Many children don’t have physical education every day—and plenty of schools are skimping on recess time to fit in more academics— leaving kids with fewer hours in the day for healthy, active play. Here, ideas for helping your kid stay active all week long.
Break it up
Kids need an hour of activity per day, says Saunders, but that doesn’t mean a 60-minute workout at the crack of dawn. “Being active can mean a family walk, a bike ride, or kickball in the backyard,” he says. “Any movement counts, no matter how it’s broken up—five minutes of raking leaves, 10 minutes of vacuuming, even taking out the trash.” If there’s a class your child takes, ask for regular demonstrations; she’ll work up a sweat showing you what she’s learned in her latest karate or ballet session. And don’t forget your sense of humor: Liz Boone kept her then-6- year-old twins active through last winter’s massive snowstorms (when school and extracurriculars were all canceled) by pretending to be in a video game with them. “We all acted out Mario Kart by running around the house chasing each other,” says the Pittsburgh mom. “It seems silly, but it really got us moving.”
Look past soccer
Nurture any interest in sports or physical activity, even if it’s something offbeat. “I encourage my children to try new sports even if their friends won’t join them,” says Stacey Udell of Dix Hills, New York, mom to Jillian, 14, and Ethan, 12. “Ethan does karate, ice hockey, and tennis; he’s made new friends and learned to follow his heart with activities he loves.” My own son A.J., 12, has always shied away from team sports, but this year he joined an after-school juggling club—and discovered he was really good at the pogo stick. (Who knew?) We bought him one and now he spends hours outside in good weather, pogoing up and down our street.
Leave the car in the garage
We’re lucky: The elementary and middle schools in our town are within walking distance of our house. But just walking can get boring, so last year I let Mary Elena ride her scooter to school on nice days, while I power-walked behind her. If your child rides a school bus, catch it several stops away from your usual one in the morning. Or, consider starting a “walkpool” with other parents to take turns shepherding a group of kids to school.