The habits you form as a child are likely the habits you will carry with you throughout your life. While it’s never too late to make positive changes, establishing healthy habits early on makes it a lot easier down the road. Physical fitness is one healthy habit that should be encouraged as early as possible, especially if your child has diabetes.
Exercise is one of the best ways to balance your blood sugar and maintain a healthy weight. It makes you feel good, sleep well, and helps stave off a whole host of diseases that people with diabetes are at risk of developing. Exercise helps kids build muscle and stronger bones.
But it’s not just good for your body. Exercise can actually make you happy! It’s also great for cognitive health, as physical activity helps stimulate your brain. Studies have shown it actually improves memory and concentration, which are crucial during school-aged years.
However, in the age of cell phones, computers, tablets, and game consoles, getting your kids off the couch can be a real challenge. Who can’t relate to the desire to binge watch your favorite show at the expense of physical activity? So, we’re here to help with some tips (and a few tricks) to get your kids moving!
1. Give gifts that promote activity
While your kids might be asking for the latest and greatest technology, you can always guide some of their choices by giving gifts that promote activity. Who doesn’t remember their first bike? Looking for something a little less extravagant? Jump ropes, balls, skates, and yard games all make excellent gifts!
2. Help them appreciate the outdoors
Instilling an appreciation for nature can minimize the effort you have to put into encouraging them to go outside. Take advantage of local resources. Visit a park for a day hike, spend a weekend camping, go swimming in a lake or ocean! In addition to exercise, your kiddos will also be learning to respect the environment!
3. Be a good example
If you set boundaries for yourself and stick to them (i.e. limiting the amount of time you spend on devices), and instead make being active a priority, it models healthier choices for your children. If they see you leaving each morning for the gym or coming back from a run after work, this shows them that exercise is a normal part of a healthy routine.
4. Don’t let the weather be an excuse
I grew up in the desert where summer days often exceeded 110 degrees, so certain activities were less than ideal. However, it made swimming (or even running around in sprinklers) sound pretty appealing. As the weather cools off, a little creativity will go a long way! Raking up leaves? Let your kids jump in the piles! Live somewhere it snows? Build snowmen or have a snowball fight!
5. Encourage walking
When you can, ditch the car. Instead of driving to the park down the street, take a stroll. Don’t always choose the parking spot closest to the building you’re entering. Your kids might not love the idea of taking a walk with their friends, but turning it into an activity like a scavenger hunt in the neighborhood, makes it a lot more enticing!
6. Make it a family event
Set aside time to be active as a family. Not only is this a great way to get your kids engaging in physical activity, it also gives you the opportunity to connect while doing something fun! Consider taking a walk in your neighborhood, going on a bike ride, or playing a game of tag.
7. Help them navigate feelings of boredom
As a parent, you’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase, “I’m bored” more than once. While it’s important to encourage your children to think of creative solutions to their boredom, it doesn’t hurt to have some fun activities you can offer as jumping off points. You can help steer them in the direction of doing something active and away from disengaging in front of the television.
8. Get involved
Encourage your kids to explore an interest. Consider dance classes, or joining a team sport. In addition to being a great source of exercise, participating in sports can also teach your kiddo a lot about teamwork, dedication, accountability, and respect.
9. Kick them out
It’s not necessarily the most graceful of tricks, but sometimes a parent has to do what a parent has to do. If your kiddo is being a couch potato, kick them out of the house! Don’t worry. We aren’t suggesting you lock the doors, but simply encourage them to head to the yard for an hour of playtime.
L.D. and her eleven-year-old lab, Eleanor Rigby Fitzgerald, moved from Seattle to Grand Rapids earlier this year, and are currently enjoying exploring their new city! She likes books, music, movies, running, and being outdoors as much as possible.