When I was a kid I loved getting outside and being active. Be it riding bikes, playing down at the local park, climbing whatever was in front of me and even participating with all the kids in the street in a good old game of street cricket. Even when I was indoors I was constantly being told not to throw the ball around or to be careful playing footy or cricket down the hallway. Those were the days before xbox, online gaming, pay tv, internet and mobile phones. When you got home from school dropped the bag, changed your clothes and you played outside until you either got called inside for dinner or the sun went down.
These days it seems that unless children are involved with organised sport or are forced to participate in activities at school, the days of getting outside and enjoying the fresh air are somewhat diminished. It is important that we understand that encouraging kids to be active has to start at home. Involve the whole family to be healthy and active and everyone could benefit.
To me there is no substitute for getting out and enjoying the fresh air. However, keeping children active in a world that supplies endless prospects to sit down and be mindlessly entertained can be a tough ask. And while most people may think that interactive video games are beneficial, they are no substitute for real outdoor play.
Providing children with with a culture of fun, games and fitness creates a positive atmosphere at home, even if you have limited outdoor space at home there are plenty of parks, reserves and recreational areas within local councils that the family can take advantage of.
The benefits of being active as a family
Physical activities and outdoor play help to develop children’s fitness as well as develop a foundation of balance, coordination, agility, strength, speed, flexibility and stamina.
It’s not just the physical benefits that are important, children learn valuable life lessons when playing games involving others, like how to cooperate with others, sharing, the advantages of working hard and what it’s like to win and lose.
Other benefits of outdoor play include;
- Improved self esteem & self confidence
- Improved hand eye coordination
- Positive skills and values that can be used in other sports and other aspects of life
How to encourage outdoor play
It is said we can help children develop by encouraging them from an early age to run, kick, jump, throw, catch, swim and dance. Here are some ways to encourage your kids and family to get off the lounge.
- Turn the tv off and get the whole family outside as much as possible- Use special events such as christmas and birthdays to introduce sporting toys and equipment such as footballs, soccer balls, skipping ropes, trampoline, and frisbees.
- Join a group that involves activity such as gymnastics, dancing or a social group, perhaps even a local group that offers afternoon activities for kids.
- Try to make outdoor play as fun as possible. I know it may be hard to deal with different ages, genders and skill levels so offer positive reinforcement where appropriate.
As the kids get older;
- Try and use the car less and as a family walk or cycle when possible
- Encourage the kids to take up individual sports like swimming, dancing, tennis or organised social sport.
- JOIN IN! Rather than sit around the house, get involved and organise family outings regularly.
- organise family holidays that involve exercise such as going to the beach, bush walking or sailing.
Physical activity and outdoor games are great for building fitness and reducing weight but they can also be a fun way to get the family together. There are a wide variety of games and activities you as a family can play so use your imagination, get outside and get active!