Frazzled fathers and muddled mums up and down the country are breathing a collective sigh of relief as the kids return to school and the household settles back into a much-needed routine. And that return to routine is the ideal time to plan how to keep the kids active as the school year starts.
With weather turning colder and nights drawing in, it’s very tempting for the family to fall on to the sofa like The Simpsons every evening. But unless you want your offspring to have physiques like Homers, it’s time to take action and keep the kids active.
Here are five fantastic tips to help keep the kids fit.
1. Apply a new regime
There are a growing number of FREE apps available that reward kids for good behaviour. Many enable you to customise the activities they reward and the points given so you can adapt them according to the age, interests and capabilities of your kids.
Start September by downloading one of these and agree that when the kids achieve a certain goal for activities completed they will get a reward.
2. Exercise Indoors
Indoor exercise activities are unrestricted by adverse weather and loss of light and so lend themselves incredibly well to year-round exercise. Swimming, badminton, trampolining, and ice skating are all fun activities which will develop stamina, strength and co-ordination.
If you’re on a budget, local leisure centres often reduce admissions at off-peak times or offer discounts for regular use of their facilities.
Whichever you choose, try to make it a routine part of the week so you plan around the kids’ commitments to their fitness to drive home how important keeping fit is. If, for example they’re invited for a playdate when you have plans to go swimming, take their mates with you rather than ducking out of a dunk in the pool.
3. Explore and observe the great outdoors
While the weather may inhibit some activity, if you’re prepared for the weather it can actually become part and parcel of your child’s activity this academic year.
Younger children will enjoy nature walks, pick up stick, twigs, plants and so on to create a collage on the return home.
Older children will enjoy documenting the change in season on a camera phone. You could go for a family walk one weekend a month and take a picture of a favourite tree or scene and then observe the changes in the light and landscape over the year.
4. Set a termly challenge
A full academic year is a long time for most school-age children so breaking up the activity with termly or half termly goals is a great way to motivate youngsters of all ages.
If swimming is their thing see if they can manage a mile every term. If they’re playing a competitive sport keep a record of their performance and reward them on areas of improvement each term. If they’re creating images with regular walks create a gallery at home to display them during the school holidays and invite friends to the grand opening.
Use the half-term breaks to assess how they’re doing and agree points of focus with the kids to help them stay on track or renegotiate goals when needed.
5. Benefits of keeping kids active
There are many benefits of being active. Successive studies have found that regular activity in childhood sets up a pattern of behaviour that continues into adulthood in most cases. This in turn improves brain activity, which can offset brain disease in later life. It also helps manage weight and maintain fitness which keeps overall health levels high. In addition, regular exercise improves self-esteem and so reduces the chances that your child will grow up with low self-worth and body image issues.
It’s time to get off the couch!