Looking for ways to “unplug” your kids from their electronic toys and get them more active? This month’s reader question offers tips to help everyone in the family get physical.

Q.  Now that school is out for summer, how to I get my kids away from the TV and computer and outside playing real games?

A. The key to getting kids to be more physically active is to focus on the fundamentals – family and fun. The best way to do this is to make sure the entire family is involved. Creating family habits around daily physical activity can make it easier for your child or teen to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Also, be sure to factor in fun. Just like kids eat food because it tastes good, the same logic applies to being active. According to a National Youth Fitness Survey, the two main reasons kids participate in sports and exercise are to have fun and to socialize.


Here are several ideas to help you take action and get your family started with physical activity for a healthy lifestyle. For more ideas, check out my book, Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens.

  1. Be the family team captain. Kids look up to their parents as role models. If you make daily physical activity a priority, your child or teen will follow your lead. Kids are more likely to limit TV and computer screen time if you do, and if they have fun family alternatives. And remember, as captain you get to call the plays. Kids will be more likely to listen to your request to “go outside and play!” when you join in.
  2. Play games with your kids. Remember how much fun you had playing childhood games like hide and seek, Marco Polo, and hopscotch? Teach your kids how to play these family classics. For a rule refresher, check out the following links for playing popular backyard,sidewalk, and pool games.
  3. Plan an action-packed family adventure. Spend the weekend bike riding, horseback riding, or hiking together. Plan a family vacation to the beach, canoeing, or camping.
  4. Celebrate special days with live action. Plan birthday parties, graduations, and family reunions around fun activities like bowling, playing softball, or going to a park or playground. Play active party games such as musical chairs, freeze dance, horseshoes, and relay races.
  5. Join a fitness center. Sign up for a family membership to your local park district, YMCA, or gym. Look for places that offer classes like yoga, basketball, wall climbing, martial arts, and weight lifting.
  6. Participate actively in charity events. Sign the family up for active fundraising events like 5-K runs and walkathons.


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