Creating An Active Family
It’s currently summer where I live. And as a mom of five kids, I am more than happy to put away the winter boots and snowpants and spend as much time as I can in the great outdoors.
However, if I left my children to their own devices, they would spend their entire summer in front of a screen. Especially the teenagers. The only thing that stands between them and the TV or computer is me. And my husband.
Now I happen to believe the research that says too much screen time isn’t good for our kids. Actually, it’s not good for any of us!
Image via Flickr
The downfalls of screen time include:
- it’s bad for your eye sight. Experts say you should take at least a 20 second break after 20 minutes of staring at a screen.
- it’s bad for your posture. Shoulders and necks round forward creating muscle imbalances. Your head jutting forward means additional pounds for your neck.
- it interferes with sleep. Avoid all screens at least one hour before bed to get a better night’s sleep. Screens don’t belong on the bedroom.
- screens contribute to inactivity and obesity.
- screens provide only one-sided interaction. That means children don’t develop proper social skills.
- and lastly, research shows a direct correlation between the amount of screen time and depression, especially in teenagers.
But being outside has the complete opposite effects on our bodies!
Some of the benefits of being outside include:
- it boosts creativity.
- it’s a natural stress reliever.
- it improves short-term memory.
- it reduces inflammation and decreases our risk of several diseases including cancer.
- it supports healthy vision.
- it improves our concentration and helps us stay sharp.
- it boosts our immune system.
- it reduces anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
- and it helps us sleep better.
Now here’s the bad news. I might have swayed you to believe in the negative effects of screen time and the benefits of being outdoors.
But most kids don’t care about these things!
You know what kids want? Fun!
If you can make your time in the great outdoors enjoyable, your kids will forget that they’re not being entertained by a screen and they’ll learn to love being an active family outdoors.
How To Get Started Being an Active Family
Be a Good Example
Chances are that if your children are addicted to their screens, it’s because of you and me. If we hadn’t bought those screens and brought them into our houses, our children wouldn’t be staring at them.
If you want to encourage your family to spend more time outdoors and get more active, it begins with you. Turn off your computers and phones, get out there and have some fun on your own before insisting everyone else do likewise.
Kids won’t always listen to the words we say. But they’re always watching what we do.
Make it Fun
Like I said, kids love to have fun. Don’t we all!
However, not everyone will enjoy the same outdoor activities. Some will want to go swimming, others are up for a game of baseball, and during the winter some people will want to grab Bauer hockey equipment and hit the closest ice rink. If your family is anything like mine, an argument will ensue as you decide which activity you’ll do.
As the parent, it’s on you to make the final decision. You can take it to a vote and go with the majority. Or you can give each child the opportunity to pick the activity for a certain day.
If you stay committed to finding a fun activity you all enjoy, eventually, you will find it.
Set Realistic Goals
If your family is new to being active outdoors, don’t make unrealistic goals.
Start small. Venture out to a nearby playground. Take a walk around the block. Toss around a beach ball.
Whatever you do, don’t start off with a day-long hike.
Suggestions To Get You Started
A family game where movement and fun are the goals.
My family has played several sports together – soccer, basketball, and baseball. Switching up teams mid-game with a family of seven is half the fun!
And of course, you’re allowed to make your own rules up as you go and the score never matters.
Plan an adventure.
Maybe it’s a short hike in a local park. Perhaps a walk through the local zoo. Take a walk through your neighborhood, pretending you’re a tourist seeing everything for the first time.
Take time to discover something new. If you adjust your perspective, you can find an adventure anywhere.
Create a scavenger hunt.
If your family rolls their eyes when you suggest an outdoor walk, turn the event into a hunt.
Supply each team or person with a list of things they need to find and either gather the items or allow them to bring a camera or phone to take pictures of their findings.
The best part? The winner can pick the next activity!
What can you do in your own backyard? Make an obstacle course! It doesn’t have to be as elaborate as a Ninja warrior course. A couple of objects to race under, over, and in between will do for a start.
Invest in a trampoline, a basketball or badminton net, or a bocce ball game. Any game you can play in your backyard with as little as two players will help you reconnect as a family and with nature.
Use what you have.
Do you have bikes gathering cobwebs in the garage? Perhaps some roller blades, a rusty skateboard, or a fishing rod? Dust it off and introduce your children to the hobbies you used to love.
Play in the rain.
Some of my favorite childhood memories involved playing in the warm summer rain. Whether it be snow, rain, or some other less-than-ideal weather condition, find a way to get outside, even if only for a few minutes. Kids love umbrellas and jumping in puddles. And the fresh air is good for every body.
Winter brings with it the opportunity to slide down hills and ice skate. Rather than let the weather keep you inside, make the best of the season.
Before You Head Out
If you’re already thinking about planning an outdoor family adventure for your active family, keep these tips in mind:
- dress for the weather. In summer, be prepared with sunscreen and bug repellent. Wear layers in winter.
- stay hydrated. Bring water with you and know where public washrooms are located.
- plan ahead to avoid disappointment and make sure your outdoor gear is in good shape.
And lastly, plan to have fun. With the right mindset and a good sense of humor, you can be the one who helps your active family rediscover the great outdoors!
Guest Post by Sophia Nguyen
Sophia Nguyen is the founder of “Healthy Baby Happy Earth” website. She is a blogger, and she loves writing about babies and helping the parents by providing only the most useful information. She has just published a new post on her site, too! Follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram