Current events have required changes in our routines and cancellations of events and activities. This has all dramatically impacted all of our lives.
Now imagine being a child…
Their routines are disrupted for the foreseeable future, and parents and guardians are scrambling to craft a “new normal” at home. There have been countless resources for parents about homeschooling, social-distancing practices and trendy new words to learn such as “quarantine” and “pandemic.”
But what about ways to keep your kids active and healthy? The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both recommend children and adolescents perform at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily with many educators recommend breaking that into multiple sessions.
As they are developing, kids’ bodies are built to move! And the benefits are not just for them physically, but also mentally and emotionally.
Here are our five tips
They probably won’t complain since this is technically screen time. But there are many wonderful kid-specific apps and websites that encourage kids to be physically active. GoNoodle’s “movement and mindfulness” videos were created by child development experts and serves 14 million kids each month, according to its website. Cosmic Kids is another popular platform.
Meanwhile, the YMCA has more than 2,700 locations that serve over 17.5 million members across the United States. In continuing to better serve its members, the Y wanted to create content that could be utilized digitally. Ronn McMahon and his team at the Wichita YMCA inspired the strategy and implementation of YMCA 360, on-demand videos from top instructors around the country for a variety of athletic interests: boot camps, boxing, weightlifting, yoga, and soccer.
“When we saw an opportunity and a need, we really accelerated to bring the content into the home environment,” says Nathan Maehren, senior vice president of digital for the Greater YMCA of the Twin Cities.
Even better: the Y is providing access to YMCA 360 for free to everyone.
Just 48 hours after its launch, YMCA 360 was utilized by more than 160,000 users in all 50 states and 155 countries.
Dan Dieffenbach is the executive producer of YMCA 360, and he says his team is aggressively working to produce more videos for all ages, including children and seniors.
“It’s probably one of the most important things. Kids are playing video games and getting screen time,” Dieffenbach says. “But we want to give them screen time to get up and move and stay healthy during this time. This could be a game-changer to help them jumpstart their healthy living journey.”
Whatever you and your children choose, try to designate specific days and times to do these workouts.
As a soccer coach, I constantly stress to my players the importance of getting touches. My children both love soccer, and all their team activities are suspended indefinitely. So I wanted to explore digital options that would allow them to keep working on their game.
One app that my children have embraced is MOTI Sports, which empowers young players to learn skills in 3D. We can tailor sessions based on how much time we have — whether 10 or 60 minutes — and they can watch the moves from any angle while also hearing instruction and insight.
All they need is a device and a ball.
The voice and driving force behind the app is Alan Merrick, a former member of England’s and the U.S. national teams and a longtime professional player, including 131 appearances with West Bromwich Albion. Merrick, who grew up playing street soccer in England, emphasizes the importance of proper technique in each of the drills.
“If you have a poor practice and poor technique, then that becomes a habit,” Merrick says. “A player can get all the shortcuts and clues to how their favorite moves are done.”
MOTI Sports also reduces the need to just rely on repetition.
“They get visual cues and auditory elements,” Merrick adds. “Many kids are visual learners but there are also those who need to hear it. But doing this work gives the players confidence and unbelievable bounce.”
A similar app is Blast Motion, though it requires the purchase of a “smart” accessory; currently, it’s available for baseball, softball or golf.
Medical experts recommend avoiding gatherings with 10 or more people and maintaining a distance of six feet from others in public, which means kids shouldn’t be participating in any organized — or even pickup — sports with others at the gym, park or even playground. But there’s nothing prohibitive of a young athlete throwing a baseball against a wall, shooting baskets alone or playing catch with someone they live with.
Oh, do your kids like to dance? The super-popular Kidz Bop has 54 dance along videos that have over 4.5 million views.
As mentioned above, work with your children to carve out days and times to work on these sport- and skill-specific sessions.
Be mindful of diet
It’s natural for people to snack and eat more when they’re hanging out a lot around the house and there’s food laying around. It’s also natural for people to “stress eat,” meaning they consume more food to soothe negative emotions or fears, according to Psychology Today.
Try to make time to prepare some of the meals, being intentional to make them healthier. And, if possible, invite your children to help with the planning and preparation of the meals.
And, once again, routine may be beneficial, so plan a time for all meals and even snacks, which enables the parent or guardian to have some measure of control or influence on the choices that are being made. Push veggies and hummus instead of chips or cookies. Push water — lots and lots of water! — rather than soda or juice.
If you and your kids have a sweet tooth, consider limits on candies and sodas.
Lastly, this extended time together as a family may be a great opportunity to teach them about portion sizes. Break down for them the “Nutrition Facts,” and utilize measuring spoons and cups to dish out and show portion sizes for cereal or chips.
Go for a walk, jog or ride
Self-distancing doesn’t mean locking yourself in the house. Go for a walk or bike ride! Of course, you should avoid gatherings of 10 or more people and maintain six feet from others.
If you have a dog, take him or her out with your kids. And if you’re on that walk, take the time to point out some of the things you may take for granted, like blooming flowers or new safety signs in your neighborhood.
As the weather starts to warm up nationwide, perhaps now is the time to go for short runs as a family. Or pack up some food and ride bikes miles and miles away to an isolated part of a lake or park.
But when kids are outside, parents and guardians should be present with them to monitor their actions and interactions with others, providing the appropriate cues to sanitize hands if they touch a handle, approach a cute dog or are nearing a large group of people.
Adopt a new game or activity
Kids love a good challenge. So dust off that old jump rope or hula hoop buried behind boxes in the garage or closet. See who can jump or twirl the longest. Don’t know how?
Google a YouTube video!
Not too long ago, on a road trip, my kids had a blast playing Road Trip Bingo. Maybe design and carry along the bingo sheet while on your family walk. Or identify and research the birds you see.
Plank and track who can do it the longest or who improves the most over a specific period of time.
Build an obstacle course in your house or yard.
Complete household chores or yard work.
If you have a teen, help them strategize and create a cool TikTok video.
But whatever you do, utilize this time to get closer as a family and to keep your kids active and healthy!