How Active Living Helps You and Your Child
Raising a family can feel like it’s non-stop activity. But it's important to be thoughtful about the kinds and amounts of physical activity you and your child do so that you feel your best and start strong habits early on.
The Family that Plays Together, Stays Together
Becoming a physically active family starts with the choice to make it a priority. Think about the activities your family already prioritizes highly: going to work, going to school, going to church, watching a certain TV show, having a family dinner once a week, and so on. These things don’t just happen — you’ve decided they are important and figured out how to make them happen regularly. You can do the same with physical activity!
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- At home: Print our Let's Move Activity Cards (851 K PDF) and choose two or three activities every day.
- Community Education classes for preschoolers: Search online for the ‘name of the city’ and ‘community education’ — then look for the Early Childhood link.
- Park & Recreation free play times and/or inexpensive programs: Find your closest rec center(s). Search online for the ‘name of the city’ and ‘park and rec’.
- Neighborhood Parks: Explore your neighborhood parks; many have some great playgrounds! Determine the closest park and closest playground. You don’t need playground equipment to have fun. Letting kids play in a field can be just as fun for them.
- Beaches & Pools: Minnesota IS the land of 10,000 lakes so check out beaches close to your house to swim or just play in the sand!
- YWCA/YMCA: May offer toddler play rooms for members. Stop in for a free tour of the facility nearest you, and check on their sliding-scale membership fees.
- Neighborhood Churches: Often have playgrounds or nursery rooms.
- Zumbatomic classes: Most kids out there are fond of a little Zumba. Search for zumbatomic videos on YouTube or check out local class listings at Zumba Fitness.
Active Children are Healthy Children
The more physically active your child is, the healthier she will be in three key areas:
- Strength — Day by day, her muscles, lungs, and heart will grow stronger. Activities like running and jumping rope will help build strong bones.
- Motor skills and coordination — Walking, running, and hopping; balancing, dancing, and stopping; throwing, catching, and kicking — all these help your child continue to develop, so she will be ready to join her peers at school.
- Mental health — Think about it. When is your child happier than when playing? Mastering a skill like riding a bike or bouncing a ball gives a boost to her self-esteem. And active games of “pretend” exercise not only her body, but also her imagination.
Active Parents are Happy Parents
Your child looks to you for cues on physical activity. If you spend most of your free time in front of the computer or TV, chances are he will, too. Make physical activity a habit and it’ll become your child’s habit, too.
And what’s in it for you? Being active with your child has several two-for-one benefits:
- A boost to your self-esteem — you are making a healthy choice for you AND for your child.
- Establishing a healthy habit for you AND establishing yourself as a positive role model for your child.
- A chance to spend quality time with your child AND teach him the importance of regular exercise.
- Putting you AND your child on the path to a healthy weight.
So what kind of activity can you do with your child? And how much activity is enough?
Setting Goals for Physical Activity
Here’s how to know if your child is getting enough physical activity:
- She plays outside or in a room big enough to run around in several times a day.
- She watches TV or uses a computer or other screen less than two hours a day.
- She doesn’t sit for more than 60 minutes at a time.
- She breathes quickly or sweats when actively playing.
If these statements are true most of the time, congratulations! Your child is probably getting enough physical activity. If not, identify which category needs work and set a goal around it. For example, if your child watches more than 2 hours of TV a day, consider setting a two-hour limit and offering alternatives to screen time. If your child doesn’t regularly breathe quickly or sweat during physical activity, try challenging him to a race.
The next question is, how do you get the family as whole more involved?
Healthy Eating — Learn more about the foods that will fuel your family’s physical activity.Physical Activity — ChooseMyPlate.gov — Learn more about physical activity guidelines, why it’s important, and indoor activities.