I recently read that three quarters of UK children spend less time outdoors than prisoners. Worse than that – a fifth of children did not play outside AT ALL in an average day. This really shocked me.
When I was a girl (god that makes me sound old!) I used to spend the majority of my time outdoors, and my room was a place for sleep and sleep only. Come rain, wind or shine, I would be out in the garden, heading down to my local park, or climbing trees at every possible opportunity. As such, despite the fact that my diet was far from perfect (I too was a picky eater), my Mum rarely had to worry about issues like childhood obesity or a lack of vitamin C.
As Erin grows up, it has become more and more apparent that times are changing in this technical age, and our children’s preferences are somewhat different. Even at the age of four, Erin is very aware of technology (probably largely influenced by myself) and as such, her down time of choice would quite often be playing on the iPad, or watching the latest Disney movie. Whilst everything in moderation is good, I am trying to encourage Erin to be more active and would much rather she played outside that sat indoors on a pleasant day.
The government’s Change 4 Life initiative recommends that children should be active for at least 1 hour each day.
Here are my tips to encourage your children to be more active:
- Dance. Indoors or out, dancing is a fun and non obvious way of incorporating exercise into your daily routine. We put some music on, turn up the volume and dance with the girls. I am talking silly spinning, bouncing, and bum shaking – think ‘dance like no one’s watching’! Not only is this a great way to help Erin burn off some excess energy, but is fab for us too. We have been known to have all four of us dancing round the lounge like lunatics to children’s disco classics such as Happy from Despicable Me or Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off. Oh how my Saturday nights have changed.
- Scooting – At the age of four, Erin has yet to master the art of a bicycle (peddling is somewhat of a challenge!) however she is getting pretty nifty on her scooter! We love to wander down to the local park and whilst she would normally get tired quickly if we walked, the scooter seems to extend her energy levels so we can travel just that little bit further. Amazing what a pair of wheels can do!
- Treasure Hunts and Outdoor Games – I used to spend hours outside playing Acky 123 and What’s the time Mr Wolf with my friends as a child, and we have recently introduced these games to Erin. She finds it hilarious when we shout DINNER TIME! and legs it off down the garden like Usain Bolt – Seriously, for someone with such little legs she is FAST! She also loves to help us out with chores in the garden, whether it be watering the flowers, gathering up the leaves in the autumn or planting seeds with Daddy.
- Mix up the school / nursery run – whilst it isn’t always possible, we always try and walk to and from preschool when time and weather allows. I love the chit chat we have about her day on the way home, and I can distract Erin from her walk by asking her to spot numbers on houses as we pass by.
- Kids Run Free – for older children and those who may enjoy the friendly competition but in a relaxed and non judgemental environment, these free children only running events are lots of fun. They take place across the UK in local parks on the first weekend of every month. We took Erin to her first one over Easter, and she absolutely loved it.
- Walk the dog if you have one, or offer to walk a neighbours! 🙂 Erin loves dogs, and whilst we don’t have our own, she enjoys going to the park with her cousin and their puppy. Throwing a stick and playing with a four legged friend in the park is a great way of sneaking in exercise.
- Bring out the Kite – as a child, some of my fondest memories involve flying a stunt kite with my dad at the beach. At Christmas the big guy in red bought Erin her first ever kite. We encourage her to run along with it to get it started, and let the wind do the rest!
- National Trust places are fantastic for getting outside in some truly stunning locations whilst entertaining the children. Our local National Trust garden at Packwood House has loads of child friendly features, including a potting shed, teddy bears picnic and enough running space to wear out little legs! Erin loves to play hide and seek around the topiary garden, and usually falls asleep in the car on the way home!
- Make the most of your own outside space however small that may be – we recently did a complete garden renovation project to make our garden child friendly, and as such Erin wants to be in it ALL of the time. If you have the room, invest in some garden toys such as a slide, swing or even a hoop toss, to encourage some simple game playing and activities.
- Gymnastics – ever since the Olympics, Erin has been obsessed with gymnastics, even planning her own little dance routines around the lounge. We recently started taking her to 45 minute gymnastics classes which she absolutely loves. Even better, Mummy gets 45 minutes of relative peace and quiet whilst she is in there – if only the class ran every day!!
What methods to you use to be active with your children?
Do you find encouraging active play a challenge?
*This is a collaborative post.*