Smart ways to keep kids active and entertained without technology
Parents often struggle with balancing their toddlers’ active and inquisitive personalities with daily life, chores and responsibilities. It’s tempting to entertain them with the TV or an iPad, while you rush around catching up with life and admin. It’s an understandable fix. After all, it’s difficult juggling everything with only so many hours in the day. You want what’s best for that crazy ball of energy, but you also have to pay the bills, join meetings, sort out meals, and so much more.
Physical activity for kids
The problem is that this isn’t healthy for a child’s spiritual and physical well-being. According to the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, children between the ages of 18 months and three years need to take part in age-appropriate, play-based, and structured physical activities to keep them healthy and engaged. This is echoed by the World Health Organization, which recommends that children from 18 months to two years get at least 180 minutes of physical activity during the day.
An active lifestyle for kids
Science indicates that active children are healthier, happier, smarter, more creative, and more confident. An active lifestyle is essential for a child’s physical growth and disease prevention, and it has the added benefit of impacting their health and well-being later in life. Studies have shown that there is a positive connection between moderate physical activity and a child’s mood and emotional well-being.
Physical activity also has a positive effect on brain function, reflexes, and reaction times. Increased physical activity and longer weekly exercise routines are often linked to higher intelligence and emotional development.
The reality is that parents are tired, stressed, and struggling to keep up with work, parenting, and daily life. The past two years have put immense pressure on parents to deliver 100% capacity 100% of the time. There has been limited access to schools and childcare, which has meant parents have been teachers too.
It’s easy to see why these two worlds collide. Fortunately, there is a way to fix it.
You can connect with your growing toddler, and their love of exploration and activity, without leaning on technology, and you can do this without feeling overwhelmed. There are some smart and simple steps you can take to help your tots to master their gross motor skills and build a lifelong love of movement. These activities suit different age groups, so you can adapt them as your children grow.
Getting kids to develop healthy exercise habits so they can maintain themselves is a great way to keep them fit without putting pressure on themselves. For the little ones, create a treasure hunt or obstacle course in the garden; plan time for walking the dogs in the park or going for a family hike; or turn household chores into a game, so they’re inspired to get their responsibilities done and you can cross some admin off your list. You can also healthily use your technology, by accessing videos of family activities, such as dance or yoga, and boxing, which kids can watch and do while you’re busy. Active and distracted – smart.
You can create a hopscotch game in the driveway that kids can use whenever they want. Ball in a box is also fun: cut a large hole in a big box and give your tot balls to throw into the box – it’s great for hand-eye coordination. Another clever activity is number-jumping: write numbers on paper plates or pieces of paper stuck to the floor, and then use a random number generator to get the kids jumping from number to number. This is good for both spatial awareness and counting.
These are just some activities you can use to inspire your kids and give yourself space to breathe. Fun and engaging, you can set them up anywhere, while keeping health and wellness at the center of your family.
Who is the author?
With a Ph.D. in Sport Science from Stellenbosch University, and a passion for instilling movement as a way of life for kids, Dr. Eileen Africa founded Stellenbosch Kinderkinetics. She recently contributed to Virgin Active’s Kids Are Here To Move: A Holistic Development & Wellness Guide For Busy Families, an e-book filled with research-based insights and tips for busy parents on how to keep kids aged 18 months to 13 years happily active.