With the rise of childhood obesity and the growing popularity of screen time with younger and younger kids, it's no wonder there's a national concern about kids' activity level and overall health.
Fewer kids are walking to school, black top and indoor recess are stealing what precious few active moments kids have during the school day, rising costs of organized sports and the loss of old fashioned free play seems to have created a generation of kids just sitting around.
Studies have shown that active kids are healthier, better able to concentrate, have an improved level productivity, learn better, and have greater self confidence. So why are so many kids not moving?
Families are busy being busy. Gone are the days of kids coming home after school, dumping their back packs and playing with the kids on the street until dark. Kids are inside playing video games, being shuttled back and forth to siblings activities or on the couch watching on-demand TV. Gone are the daily gym classes and hour-long lunch breaks at school. Enter two shorter breaks where kids barely get out the door and have to return back inside and shared gymnasiums, reduced extra curricular activities and only 1-2 periods of gym class a week.
Who is to blame for this shift to inactive kids? Who is responsible for getting kids up and moving? Where should kids active time happen – at home or at school?
Active at School is an initiative to get kids moving for 60 minutes every single day at school. Partners working towards seeing this happen include Premier Kathleen Wynne, Education Minister Liz Sandals as well as businesses like Canadian Tire, YMCA, RBC, Bell, and health groups Canadian Paediatric Society, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Active for Life, Canadian Diabetes Association and many many more.
Their plans include identifying the factors that will allow kids to get 60 minutes of activity at school as well as offering teachers lessons on how they can keep kids moving and certification programs for schools that excel, plus an advisory committee. Didn’t kids just used to go outside and play? When did getting kids active get so complicated?
What are parents doing at home? Or maybe not doing? Is this really the school board's responsibility to keep our kids active? Parents are quick to criticize schools for kids not getting enough activity during the day, and shake their head at teachers for not volunteering to run sports clubs during breaks or after school and yet kids spend more waking hours at home then they do at school during a week.
I send my kids to school to learn math, science, geography, and French – stuff I am not qualified to teach them. I don’t send them to school to make sure they are being active. In my opinion, ensuring my kids have a healthy lifestyle is my job. I assume they sat the better part of the day at school and will need indoor and outdoor activities in the evening to get their bodies moving. Weekends are two straight days of family time and the possibilities of what we can do to be active are literally endless.
I agree kids will do better in a 6 hour school day if they have opportunities to let off some steam so they can concentrate but ultimately isn't it up to parents and caregivers to take responsibility for our kids health and activity level on a daily basis?
School is for learning and I believe most schools are doing a good job of teaching kids the benefits of a healthy diet and an active lifestyle based on what my kids bring home from school. Many teachers are modeling an active lifestyle and organizing active school clubs and lunchtime intramurals that are open to everyone. Is the missing piece of the puzzle at home and not school?
Isn't it up to us at home to promote healthy eating habits so our kids have energy and to get our kids excited about being active, about joining the running clubs and track teams at school and volunteering our own time when we can to support school activities?
Kids don’t have to be enrolled in six different after school activities to keep moving. A walk to the park after dinner or a pajama parade, an hour at a public swim or open court time at the local recreation center, a bike ride, geocaching, or walking to school are all easy and affordable.
On weekends PLAN to be active, even if the kids resist. My kids do not bounce out of bed and ask “What fun way are we being active today, Mom?” They waddle from bed to the couch and sit like sloths until I get their butts moving. Even my super active, always-on-the-go kids need ME to motivate them and get them going.
And once they are out living the active life, I never hear a single complaint about how not fun that time biking, swimming, hiking, skiing, dancing or rock climbing was.
So don’t wait for school to fix the issue of inactive kids. Take charge at home and explore all the ways you can stay active as a family.
You know the saying . . . "If something seems too good to be true, it probably is"? Well, these nut-free no-bake chocolate power balls taste too good to be healthy, but the list of ingredients proves they are. Dates, rolled oats, cocoa powder and soy-based WOW butter for a little nutty flavour is all they require.
For years I've seen dates come up when I am searching for healthy snacks for my kids school lunches. I made a promise to myself once they all started full time school that I would stop buying all the processed and packaged bars and cookies and bake only healthy snacks. I make all their favorites - muffins, cookies, brownies, and bread - but these are not made from grandmas recipes full of butter, sugar and love.
I add plenty of love, but the muffins and cookies I bake always contain fruit and oatmeal, the brownies are loaded with spinach and carrots, and the only sweet bread here is a healthy Oatmeal Banana Bread with apple sauce and very little oil.
Dates never entered the mixing bowls. I just didn't picture the kids going for raw dates. They stopped liking raisins years ago and their tastes are complicated on the best of days. But recipe after recipe for no-bake date bars, squares and balls intrigued me.
Not wanting coconut (my issue) or nuts (school, dance, gymnastics issue), I had to get a little creative with the recipe but this one marries two of the kids favorites - oatmeal and chocolate. It is a WINNER. 5 ingredients. No baking, Easy assembly. Freezes well. Kids love them.
My work here is done!
25 pitted dates
1/3 cup of WOW Butter
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup rolled oats
handful of chocolate chips (optional)
Measure all ingredients into a Cuisinart or similar food processor. Pulse until well mixed.
Scoop by spoonfuls into your hand and squish together, roll into balls or flatten into bars.
If they are too crumbly add a few more dates or a bit more WOW butter.
This recipe yielded 25 mini balls for us but you can make them as big or as small as you like. You can also roll the balls in cocoa if desired.
Even though they don’t last long at my house, they can be stored in the freezer. The kids put a couple into their snack containers for school lunches or evening snack in between activities. I love them before of after a workout. Perfect power snack!
When the 2014 Active Healthy Kids Canada report card on physical activity in youth announced that Canada scored a D- after measuring kids activity levels, and confirmed most Canadian kids don’t get the recommended 60 minutes of activity a day, parents, schools and TV programmers took notice.
Looking for solutions to get our kids more active, one network is betting their new TV show is just what kids need to start moving. That begs the obvious question; can parking the kids in front of the TV inspire them to be more active?
We are a very active family and always have been; for us TV is used as down time. My kids spend on average only 30 minutes a day in front of the TV during the week and maybe as much as 1-2 hours on the weekends. The other time in between, my kids are dancing, skiing, biking, running, swimming, doing gymnastics, bouncing, or just being active kids and playing outside.
The concept of needing a TV show to get my kids moving seems odd to me, but my kids are older. A simple “get outside and play” and they are out for hours. It was different when they were younger. I had to be physically involved with them in order to get them active. I had to take them to the park, to family swim, to open gym time at the local YMCA. I had to get out of the house and off the couch, and I did because when my kids were being active they were happy. When they were home with nothing to do they were bored, they squabbled, complained, and cried.
This new concept TV show is an interactive musical adventure called The Moblees on CBC and it's designed to promote healthy active living among 3-5 year olds in Canada and while statistics show the younger set is active, they are still spending up to 4 hours a day in front of screens. This early TV watching habit is leading to only 7% of 5-11 year olds getting the recommended level of activity daily as they are spending up to 8 hours a day in front of screens. Thinking back to the years when I had a 3, 5 and 7 year old I know I used the TV as a parenting aid. How else was dinner going to get made or the laundry done if the kids didn’t have some time in front of the TV?
I am curious if this new concept show created with advisors like experts Dr. Mark Tremblay and Dr Lynn Oldershaw and in partnership with ParticipACTION will get kids active at that moment and also encourage an active lifestyle overall or do the kids just watch the characters on TV moving about while they remain seated on the couch. The opening song is super catchy and fun, the show focuses on one movement – in this episode it was twirling - and displays kids doing this during play while cast members sing creative songs to encourage kids at home to mimic the movement and dance along. At the end of the show you can download your own twirling medal for successful completion of the activity.
On the one hand I think the idea of using TV to get kids active is crazy – life should keep kids active, there is so much to do at home and outside that promotes family fun and gets everyone moving. On the other hand, if kids are going to watch TV anyway while parents are busy, why not have them watch bright, colourful and very happy characters dancing and twirling around. Why not have the TV encouraging them to get up and shake their sillies out, why not have bright butterflies tell them that happy is healthy and great things happen when you move about?
I am not sure if a TV show will help get our kids more active, but if they are going to be plopped in front of a TV, it certainly can’t hurt to have a little active inspiration twirling about on the screen.
What are your thoughts – can a TV show aimed at 3-5 years olds get kids off the couch the way the Wii got gamers out of their chairs? Can TV encourage an active lifestyle or should parents grab the remote, turn off the TV and get the family outside?