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As our lives get busier, it becomes increasingly difficult to make sure our children stay active. We often think that organized sports and structured activities are the answer, and maybe they are for some. They can be costly, however, and it really should be possible for parents and children to exercise without spending a lot of money. So what are some ways to keep your kids active? Look to old-fashioned methods of finding fun for ideas on fun exercise.
Gardening is very good for getting kids outside and moving around. Gardening can take many forms. It does not have to mean forcing kids to hoe the corn or weed the beans, although that can be good for them, too.
According to Sharon Lovejoy, author of “Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots: Gardening Together With Children,” gardening is not just a way to get kids outside and get free work out of them.
Gardening is a way to introduce nature to children and get them excited about the natural world. Children who are involved in the planting and planning process will be more willing to help out with the necessary chores, and may even be more willing to eat the resulting vegetables.
Picking flowers in the backyard, including dandelions, can keep kids on the move with a purpose. Even looking for four-leaf clovers can keep kids moving. Send the children on a hunt to find a specified number of dandelions or to fill a bucket with blooms. Goals are motivating to kids and helps to keep them interested.
Taking a walk together as a family after dinner serves several purposes. Not only is the family exercising, but walking can help spark conversations. Sometimes kids will talk to their parents about things while on the move that they would never bring up while sitting face to face.
While exercise should not have to cost a lot, if the budget allows, play equipment such as playground equipment or a splash pool are ways to keep kids active in the backyard.
Even climbing up slides and swinging get the heart pumping. If the expense is too great, Spencer County has two public parks that not only have playground equipment but also contain walking trails.
Playing old-fashioned children’s playground games, like hide and seek, Red Rover and Ring-Around-the-Rosie, get children moving, running and laughing. When children enjoy being active, they are more likely to continue to do so.
Rewarding children for doing things they are supposed to do anyway is not really a good idea. But there is nothing wrong with a reward for extra effort. Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project,” said that when she was a teenager, her father asked her to take a 20 minute run each day for a favor that he did for her. Since she wanted the favor badly, the sacrifice of 20 minutes a day did not seem so great.
Eventually, the thrill of the run became its own reward.
Children are naturally active. They naturally want to run and jump and play. Our job as parents is to nurture that natural desire and ensure that it does not go away.