When my son comes home from school, he immediately wants to plop down on the couch and play on the iPad... or watch television.... or go on the computer. I know he needs a minute to digest from a busy school day and relax his body and mind, but let's be honest, he's in first grade; his immediate need to chill is only going to get worse as work gets harder and challenges arise. 

In fact, I've found that a better way to "unwind" is by getting him more active. It might seem intuitive, but anyone who's tried to wrangle a young kid to bed after hour of screen time can relate to what I'm saying. While he may think he wants to lounge, his body and mind could actually use more physical stimulation. This movement is what makes him feel happier and act more settled after a challenging morning and afternoon of learning and socializing. I see a huge improvement in his behavior when we walk-jog home from school and stop at the playground.

Sometimes I have to motivate him; many times I have to motivate myself. But the benefits are countless, for the sake of everyone's physical and mental health. Limiting your children's inactivity (and your own!) and stepping up your family fitness game will transform your bodies and minds. I consulted Dr. Jeff E. Sellman, from the Florida Orthopedic Institute, for his top tips and take...


How Much Exercise Does a Child Need?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day is recommended for children older than six. This includes aerobic exercise, either moderate or vigorous, as well as muscle and bone. Jumping rope, running, gymnastics or walking all are great activities to take up during that hour. However, getting your children into it might not be an easy task if they’re already interested in digital gadgets.

How to Make Children Interested in Activity?

Spending time on playgrounds with other children is an excellent way to help your children live a more active lifestyle. Social interaction with peers will help most kids feel engaged at the playground, and will also act as an excellent motivator to start with the activity. If your child prefers only to use their devices, then you’ll have to do some guesswork as to which event they might enjoy. Let them try out everything they’re interested in, and something is sure to stick sooner or later.

Age-Appropriate Activities

While offering some choice to your children can be crucial, it’s equally important to keep any activity age-appropriate. What this means is that younger kids tend to need more fun and simplicity, while older children can handle more complex game rules or commitment to an activity. Parents can also encourage older children to dedicate themselves more to their chosen activity.

Setting Clear Boundaries as Part of Your Routine

As much as encouragement and praise are useful, your children should also be aware of what undesirable behaviors are. In this case, you might want to set boundaries around smartphone use and general screen time. Many families build up a ritual around mealtimes, which is one instance when digital distractions should be far away. Lead by example, and set a limit on your own screen time as well as your children’s.

Encouraging Positive Behavior

As a parent, you’re a role model to your children. So if you want them to be active, you have to exercise with them, or at least have them notice you’re working out. It will set a positive example. Keep in mind that children will follow your lead if you let them know, for instance, that you value activity. That’s bound to shake up even the most indifferent, smartphone-loving child.

It’s imperative to instill good activity habits in your children early if you wish them to avoid all the consequences of an inactive life. 

Tips courtesy of Jeff E. Sellman, M.D. from Florida Orthopedic Institute

Related Articles