April is a great time to make outdoor play a part of your family’s daily routine.  I’ve always believed that any activity is good for the body AND mind and this is especially true for our children. As childhood obesity is present in our minds and as we find ways to decline this high percentage, many parents ask me what they can personally do in establishing good habits so that their children do not have to live with lifelong health problems. With fast food on every corner like a deadly disease and with schools putting more pressure on academics  and less time on gym and recess; I believe it is important to have a POA to keep your kids nourished inside and out. Watching children in a park – shows us how energetic they can be –  is a wondrous spectacle of running, climbing, and games of pretend. Primarily this is fun, and it will prime your kids for a yearning to remain active.

Regular and vigorous activity leads to healthy growth and development, strong bones and muscles, improved balance and coordination, improved weight management, cardiovascular fitness, better posture, and a positive outlook on life. And as children gain physical skills, they gain self-esteem. A healthy, active child is not just a happier person, they are more likely to be academically motivated and successful in their own right.

Try these tips on for size and you will just find that, in a short space of time, your whole family can start feeling better and living healthier.

Choose the right activity for your child’s age. Preschoolers need play that helps them learn motor skills. Activities can include throwing or kicking a ball, hopping around on one foot, learning to ride a bike, running obstacle courses, playing tag or follow the leader.

The challenge for parents of school age kids is to find physical activities that are enjoyable and age appropriate. Anything from mainstream sports like baseball, basketball football,volleyball and hockey to more unconventional sports like rock climbing, archery and water polo will do the trick. For older kids, playing team sports can also be a great way to teach them about commitment and collaboration.

Let your children help in the kitchen: Making the kitchen off-limits to little ones for safety has advantages in their early years, but when they’re a bit older, include them! I believe that letting your children help prepare healthy food alongside you can often be the first step toward getting them to eat and enjoy different foods. If we want our children to enjoy a variety of nutritious foods we must first teach our children the names of these foods, how they are grown and where they are from so that they have some interest in what they are about to taste. From watching us as parents enjoy such foods they might now follow our lead. Guiding your children how to make their own nutrient-rich meals can also help them continue to make healthy choices long after they’ve flown the nest.

Escape the blues: It’s so important for little ones to get outside, especially if you’ve been cooped up all winter. (Those dreary English days can get to me, too!) Not only can getting a bit of sunlight boost your mood, vitamin D from the sun also aids calcium absorption and helps kids grow healthy bones.

Give your kids plenty of opportunities to get active. Provide easy access to equipment like balls, jump ropes and other active sports gear. This is especially important for younger children. Take them to playgrounds, parks and other places where they can find excitement. For older kids, providing transportation, sports equipment and maybe a few lessons will help provide the focus they need to stay active. Don’t forget there are plenty of skateboarding and bike hubs that teenagers enjoy too.

Veggies – NO big deal: Children are extremely perceptive. When it feels like a parent or caregiver is making a big deal about eating a certain food, it can put kids off. Instead, make vegetables neutral by letting kids see, smell, and taste a wide variety of veggie-based dishes. Trying to sneak a handful of the old peas and carrots into macaroni can often backfire. Don’t label them “health food” or insinuate that there’s a punishment for not eating them. Once your kids are more familiar with how tasty veggies can be, they won’t be as insistent about picking them out of every dish.

Keep it fun. You know how hard it is to get anyone of any age to do something they don’t enjoy. When your child enjoys an activity, they will want to do more of it. When they practice a skill, they will develop their abilities and get that feeling of accomplishment we all need in order to “keep at it.” It’s especially important for us, as parents, to take notice of our children’s efforts and give them the praise they deserve. These good feelings will make kids want to continue their sport and build the courage to try out new ones. Keep in mind that some kids might want to pursue greatness in a sport, while others may be content as casual participants.

Staying healthy doesn’t have to be an uphill battle. Just a few changes to your usual activities can give you more bonding time with your family and make your kids healthier in the long run. And you will feel better, too!

See you out there,

x, Jo

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