Only about one-third of Canadian kids are as physically active as the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute (CFLRI) recommends for their minimum level of health. Such a statistic means that there are lots of kids sitting in front of the TV set or playing video games when they should be out in the playground, or on the bike path, or wrestling with the dog in the family room.
In most Canadian schools, physical education does't rank high on the priorities for the curriculum. In New Brunswick, for example, only 56 minutes per week of phys. ed. are scheduled into the average elementary school timetable. That's barely 11 minutes a day of purposeful training, apart from any recess and lunch-hour activity. If parents want their kids to reach the CFLRI's recommended minimum of 60 minutes a day, it's up to them to get their kids moving.
How to get your child to be more active
Canadian kids are four times less active today than kids of the same age were forty years ago in the pre-TV-invasion 1950s, and the reasons are well documented. On average, Canadian kids spend nearly as much time sitting in front of the television set as they do sitting in school. Other technological toys take up more of their time-and adults' time, too. Kids walk to school less; parents drive their kids and themselves to more places.
Really listen to what your children like to do. Involve their friends or other families in your neighbourhood in your games. Provide the equipment and a safe environment at home, or take everybody to the park and make sure there are enough balls or Hula-Hoops to go around. Suggest games that appeal to the children's activity level and imagination. State the object of the game in a few simple words. Then step back and let the kids take the lead.
Don't let them get bogged down with too many rules. It's better to bend the rules to fit the kids than to bend the kids to fit the game. Modify outdoor games for indoors and vice versa. The idea is to make the activity a game, not a competition, and your child's skills will follow naturally.
How do you stir your sedentary child from the couch?
First, assess your own activity level. Not surprisingly, the children of active parents spend more time on physical activity than the children whose parents are inactive. You may need to get moving yourself. The next step is to put limits on the amount of time you and your children spend in front of the TV set or the computer. Third, consider the ways that you can add more physical activity to your and their day-to-day life. Would it be safe for your daughter to walk to and from school every day rather than be driven, if she walked with an older child in the neighbourhood? Could your son help one or both parents with household chores-perhaps cleaning the lowest windows, doing some of the laundry tasks, helping wash the car or dust the bookshelves?
Then, look for ways to spark their interest in new activities that will get them moving. When you play boisterous, rough-and-tumble physical games with them, you all have fun together. Your child learns the skills of teamwork and develops more enthusiasm for physical activity at the same time as he gets his daily quota of exercise. And you get more exercise yourself, and become a better model for your child.
Consider your children's personalities, but took for ways to involve them in something active. Your daughter may be shy and prefer not to join the games of the neighbourhood kids outside. But if she loves animals, suggest that she and a friend offer to walk the neighbour's dog every other day. Follow the children's interests, rather than impose your ideas on them, but they may need your guidance and suggestions at first. If they show an interest in team sports, look for an organized sport in the community, but also consider other groups whose activities are appropriate to their ages, and keep your children on the move.
Page 1 of 2 - Read about fun games you can play with your child on page 2.
Activities for kids six and under
Everyone wearing one particular colour chases after those wearing the other colours, and tags them.
Monkey in the Middle
Everyone stands in a circle, with one person in the middle as the "Monkey." Those in the circle toss a soft ball or beanbag from one to the other. As the beanbag flies through the air, the monkey tries to grab it. If successful, he joins the circle, and the one who didn't catch the beanbag becomes the monkey.
Count how many volleys the two teams can get back and forth across the net, how many Hula-Hoop rotations each of you can do, or how many seconds a child can stay poised in a handstand. Challenge each other to better the numbers at every go.
You all become a herd of wild horses, or a track full of race cars, or a tag team of wrestlers.
This is like volleyball, except it's played on a racquetball court. You bounce the ball off the walls, or kick it with your feet. Play with as many people as you like, divided into two teams.
This is also like volleyball, but you're allowed to catch the ball, which slows the game down and makes it easier for small kids to participate.
Play three on three with an oversize bouncy ball.
Use a big plastic bat and a big bouncy ball.
In this variation on baseball, the pitcher (you) rolls the bouncy ball to the child, who kicks it, rather than bats it.
Activities for seven- to nine-year-olds
• Don't underestimate the power of a new toy. It doesn't have to be expensive-marbles, a skipping rope, a HulaHoop, liquid soap bubbles, or a plastic snow slider may be enough. Once you've brought it home, suggest that your daughter invite a friend over and try it out.
• Plan a hike for the family that gives the children an opportunity to explore nature, to watch tadpoles and frogs in their natural habitat, or to collect samples of different leaves or nuts and pine cones.
• Plan an outdoor scavenger hunt. It's like hiking, but with the added
thrill of the hunt.
• Take your child wall climbing at an indoor facility. It's popular, it's safe (they'll be in a harness), and it's an adventure.
• Offer to enroll them in dance classes, which require a fair amount of exercise and movement with a purpose. Many cultural groups offer classes to teach their traditional folk dances, which are very energetic.
Activities for 10- to 12-year-olds
• Offer to take them snowboarding and provide instruction.
• Try in-line skates for the family, but be sure to get the appropriate protective gear at the same time.
• Suggest a water balloon fight in the playground.
• Take your daughter and her friend to play laser tag.
• Take your son door-to-door canvassing with you, on the Terry Fox Run, or on a bike-a-thon for the Canadian Cancer Society.
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Excerpted from Raising great Kids: Ages 6 to 12 by Christine Langlois. Copyright 1999 by Telemedia Communications Inc. Excerpted, with permission by Ballantine Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.