Keeping summer's momentum going once school starts.

Posted in Child Care, Family Fun

By Rhiannon Wolfe-Jones

Summertime for our family is an opportunity for lots of activity and fun. Whether it's trips to the park, bike rides, or just staying at home and running through the sprinklers, keeping my kids active isn't too much of a challenge.

The Benefits of Staying Active

“Physical activity can have an impact on cognitive skills and attitudes and academic behavior, all of which are important components of improved academic performance. These include enhanced concentration and attention as well as improved classroom behavior.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The benefits of staying active

But when my oldest son started Kindergarten, I knew transitioning from summer to a full school day would shift his daily physical activities. I was warned by many other parents about how tired he would be and they all suggested built in down-time as soon as he came home from school. In reality, what came home at the end of a long school day was not a bedraggled boy, but a growing child that needed to run. Like many kids, he naturally enjoys being more active but just needs the opportunity or spark to get him going. I knew for sure that once we were home, there was little chance I would be able to motivate my kids to go anywhere else. Armed with snacks and water, I had a plan. We ended the school day with a walk or a bike ride home, which often turned into an extended ride or a stop at the park. I would find a spot with a grassy hill and watch them go wild! They rode up and down, ran the hill and rolled down it. They would keep at it far longer than I ever expected.

I also came to realize that the willingness to learn doesn't stop in the classroom. While I was doing a warm-up one day, my son wanted to know how to do a push-up. Once I showed him, it opened the door to many other physical activities. We got out jump ropes, hula hoop and yoga books. As he continued to practice and learn, he beamed with pride. Learning, putting into practice and then mastering a physical skill is awesome at any age.

My son was fortunate to be a part of an outdoor education program. It taught me that the more time he spent outdoors, the more his mind was prepared for classroom learning. He spent four hours once-a-week tromping through parks in our neighborhood. While I know that is not possible for most kids in a regular school day, there is time in the day for a family walk in the park or even around the block.

My kids orbit me constantly. I find that when I'm willing to shed some household duties and lead the charge I get the best results and have a great time with the added bonus of staying active myself.


Tip 1: Make it a priority

Busy families have many conflicting agendas vying for their time. Keeping kids active has to be made a priority or success will always remain elusive. Once kids incorporate physical activity into their everyday routine, it's a value that they'll carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Tip 2: Model the behavior yourself

As a parent, you are the biggest impact on your kids and their development. If you want your kids to be active, you will need to lead by example. Show your kids how being active can be fun and integrate it into your everyday life. You might just find that you start to enjoy life a little bit more yourself!

Tip 3: Get outside

By maximizing the time your kids spend outside, you're naturally motivating them to become more active. Think of strategies to get them outdoors and you'll find it's just the nudge they need to get moving.

Keep kids moving!
Tip 4: Keep it fun

Expose your kids to as many different types of games, sports and activities as possible. Try things at home or the park that they don't necessarily experience at school. It's important for kids to find things they like early and can feel successful doing, like team sports, solitary pursuits or playing with friends. Don't force it and be sure to allow for plenty of unstructured free play.

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Tip 5: Provide equipment

Make it easy by always keeping a supply of equipment at strategic locations around your house and yard. Often, the simplest toys are the ones most likely to get kids playing and moving. Instead of video games for presents think basketball hoops or bikes. Also, keep your eyes open for yard sales where you can find all kinds of active toys at a discount.

Tip 6: Praise and encourage

Lastly, don't forget to praise and encourage when kids engage in activities and pursue new skills. It's amazing how kids (and adults!) respond to positive feedback.