Are your little ones glued to Dora and Peppa 24/7? Is it impossible to prise the iPad from their hands without tears and tantrums?
We all know how important exercise is, but sometimes putting principle into practice is easier said than done.
Here’s how to get them excited about the real world again, and get their bodies into some more healthy activities and exercise.
1. Take part yourself
Expecting kids to just go and play in the garden by themselves, particularly if you have an only child, isn’t going to happen. They want company and socialisation.
Set an example and motivate them by joining in yourself, whether that’s kicking a football around or helping them climb a tree.
2. Get wheels
Many kids hate walks but love rides. Small children have surprising stamina when they are enjoying themselves: you may find your two-year-old can easily manage a mile or two if they’re having fun. You can pick up working scooters, bikes and trikes for a few dollars on eBay or elsewhere.
3. Bring Peppa outside
Not literally, but get children outdoors more easily by suggesting they “play Dora” or “play Fireman Sam” by recreating the TV characters’ adventures themselves. If Peppa has been building a fort, or helping Grandpa Pig do the gardening, exploit that influence.
4. Go old fashioned
Kids played outside in olden times out of necessity, and there’s a host of vintage games that can still hold great fun for modern generations. Hopscotch (you can easily buy pavement chalk), cat’s cradle, skipping ropes, hoop spinning.
5. Set a scavenger Hunt
Just because it’s no longer Easter doesn’t mean you can’t hide rewards around the garden. You can combine it with learning to read by leaving written directions on Post-it notes (try diagrams and visual clues for younger kids).
6. Urban adventure
The excitement is in the journey not the destination. So try walking rather than driving to the local park. Arm your offspring with explorers’ equipment such a “collection bag” for interesting leaves and twigs.
Challenging children to find the reddest leaf, or the most interesting coloured leaf, adds an element of competition that distracts them from the distance covered.
7. Try technology
Children spend up to seven hours a day using entertainment media, so consider turning this addiction to your advantage. There are a wealth of outdoor play and fitness gadgets aimed at kids, such as GeoPalz or Zamzee, pedometers that allow them to earn reward points through exercise.
8. Dancing games
If they’re hooked on Xbox or PlayStation, invest in a game pad and a copy of Dance Dance Revolution and have them enjoy a vigorous workout in your living room. Many schools have invested in electronic dancing systems to combat childhood obesity. “Machine Dance” has even been registered as an official sport in Norway.
If all else fails, you can try bribing them. Knowing there’s an ice-cream shop at the end of the 30-minute neighbourhood walk may be enough to motivate them to put their shoes on. Associating the outdoors with treats and enjoyment will serve them well in the long run.