For many kids, the summer is a three-month-long outdoor adventure, and they celebrate the warm weather and free time by riding bikes, hiking and playing sports. But as the school year begins, it can become harder for families to carve out the time to be active and stay healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, kids are getting less physical activity and more junk food than ever, which can lead to a greater risk of weight gain and poor health. We at AFC Urgent Care Arlington have some tips on how to keep your kids active and healthy when classwork, afterschool schedules and other to-do list items begin to compete for your time.
Keep Them Learning Without Homework – And Let Them Relax!
Educational activities don’t have to be boring and sedentary. One of the biggest misconceptions about education is that children have to be seated and silent to be learning. Kids are actually better able to focus and retain information when they are able to move, vocalize and manipulate things. Try building something or do a messy science experiment to get them off the couch and moving. Encourage them to find fun ways to learn without making everything about a grade or a milestone.
Make Time to Play with Your Kids
Kids love to play — with their friends, by themselves and even with their parents! Having a parent there can make an activity even more special, as you both have time to bond over something your child enjoys. Take as much time as you can to play with your kids, even if it isn’t long. There are several ways to do this, including doing fitness classes or videos together, hand-making toys to play with or having a game of tag out in the yard.
Work Activity into Your Day
During a hectic weekday, it can be nearly impossible to set aside the hour a day kids need to play, so why not try splitting activity up into bite-sized chunks? Start by making the morning routine into an active game or race to help them wake up energized, and encourage your kids to play for a short while before sitting down for homework after school. When you get busy, play must be worked into your schedule deliberately in order to ensure that it happens. Play might not seem worthwhile to us busy adults, but experts have found that kids who get enough play tend to do better in school and be more emotionally well-adjusted.
Meal Prep Together
Making a healthy, balanced meal at the end of a long day is a big challenge, especially when your picky kids are begging for their favorite fast food. Help your kids learn to love home-prepared meals by preparing them together as a family. According to a review of food preparation classes and camps by Derek Hersch and colleagues, kids who prepare their own food and learn what makes a healthy meal are much more likely to have a healthy diet than children who are not involved in food preparation. Preparing food at home with your kids can make it much easier to juggle all of the evening tasks your home and family need done, which takes stress off your shoulders.
Make Chores Fun
It can be hard to justify letting your kids play when the dishes are piling up in the sink and the living room hasn’t been vacuumed in weeks. Instead of stressing about whether the chores will ever get done, make completing them a game for the kids. You can have the family race to complete a chore the fastest, compete to see who can find the coolest or weirdest item during a room clean-up, or compete to clean a windowpane the best. This teaches responsibility and associates cleanliness with good memories, instead of making it a dreaded obligation. Chores have to be done, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be fun!
Kids who don’t exercise enough when they’re young can have a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease when they grow older, so it’s important for kids to establish good habits now. Help your child make active living a habit and you’ll go a long way to helping them learn how to relieve stress, build muscle and focus in class. Give these ideas a try the next time you have a chance, and if you need any more tips on how to keep your kids active and healthy, visit the physicians at your local AFC Urgent Care Arlington!