I’m alarmed at how many overweight children and teens I see in my practice. In my opinion, many children spend too much time tethered to their computers, electronic devices or the television. In addition, school days are getting longer, leaving less time for play.
Some kids take naturally to sports or activity, while others need a bit more encouragement. I know parents don’t want to add one more thing to their already full to-do lists, but it’s important for children to get one hour of activity – preferably every day.
How can you help your child get the exercise he needs? First of all, make it fun and don’t let it turn into a tug of war. Creativity and patience may be needed, but the payoff is worth it.
It Doesn’t Have to Be Sports-Related
- If your child doesn’t go for organized sports, try activities like swimming, karate or dancing.
- Limit TV and device time to an hour or two each day.
- Get the family moving together. Ride bikes, take a hike, play badminton or walk to the grocery instead of driving
- Be a good role model by making exercise part of your routine.
- Put activity on the calendar. For instance, set aside Tuesdays and Thursdays for family walks.
- Use positive reinforcement, like praise or small rewards, not nagging or punishment.
- Get one of your child’s friends involved in an activity they enjoy together, like ice-skating, bike riding or swimming.
- Don’t dictate. Let your child take a major part in decisions about activities.
- Be sure activity options are age appropriate. Teens may want to skateboard or play an action video game, while younger children may want to just run around outside.
- Set up an area indoors where kids can roll, jump or tumble.
Make Play Fun
For more ideas and resources, check out the website for the National Football League’s Play 60, a campaign to encourage children to get an hour of activity daily. You’ll also find ways to get your child’s school involved and a kid-friendly app.
Dr. Kathryn Wright is a board-certified pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Summer Creek Clinic in Humble. Child obesity, newborn care, and ADHD are among her top clinical interests. Being around kids makes every day at work fun for her.