Getting the kids to turn off their devices and get active is easier than you think.
There was a time when the peak of the school year's last dismissal bell signaled a summer of running, biking, hiking and outdoor play. But in a world increasingly taken over by texting, handheld video games, Internet surfing and 600 channels of television programming, children may not be getting out all that much during the dog days anymore.
In fact, a lack of exercise is an ongoing problem in this country. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a third of all children don't get the appropriate amount of vigorous activity—and 10 percent of all children are completely inactive. What's worse, the amount of activity tends to decrease even further as kids age, establishing sedentary lifestyles into adulthood. And since kids today spend a whopping 25 percent of their waking hours watching television, getting them up and off the couch is important.
Here are a few ways to get the young ones back into summer fun:
- Make like the movies. Take a page from the summer sequel to the Pirates of the Caribbean and hold a treasure hunt for your children in your own backyard or neighborhood. Simply take household items, hide them in scattered spots, and leave handwritten clues on scraps of paper attached to each item that lead them from one item to the next. The treasure at the end of the quest can be as simple as a healthy, homemade treat. It's a fun way to get the kids out of the house and moving.
- Camp close to home. As in your backyard. You don't need an elaborate tent; a sheet over a clothesline will do. And, backyard camping needn't be an overnight excursion, but more a discovery of the world outside the family room. Recreate the "roughing it" experience with s'mores and ghost stories.
- Enjoy family time. Oftentimes, kids take their cues from adults in the household. So, make exercise and outdoor activity a family matter. It could be as simple as taking evening walks (sundown means cooler temps) or family bike rides. Bicycling together is great bonding experience—and offers an opportunity to teach children about street safety.
- Look for freebies. A number of museums in the Dallas/Fort Worth area offer free entry at specific times during the summer. For example, The Dallas Museum of Art offers free admission on the first Tuesday of each month. Walking through exhibits is a great way to get exercise, stay cool—all that air conditioning!—and get a dose of culture.
- Take on some projects. Who knew? Area home improvement centers, like Lowe's, offers project classes specifically for kids. So, they can get out of the house and build a house. A birdhouse, that is.
For more information on outdoor activities, as well as a "play place" finder for your area, visit www.letsmove.gov.