My eight year old son’s “wish list” for the holidays includes an iPod touch, a Nintendo DSI, and a computer. His older brother’s list is pretty similar except that it also includes a cell phone. I like to think of myself as a “modern mom”, but come on…this is crazy (and I’m not just talking about the cost)!
It’s time that we, as parents, take a stand! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Media Education policy statement, our kids spend more time with different types of media than any other activity in their lives besides sleeping. In addition, we are dealing with an alarming rate of childhood obesity. We need to stop buying items for our kids and our households which promote a sedentary lifestyle. Instead we need to support ways to get our kids off the couch, out the door, and into physical activity.
So, as we deliberate over what to get our children this holiday season, here are 5 gift suggestions which will hopefully motivate our kids to become more active, spend time playing and running around, and develop healthy habits.
1. Sports Equipment and Accessories: Purchasing age and developmentally appropriate sports equipment is a great way to get kids interested in becoming physically active. This could be something as simple as a playground ball, a jump rope, or sidewalk chalk for hopscotch; or could include bigger items such as a bicycle, basketball net, or playground equipment. Keep in mind that the gift is supposed to inspire your child to become physically active, so keep your child’s individual likes and preferences in mind. Some examples may include: a baseball glove, ice skates, dance shoes, a leotard, any type of ball, a tennis racket, a pair of sneakers, or a Frisbee.
2. Sports Safety Equipment: Be sure to get all the proper safety gear necessary to accompany whatever sports equipment you end up purchasing (or already own). Some examples include: helmets (should fit properly and be approved for the intended activity-check out the CPSC helmet guide), shin guards, mouth guards, pads, cleats, athletic cups, and water bottles. We don’t want our kids to end up in the emergency room on Christmas morning, or during any of the winter holidays, because we didn’t provide them with protective gear. Remember that proper safety equipment is a necessity at all times. Children (and adults) should be required to wear all recommended safety items, for each activity they are participating in, to help prevent injuries.
3. Tickets to a Sporting Event: While going to watch a game or performance is not physically active for the observer, it can be very motivating for children of all ages. Every time my kids come home from an event they immediately partake in whatever sport or activity they just observed. It can be very inspiring. Please keep in mind that tickets to an NFL, NHL, NBA, or MLB game can be very expensive, so consider checking out minor league games, college teams, or even local high school events, all of which can be much more affordable and sometimes even free. My boys love going to the local ballpark in our neighborhood and watching the summer college league. The point of going to any sporting event should be to get the kids excited to play, teach them about the game, and learn to enjoy and appreciate being physically active.
4. Books and Magazines: Kids can easily be inspired to become physically active by reading a book or an article about a particular person or topic that interests him/her. From autobiographies, to novels, to factual stories, a good story has the power to motivate a child to move. My older son loves to mountain bike and he is always inspired by books on this topic. My younger son loves football, and every month looks forward to his sports magazine, and oftentimes immediately after reading the stories he goes outside and runs around with a football.
5. Gym Membership/ Training session/or Lessons: Teens may find it very exciting and motivating to “work out” with a trainer and/or go to a gym. Please be sure that if you do decide to use a trainer, he/she is certified to work with adolescents and is experienced in this age group. Remember, close, constant supervision by a professional (trained to work with teens) is a must in a gym environment.
For children of any age, lessons, classes, or clinics in a particular sport or physical activity may be very inspiring and enriching. Some examples include dance lessons, a basketball clinic, ice skating lessons, and swimming classes. To optimize long term happiness and participation, it’s always best to talk with your children to find what interests them most.
This is a great time to start shifting our kids focus away from the television, computer, cell phone, and all related screen activities. We have the ability to do this. We need to stop buying these items, educate ourselves and our kids on why it’s so important to be physically active, and get started! Lastly, serve as a role model for your children. Participate in sports and activities together, and put away your own screens.