gloves if needed. If it is hot out, dress them in shorts, tee shirts, sun screen, or a hat to shade their face. In hotter weather, make sure there is drinking water. If kids are hot, cold, or thirsty, they are going to want to come inside.

Be involved!

This point is probably the most important. Be involved with your child’s physical activity and join them! Teach the games you had fun playing when you were young. Teach them sports, take walks or bike rides together, explore a park, creek, or wooded area. This is an important time for bonding while having fun. Children copy the behaviors of their parents and what is important to you becomes important to them. If you are having fun playing outside, playing sports, or riding bikes, your child will have fun doing these activities, too. You and your child will share successes. You both succeed and created a lasting memory when you teach your child how to ride a bike, hit a baseball, cross the monkey bars, or skip a rock.

And plan your activity!

Instead of asking “What do you want to do?” and then getting the response “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” Discuss in advance what you are going to do and then as the parent run the activity. After the routine is established, take a turn to step aside and let your child take the lead. This will prevent boredom. It is not uncommon for sport activity to turn into merely a pass or catch. Football and baseball turn into throwing the ball back and forth. Soccer turns into kicking the ball at each other, and basketball turns into shooting hoops. Don’t let this happen. Make it a real game.

With basketball and soccer play, a one on one game or set up cones to dribble around and shoot. If you do not have cones be creative - try old shoes, paper cups, or anything!

Try a quarterback drill for football. You can be the quarterback and set up a cone 30 to 100 feet away, your child will start next to you, then run to the cone, and then left or right to receive the ball. The parent can yell out left, right, or turn around when the child gets to the cone.

For baseball, one can pitch and play outfield and one can bat with the rule that the batter has to run all the bases to home every hit. Don’t stop at first, second, or third base, run to home and get a home run!

It may seem difficult at first to get physical activity into your daily routine, but it’ll only get easier as you and your child stay fit and have a great time.

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About this blog
The Healthy Kids blog is your window into the latest news, research and advice around children's health. Learn more about our growing list of contributors here.

If you have questions about your child's health, ask them here.

Anna Nguyen Healthy Kids blog Editor
Sarah Levin Allen, Ph.D., CBIS Assistant Professor of Psychology at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Stephen Aronoff, M.D., M.B.A. Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Temple University Hospital
Peter Bidey, D.O. Medical Director of Family Medicine at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Christopher C. Chang, MD, PhD, MBA, FAAAAI, FACAAI Associate Professor of Medicine in division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Clinical Immunology at UC Davis
Katherine K. Dahlsgaard, Ph.D. Lead Psychologist of The Anxiety Behaviors Clinic at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Gary A. Emmett, M.D., F.A.A.P Director of Hospital Pediatrics at TJU Hospital & Pediatrics Professor at Thomas Jefferson Univ.
Magee DeFelice, M.D. Division Chief of Allergy and Immunology at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
Hazel Guinto-Ocampo, M.D. Chief of Pediatric Emergency Services at Nemours duPont Pediatrics/Bryn Mawr Hospital
Rima Himelstein, M.D. Adolescent Medicine Specialist at Crozer-Keystone Health System
Jessica Kendorski, PhD, NCSP, BCBA-D Associate Professor in School Psychology/Applied Behavior Analysis at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Anita Kulick President & CEO, Educating Communities for Parenting
Janet Rosenzweig, MS, PhD, MPA VP for Programs & Research for Prevent Child Abuse America
Beth Wallace Smith, R.D. Registered Dietitian at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Emiliano Tatar, M.D. Pediatrician at Einstein Healthcare Network Roxborough Plaza
Jeanette Trella, Pharm.D Managing Director at The Poison Control Center at CHOP
W. Douglas Tynan, Ph.D., ABPP Director of Integrated Health Care for American Psychological Association
Flaura Koplin Winston, M.D., Ph.D. Scientific Director of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention
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