With school out soon, and summer just around the corner, I wanted to talk a bit about about fitness in young children, and how to encourage it. But rather, I think the discussion will trend more toward why it’s really important to develop. We are bombarded with all sorts of things about health in young children. Don’t let your children eat this, and don’t let them eat that. It feels like all the don’ts and not the why’s. As you may know, childhood obesity is very high in the United States. To me, that is a good reason to try and keep kids fit and healthy.
The next time you go to the grocery store, remember to really take a look at what you are buying. Read the labels. You would be absolutely amazed at what you find. On many of the things we buy for children, high fructose corn syrup and other types of sugars are the first ingredients listed. If you can’t eliminate these things, then pick items that have healthier ingredients listed first. The first ingredients are usually the ones that make up the highest percentage of the food, and so on down the list. Try to look at foods that will give children a variety throughout the day. As a general rule, in larger grocery stores, shop mostly on the outside isles, because the isles on the inside of the store have prepared foods, like boxed cereals, cookies, crackers, chips, corn chips, bread, fruit juice, canned fruit and puddings, all high in sugar, high fructose corn syrup, food coloring, salt, and other artificial additives. Most larger stores have nutritionists or health nurses who will help you with your shopping, give you suggestions, and show you where the healthier items are located in the store.
Another important thing parents should monitor is exercise. Kids should be outside playing. On an earlier blog I talked about parents checking in their smart phones and other devices, so they could spend quality time with their children. Children need to check in their devices as well, so they can spend quality time developing their bodies and their health. They need to run and play outdoors when possible. You might work outside the home, and when you come home you are tired. They are tired, too. But maybe you and they can take a walk around the block, run around the backyard a couple of times, play catch, shoot hoops, or anything that will get the kids moving. Perhaps you could challenge your children to every night run around the back yard one more lap than the night before. Or shoot five more hoops than they shot the night before. Or catch the football five more times than yesterday. Or jump rope five more times than the night before. Post a chart for them to keep track of their progress. Help them set goals. It could be very motivating.
For older kids, encourage them to participate in organized sports through school. For your part, help them get to and from practice, make sure they have the proper safety equipment, if not provided through the school. If you have trouble with funds for extra equipment, discretely talk to the coach, the school counselor, or the principal. Remind your children to pack snacks and water, and support them with your attendance at games or meets. Who knows where this could lead—a college scholarship in track, basketball, or football; a place on the Jr. Olympic team; a career in basketball; or a career in football. Most importantly, it will help them control their weight, blood pressure, and overall health.