We know that children are little mimics – they will copy behaviors that they observe and repeat words that they hear (nearly every parent can attest to this with stories of awkward situations involving particular word choices not appropriate for 5-year-olds to utter). So if mom and dad relax in front of the TV after dinner, chances are that’s going to be the preference for the kids as well. But, if mom and dad instead say it’s time to do something fun together after dinner, that helps create an environment where activity is normal and encouraged.
While it can be hard with busy lifestyle – whether it’s work, or scheduled activities like music lessons or sports – you really have to make the time, otherwise it’s too easy to put things off until the next day. Block time on the weekend – whether it’s an hour or half the day – and do something fun as a family. Go for a hike, go for a bike ride on a trail, go geocaching, discover a new park – just go. Do something. You can even let the kids decide – chose between a hike or bike ride. Go for a walk after dinner. Just get out together.
Keep in mind, this isn’t your time to get your daily exercise in. You’ll get too frustrated if you’re focused on “miles” and the kids are wanting to look at the pretty flowers by the side of the road. It’s about them. It’s about spending time together as a family. Let them discover their world and enjoy re-discovering the world through their eyes. And, if you’re hearing them complain, “It’s too long to walk! Are we there yet? Why can’t we play our video games!” that’s actually a sign they’re bored. So think about how you can keep it fun. Play a game of I Spy. Make up stories. Do some research and find out the history of the place before you go.
That said, remember kids do need breaks. Kids younger than 5 usually need a break every 15 minutes. So if you’re planning an hour hike, that could easily turn into a two hour venture. For elementary age kids that usually turns into a break every half hour. You know your child best, but aim for under-doing rather than over-doing. Trying to do too much can make it a frustrating experience for kids, and one they’ll not want to repeat.
When you’re thinking about what to do, remember they may not like everything you try so expose them to a lot of different things – biking, hiking, ice skating, roller skating – you never know what might click. And help them remember it’s not about doing things right. It’s about having fun and laughing. It may be challenging the first time the family tries things, but that can also help create fond family memories (“Do you remember that time dad tried roller skating?). And, it’s also a good way for kids to see even adults have to practice and work at an activity.
So, what are some ideas you can try? Check out Wisconsin’s State Parks, find out what’s going on around Wisconsin, learn some simple things to do around home or explore our Exercise for Kids Pinterest board.
They’re only young for a fleeting time so enjoy every moment of it while you can. When you make a family habit of doing things together when they’re young, they’ll continue to enjoy doing family activities as they grow. And, there is a special bonding that takes place when you’re active together. A simple walk with the dog can turn into an hour spent laughing and learning more about what’s going on in your child’s life. It’s a gift for the whole family.
Leave a comment below with your favorite place for a family hike or bike ride.
Prize: 1 - Picnic package including a picnic blanket, water bottle and sunscreen.
Rules: Giveaway closes on Sunday, July 27, 2014 at 11pm CST. Open to Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois residents only. One entry per email address is permitted. The winner will be selected using random.org and announced on the following Monday as an update to this post. Winner will be notified via email and asked to provide a mailing address to receive the prize; if the winner does not respond within 7 days, the winner forfeits the prize and another winner will be selected. Subscribe to the blog and you’ll get new posts delivered to your inbox as soon as they’re posted.