When I was a kid, we went outside to play. Today’s children are so often parked in front of the television or computer, rather than out, moving around – having fun and getting fit. I don’t remember eating a lot of fast food as a child. It was more of an occasional “treat,” not something we had all the time. And it’s not that we were less busy – I remember many a night eating dinner (homecooked, not fast food) in the car on the way from one after school activity to another.
On the flipside, there are plenty of organized sports available to children – more than I ever remember there being when I was a kid. But much like there are kids who would rather sit at home and do nothing, there are the kids who are madly in love with a sport. Though an active child is usually a healthy child, there are a few downsides, as well. It can be time consuming, extremely expensive, and even dangerous if a child becomes too involved too soon (here’s a hint: there’s a reason most gyms don’t allow kids under 13 in the weight room).
It can be a kind of fine line. Let your child find their passion – but make sure to put down some ground rules. Do they eat, sleep and breathe soccer? Encourage their athleticism, but make sure that the love comes from their heart – not your desire to be the parent of a future Olympian. The rules are the same for children as they are for adults – everyone needs a break from time to time to avoid burnout and overuse injury. Would they rather sit at home and read? Make a family fitness time – take a walk with the dog, ride bikes, play catch in the backyard. Staying active helps you as much as it does your kids!
From a nutrition standpoint, I am reminded of the comment my mother always made in response to those daytime talk show stories about 130 lb. 5 year olds: “You are the parent!” Just because they like macaroni and cheese doesn’t mean they should have it every day. Encourage a balanced diet full of nutritious foods, as well as the occasional treat. And practice what you preach! If you are open to new food experiences, and maintain a (mostly) healthy diet, your children will most likely be open minded, too, and follow suit.
Active kids grow up to be healthy adults – and healthy kids are happy kids (with happy moms and dads). So get out there and get active together as a family! The sooner children are exposed to healthy eating and fitness habits, the more likely they are to grow up to be healthy, active adults … and hopefully, as more people become focused on healthy living, we can start turning those scary obesity statistics around.