By: David Reeves
During the summer, it can be impossible to get the kids in the house even to eat dinner. The school year changes all that, as temperatures may drop, and youngsters must replace hide-and-seek with homework. Studies have shown that nearly three-fourths of all children don’t get sufficient exercise once classes begin. Most schools only have a brief half-hour recess around lunchtime, and physical education classes can be a challenge for students who are shy or are not athletically inclined. It’s important for parents and teachers to encourage students to exercise and play often. Here are a few tips on how to make physical activities fun for kids after the first school bell rings.
Benefits of year-round exercise
- Kids can burn off excess energy after playing sports or games outside, making them more likely to stay attentive during homework and in class.
- It can ward off Type 2 diabetes. Now considered an epidemic among American children, this condition often results from a sedentary lifestyle.
- Physical activity fosters healthy bone and muscle development in growing children.
After-school activities are a great way to help young boys and girls stay active once classes are in session. Whether you’re raising a mini Tom Brady or the next Neil deGrasse Tyson, there’s probably an extracurricular club or local class to suit your child’s talents and interests.
Ballet, gymnastics and karate classes are great ways to motivate kids to get off the couch. These activities not only promote physical wellness; they also encourage social development and hone coordination and balance. Check out interactive storytelling and plays at nearby theaters or libraries. These alternatives are great for expressive students who may struggle with sports.
Parents can get on board by coaching Little League games or volunteering at arts and crafts sessions.
What if my child is shy?
Some children are daunted by the prospect of joining a sports team, or even attending a class with their peers. Middle school and high school students especially struggle with this, as classmates may break into cliques and alienate one another to gain popularity. Talk to your kids to get a feel for how comfortable they are in a social setting before enrolling them in extracurricular programs. At-home projects and games usually keep quiet kids entertained without causing social anxiety.
Video games no longer require players to stay fixed in front of the television; with advanced systems that include the Wii and Xbox Kinect, more reserved youths can spend their evenings cutting a rug in the dynamic “Dance Dance Revolution” series, or simulating soccer in “Kinect Sports.” Scientific research ranks more physical video games among viable alternatives to outdoor recreation.
A wide variety of game titles means that even pre-teens and teens can find something they like. The best part is that you can play along and make it an interactive evening for the whole family.
Parents who are reluctant to try virtual entertainment as an option may want to organize outdoor play dates with friends, or create their own at-home adventures, such as a basement treasure hunt, or a backyard obstacle course. If you live in a bigger city, try an old standby, sidewalk hopscotch.
The school year may limit opportunities for outdoor recreation, but it doesn’t have to limit your child’s physical activity. Remember, if you commit to just an hour of exercise or more of active playtime each day, you can prevent health problems for a lifetime.
About the author:
David Reeves is the Marketing Director at Superior Grounds For Play. A community coach for 10 years, he knows the benefits of team sports and staying active. GFP play environments are designed to challenge children both mentally and physically to encourage development and independent play.