Children, especially at a certain age, will mimic everything their parents do. This alone should give many parents pause for thought, especially considering the burgeoning number of obese children and the high levels of inactivity among Cayman’s youth.
If your child follows your example, what will they become?
Do you eat junk food and lounge around the house, or do you lead an active lifestyle paired with a healthy diet?
The best way to see to it that children develop healthy habits is to set a good example and get your children to be active with you. As kids are active by nature, this can be quite easy to do, only requiring a couple of small lifestyle changes that, in the long run, can have a positive impact on your own health as well.
Fitness through play
Although parents tend to think of fitness as a lot of work, this does not apply to young children. For them, fitness is gained through play. Whether developing endurance through running around, hand-eye coordination through playing catch or strength through playing on the jungle gym, children develop through play. The role of the parent is to facilitate opportunities for play through taking spending time outside with the child or even taking the child to suitable facilities should none be available at home. Although finding time might prove tough, helping children build the foundation for an active lifestyle early on can have a big impact on their future health and wellbeing.
Take a walk
As children age, it might become necessary to include more structured activities in order to invovle them and get them to leave the house. One of the easiest ways to promote a healthy lifestyle among children is for families to go for walks together. Whether on the beach, in a park, around a golf course, or merely down the street, taking a walk as a family is the easiest way to start a habit of getting outside and being active. It also creates family time outside the home, which can open channels of communication as well.
Spend time in the pool or ocean
Swimming combines fun with the acquisition of an essential life skill. Spending time in the pool or in the ocean will help to build a child’s confidence in the water, all while having fun. However, as part of promoting a healthy and active lifestyle, remember to use sunscreen in order to help children limit sun damage while spending time outside.
Playing sport together
Many parents already have a sporting activity they are involved in, or one they used to be involved in. Sports like tennis and squash are very easy to share with children. Play does not have to be structured, as just going out and hitting a ball together is an excellent way to work on fitness as well as coordination. The sport does not have to develop into something competitive if the child does not want to take it on, but can still be a good parent-child activity that can continue for many years. Other sports like cycling or jogging are also ideal activities for parents and children to participate in together once the child is somewhat older.
Make time for activities
Many children can become sedentary because parents are unable or unwilling to shuttle their children to sporting activities during the day. It is very important that wherever possible parents make time to enable their children to be active. Maybe it is necessary for a couple of parents to club together so that it is only necessary to drive children to practice once every week, or once every two weeks. However, enabling your child to make full use of the activities available is extremely important if a child is to become or remain active.
For many parents, encouraging an active lifestyle in their children can hold big benefits for them as well. Spending time being active with your children can help your own health as well, as it forces you to get out and do something. Participating in activities together can also help break down the wall that can build between parents and children in later years, as it creates an atmosphere in which it is easier to talk about things.
The single most important tip for keeping kids active is to keep it fun. Children can easily be drawn into an active lifestyle if they enjoy the activities and especially if they have someone to do the activities with.
Planting the seeds of an active lifestyle early on can benefit children for many years to come, in all facets of their lives.