Get them up; get them going. Turn off the TV; hide the Play Station. Push them out the door. Do anything!!
Those are the messages broadcast to parents, teachers and childcare givers in an attempt to boost physical activity among today’s youth. Children must move. They must fight the obesity epidemic with exercise, motion and active play. You’ve heard it a million times, and you’ve complied as much as possible. You’ve all but locked your kids outside, hoping to inspire a good hour of old-fashioned romping. But after five minutes, when the thrill of circling the house has worn off, their little faces are pressed up against the window, asking “Mommy? What should we do now?” You sigh. You’d forgotten about the decided lack of playground equipment in the yard. You’ll have to get some, but what? Should you shell out hundreds of dollars for a fancy, multi-faceted jungle gym, or is there an alternative route?
There is, and it’s better! While stationary equipment, such as climbing structures, balance beams and swings, encourage activity, simple, cheaper toys like hula hoops and balls do so to a higher degree. In a study of 20 childcare centers throughout North Carolina, researchers found that those equipped with indoor and outdoor portable play toys, provided children with more opportunities for moderate to vigorous activity – opportunities the children happily took advantage of. The most active kids had an average of 80 more minutes of movement and 140 fewer minutes of sedentary time.
So hop in your car and head to the nearest toy store (or even the dollar store!) and pick up a few balls, jump ropes and hula hoops. You’ll get your kids moving, harder and longer, with a minimal amount of wallet pain. Of course, if you’re dreaming of the backyard tree house complete with rock wall, purchase it. The climbing and swinging will help develop motor skills. But to make sure that your little ones keep the pace high, throw a few portable toys in there, too.