Over spring break, kids will benefit from putting screens away and getting some exercise.
Positive ways to encourage kids to exercise include focusing on fun, keeping it social, using foot-powered transportation, giving gifts that encourage physical activity, registering your child for camp, planning an active vacation, setting a good example, and limiting screen time.
Spring break is right around the corner! If you’re concerned about your child’s plans to stay home all week playing Fortnite, watching YouTube, and text chatting on Discord — well, you probably should be. As many of us know by now, screen time can impact everything from obesity risk to brain development. For the sake of your child’s physical and mental health, encourage him to put electronic devices away over break — and, instead, get moving.
Here are some helpful ideas to promote exercise over electronics:
Focus on fun. Let’s face it, most kids (and adults!) don’t exactly think that going for a run is a good time. However, what about chasing after a Frisbee, playing a game of tag, splashing around the pool, or going on a nature hike? Kids generally enjoy participating in active fun, so keep the main focus on the “fun” part and they probably won’t even notice they’re also getting exercise. And don’t be shy about joining in! Most kids love parent participation, and you’ll benefit from the exercise, too.
Keep it social. Invite along a friend, or group of friends, to join your child for some active play. Pack up the minivan with kids and healthy snacks — then head to an outdoor park (or indoor activity center, if the weather is bad). You’ll probably be pleased to see your couch potato participating along with other kids while climbing play structures, shooting hoops, doing cartwheels in the grass, or playing hopscotch.
Use foot-powered transportation. On the other hand, you might want to forget the minivan plan — after all, when’s the last time anyone in your family walked, skateboarded, or biked somewhere? Spring break is the perfect time to get outdoors and explore the neighborhood. Even if you’re heading out to a more sedentary activity like a visit to the library, or to the movies, perhaps you can find a way to incorporate exercise as transportation into the day’s plan.
Give gifts that encourage physical activity. If you’ve been thinking about buying your child a new soccer ball, jump rope, hula-hoop, or roller skates, now is a great time to do so. Kids love new stuff (who doesn’t?!) and will have lots of time over break to enjoy new sports equipment — along with the related health benefits that these gifts bring with them.
Register your child for camp. Even if you’re stuck at the office over break, you can still arrange for your child to be on the move. With so many great camp options to choose from these days, there’s probably a camp for whatever sport or activity your child enjoys — soccer, dancing, basketball, swimming, gymnastics, baseball, volleyball, or whatever else matches his personal interests. Spring break camp is a great way to keep your child active, social, and having fun.
Plan an active vacation. If you are free to travel, and still in the process of making spring break plans, consider an active family getaway. The surrounding region offers ample opportunities for outdoor family fun such as hiking, biking, climbing, and skiing.
Set a good example. Show your kids that exercise is important by regularly participating in it yourself. Talk about how it helps keep people healthy, manages weight-related problems, and prevents disease.
Limit screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends placing consistent limits on screen time, along with establishing, and following, a family media plan. The content and quality of what your kids are doing online also matters. Because electronic devices aren’t going anywhere, you might suggest your child take advantage of modern-day motivators to exercise, such as fitness trackers and game-oriented fitness apps. Some games, like Pokemon Go, might actually encourage kids to go outside and take a walk. Or, many smartphones can count steps; try setting a family challenge of 10,000 steps a day — and be sure to celebrate success at the end of the week.
Keep it up! Encourage the whole family to maintain these healthy exercise habits not only during spring break, but also throughout the entire year.
Do you have more questions about raising healthy kids? Text circle to 90538 to download the Circle by Swedish app, which gives you handy provider-approved advice on parenting topics, as well as health-tracking tools and checklists.
Subscribe to the Swedish blog for monthly health tips from our medical experts.