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?
In recent years, schools have put forth intiatives to get kids moving for sixty minutes every single day at school, up to and including offering teachers lessons on how they can get and keep kids active.
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'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. Yet, kids spend more waking hours at home than they do at school, so, is it really on the school to fill educational hours with activity?
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 sit the better part of the day at school and will need 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 six 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?
It is up to us at home to promote healthy eating habits so our kids have energy. It's up to us to get our kids excited about being active, about joining the running clubs and track teams at school and volunteering our own time 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 ideas to get active.
On weekends, make the 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 ne to motivate them and get them going.
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.