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Classic Games Keep Kids Active

 

With obesity skyrocketing among our young people, attention is turning to ways to reverse the epidemic. Physical activity offers an antidote by providing a way to burn calories, as well as, boosting coordination and body awareness in a mood lifting alternative to eating and sedentary screen time. Adults who successfully build physical activity into their lives have found a benefit that keeps them committed to the activity. Adults may truly enjoy the exercise or the health benefits may be enough to keep them motivated. Just knowing that it is good for you isn’t enough to keep children active, so exercise needs to be fun. To keep kids engaged, blend physical activity with play and the child will gain opportunities for cognitive, social, and emotional development in addition to building physical skills.

With the explosion of organized sports activities for kids, it is surprising that today’s kids are less physically active than in previous decades. However, an organized sport often occurs only once or twice a week for an hour or two. Kids of days past often played and rode bikes for several hours after getting home from school. The Surgeon General recommends at least 45 minutes of physical activity on most days. Organized sport definitely has a place in a youth’s schedule, but can’t be relied upon to provide all the necessary physical activity. Additional opportunities for physical activity need to be built into school and after-school time. Schools should not cut physical education classes or recess out of the school day. Movement and play boosts cognitive skills.

Classic activities and games such as hopscotch, hula hoops, and jump ropes are ways to bring more activity into your child’s life. These require a relatively small space and can be done indoors and outdoors, so children don’t need to be driven or walked anywhere to participate. Hula Hoop was just named VH1”s #1 Toy of All Time.
If your child is having trouble mastering the classic Hula Hoop technique of keeping the hoop circling around their middle, try using the hoop as a jump rope or have them spin it around on their arm. Hopscotch courts can be made indoors with masking tape on the floor or rug or drawn on pavement outdoors with sidewalk chalk. Google “hopscotch” for directions if you don’t remember them. Hopscotch is a game with rules but can also be used to practice hopping. Jump ropes also can have multiple uses. Try wiggling the rope on the ground like a snake and have your child jump back and forth over it. Two adults or kids can pull the rope taut and create a limbo “stick.” Various forms of hopscotch, jump rope, and hula hoops have been around for years but still offer fun and exercise for kids. Children can use their imaginations to embellish these classics so they also get the cognitive, social and emotional benefits of play.

Once a child is comfortable moving, then being active becomes appealing. Movement is an integral part of life and confident kids have developed body awareness. Feeling at ease on the playground is empowering to any child. Another way to develop body awareness, strength and flexibility at home is by stretching. Many common stretches used in gymnastics, dance, and yoga are given animal names such as dog, cat, seal, butterfly, etc. These animal names make the stretch easier to visualize. Pretending to be animals and turning the stretches into a story adds fun and promotes imaginative play. Play is extremely important to a young child’s development.

To promote your child’s development and instill healthy lifestyle habits, find multiple opportunities for physical activity. Weave play and imagination into exercise and your child will eagerly participate.