Kids today are so much less physically active than previous generations. Here are some tips on how to get your kids off the couch and get them outside instead!
Now that we’re in the heart of winter, it gets harder to spend time outdoors with our kids. For children, spending active time playing outside is important not only to help them grow physically but also socially, emotionally, and intellectually. And yet, once winter rolls around, the days get shorter and our schedules begin to overflow with school, homework and after school activities. It’s easy for physical activity to fall by the wayside. Add to that our modern day dependence on technology. With children spending more and more time on their cell phones and computers, it makes me want to go back to when we used to play outside for hours after school until our moms called us in for dinner!
Here are some eye opening statistics from the American Academy of Pediatrics website:
- Only 1 in 3 children are physically active each day.
- Today’s children are 4 times less active in their day-to-day lives than their grandparents were.
- Children and teenagers spend more than 7 hours per day on average using TVs, computers, phones, and other electronic devices.
- Less than 50% of the time spent in sports practice, games and physical education class involves moving enough to be considered physical activity.
- About 1 out of every 3 children in the US is either overweight or obese.
- Overweight teens have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.
Once again, I’m so excited to be teaming up with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (UF/IFAS), an institution that is a leader in the effort to curb the childhood obesity issue. We know that teaching our children healthy habits is important to prevent obesity and the diseases that go along with it like diabetes and high blood pressure. It’s crucial to encourage them to eat the right foods and be physically active from an early age. Educators at UF/IFAS Extension are an excellent resource for tips on how to help children eat healthy- and have fun doing it! For some healthy snack ideas, see my previous post HERE.
So we know that engaging in outdoor activities with our children is important but how do we find the time to do it? I sometimes feel pressed for time when I’m with my daughter Sienna, who’s a preschooler. She seems to have endless amounts of energy, which I don’t have, even after my second cup of coffee! I often catch myself mentally checking things off on my to-do list or catching up on emails at the playground when I should be engaging her in play. And it just seems to get tougher as children get older. Elementary school kids come home with so much homework nowadays and between that and after-school activities, it may seem like there’s barely enough time to fit in dinner and a bath!Check out @foodiephysician's tips on how to get your kids off the couch and outside instead! Sponsored by @UF_IFASClick To Tweet
Fortunately, living in Florida, the good weather allows us to spend the whole year outdoors. But I know that’s not the case for most people so you may have to get a little more creative and find indoor places for them to play. Sienna is 3 ½ and she loves to run around, play at the playground, ride a tricycle, throw a ball, and swim. Everyday when we pick her up, we spend some time at the playground at her school. But I know that’s not enough physical activity so we decided to enroll her in some after school activities. Once a week, we take her to soccer class. At this age, instead of playing full games, she’s learning how to run and kick the ball.
We also have her in swimming class once a week. Parents tend to get their kids swimming at a young age here in Florida because many people have pools. Sienna can already swim on her own, float, and even dive down to the bottom of the pool! I didn’t even learn to swim until I was 6!
Here are some tips to get your kids more physically active:
- Limit screen time. The AAP recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours of total screen time a day, including TV, videos, computers, and video games. Consider having your children put their phones and electronic devices down when they get home until you say it’s ok. Set a weekly time limit on television viewing.
- Be a good role model. You’re the best examples for your kids so try to get outside with them. Schedule family activities outdoors like bicycling, hiking, sledding or even playing catch in the backyard. Not only will it be good for them, it’s good for you too!
- If the weather doesn’t allow you to be outside, plan some indoor activities at home, a community center or an indoor gym. Look into group classes for parents and kids like yoga, hip hop or aerobics.
- If you have a preschooler, encourage free play as much as possible. This helps children use their imagination, explore the world, develop their motor skills and burn energy!
- Provide age appropriate toys and equipment like balls, jump ropes, and plastic bats to make exercise more fun.
- Plan ahead. Schedule time for activities and play dates with friends. That way they will be less likely to fall by the wayside.
- Always supervise your kids, especially preschoolers to prevent them from dangerous situations like chasing a ball into the street.
When children are active, you need to make sure you provide them with plenty of hydration and nutritious snacks. It’s best to encourage water as much as possible instead of sugary drinks like juice. Homemade smoothies are also an excellent option and can be taken on the go. You can add plenty of nutritious ingredients to homemade smoothies like fresh fruit and yogurt. My Very Berry Smoothie is an easy recipe that kids will love and it will provide them with plenty of energy to fuel their activities. It’s packed with Vitamin C, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants and more!
For more information and tools on how to help your kids lead a healthier lifestyle, visit the UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition website. They offer a wealth of information including tips, recipes, and other resources to help Floridians take control of their health and their lives.
- 2 cups mixed berries like blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries (can use fresh or frozen berries)
- 1 banana, peeled
- ½ cup vanilla Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed or chia seeds
- Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into two glasses and serve.
For more than 100 years, the UF/IFAS Extension Service has helped improve the lives of Florida’s citizens through research, education, and the application of practical knowledge to solving everyday problems. Since 1914, when Extension was established, our faculty and staff have helped people save water and money, improve agricultural practices, promote healthy lifestyles, protect the environment, cultivate civic engagement, foster economic development, and prepare strong and capable youth for a vibrant and productive adulthood.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of UF/IFAS. The opinions and text are all mine.