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Getting kids active isn’t easy
I’m struggling to write this post because I feel like a hypocrite. Getting kids active? Haha.
Today my daughters enjoyed a good amount of screen time while I mustered up the energy to play with them. No, I don’t want to play fighting superhero princesses. (But I did for five minutes.) No, princess Legos will be messy. Maybe another day.
I’m worn out with getting children in and out of car seats, cleaning up after painting and most especially with the WHINING. Can we all just play Candy Land or UNO for an hour and then go on a walk where you guys don’t try to get out of the wagon the whole time?
But part of helping my kids and your kids become more active is getting out of the mindset that it’s going to be easy. All I can say is that it can get better. With drive-thru windows, movie ticket reservations online and Netflix babysitting at our fingertips, it’s easy to get into the groove of R&R all the time. There’s a time and place for it, but it’s not all day, most days of the week.
And even when we try to make things pleasant with giving in and giving up, we find that that things get work.
Because your kids are still crabby. They’re still asking for things over and over and they still want your attention. Your house still needs cleaning and you still feel like you’re going to crumple in a sleeping heap and just stay there until someone grows a beard. (Okay, maybe that last part is just me.)
All of this is because we need to change our mindset and move forward with a get-peppy lifestyle. (Me included!)
Five Struggles and Solutions
to Getting Kids Active
Kids are always watching what we do and say. I heard my two-year-old say, “Dang it!” yesterday. It was cute, but kind of like, whoa.
But when our example changes our children’s health and activity habits, we could be affecting them for life. If you’re suddenly worried you’ve made your three-year-old a future overweight, The Bachelor viewer, throw that idea in the garbage disposal. You are not ruining your kid’s life. With a few simple changes, you could be the example your child needs to live an active and fun lifestyle.
- Be awake before your kids. Do you need to be making breakfast? No. Do you need to be doing chores? No. Just be up and enjoying your time so that your kids can see you independently “playing.” If your children begin waking up earlier to hang out with you, set up an alarm to help them know when they are allowed to leave the bedroom.
- Turn off your technology. Rachel Macy Stafford, author of Hands Free Mama, recommends working together as a family to have chunks of technology-free time. This should be at meal times, but can also include other times of the day. Your interest in technology not only rubs off on your children, but it also shows them what you think is most important: your computer. This is a great step to getting kids active.
- Limit lounge time in the house. This is a particularly hard one for me because I just like being at home and the comfiest place in my house is my bed! If all Mommy does is hang out in bed all day, then what are the kids going to do? Either ruin your house or play with electronics. Probably both.
Part of being a good example to our kids is changing our mindset around active lifestyles with kids present. I know, total brain whoosh, right? But really, how many of us stress about making messes, the social aspect of hanging out with other moms, feeling inadequate in arts and crafts, and the tediousness of transporting diapers, wipes, snacks, extra clothes, and the kids?
You are not alone!
Sometimes I look at my minivan. It’s one whole story down from our condo. To get there, I would need to go down the outdoor stairs and cross three driveways.
But first, I would have to get two children ready to go and pack a diaper bag. Then I’d have to hold one’s hand as we go down the stairs and shout at the other to wait for me at the bottom. We’d cross the driveways together, but when we’d get to the minivan, I’d have to open it, buckle the girls in the car seats, and put blankets over their legs.
Oh, and it’s cold. Like a whole thirty-two degrees Farenheit…
I hope you’re laughing by now because this is obviously a real annoyance to me, but not an awful scenario at all! It’s my mindset that is the issue. Let’s change yours!
- Replay the scenario in your head like how we did above. Does it sound whiney? Like, maybe even more whiney than your two-year-old when she wants the Barbie in her bath? Now roll your eyes at yourself and go have some fun!
- Figure out how to make the process more efficient. Perhaps this could be having a vehicle-only diaper bag, always pre-packed and ready to go! Or if you want to do a fun project with your kids, get the stuff ready the night before so they aren’t crawling all over you while you’re trying to cut out shapes.
- Get your kids into a routine. Try one new routine a week. The first week could be: we always pick up after we play together. The second week could be: after we play outside, everyone puts their shoes and coats in the closet.
When we have more time, we can be more flexible. This allows for a healthier mindset. Way easier said than done.
At first, I liked to completely schedule out every five minutes of my day. From the time I woke up to the time I went to bed, I knew what I was doing and what the girls would be doing. But the girls didn’t do what I wanted them to do AND they kept bugging me when I was doing the things I wanted to do.
People would text and want to visit. I didn’t want to tell them no, but then they would come over and throw my whole day off. By the time evening arrived, either nothing was done and I was stressed OR everything was done and I was still stressed.
Now I like to create a simple to do list for before the kids wake up, before lunch, after lunch and after the kids go to bed. The kids and I get to play more and life is simpler.
- Ask yourself, “What do I fill my days with?” Judge wisely what you should continue to do and what you should cut out. You should be left with enough time to take care of yourself and your family, but help others too. I suggest praying for help to know what is best for you and your family.
- Involve your kids. I like to have my kids help with chores or other things around the house. I try to show them how fun it is so that (hopefully) they don’t dread
- Take a kid on a date! My husband and I like to each take one girl out once a month. Last month I took Chloe out to Target for a date. I was able to pay extra-special attention to her and she loved every minute of it. I got her a birthday cake pop at Starbucks and colorful headbands, and then we just talked. I felt good, she felt good. It was great!
The weather can really throw a day off. A rainy picnic, an icy “snow” day, and a blazing hot summer can each bring its worries for the mom with young kids. Staying inside or knowing how to prep for outdoor situations can be enough for a parent to throw in the towel.
I know that when it’s cold enough for my nose hairs to freeze, I like to tuck myself into my blue robe, sit the kids in front of the tv, and just get who knows what done around the house. Not only is this obviously unhealthy for our bodies and minds, but it’s unhealthy for our relationships too!
- Stay inside, but make it count! On days where the weather is extreme, opt for playing inside your house. At your house, you can encourage independent play with puzzles or do a craft together. I like to create chunks of time alternating between playing with the kids, having alone time while the kids participate in independent play and tidying up. You could also invite friends over to play!
- Prepare well and play outside. It’s raining? So what! Put warm and waterproof clothes on you and the kids and take a nature walk. Getting a little toasty? Find some shade at a park and have a picnic. Be sure to bring plenty of water and lather on the sunscreen. (There are certain weather conditions that kids/people should not be in. Please plan accordingly.)
- Go somewhere. Whether you choose to go to a friend or family member’s home, an indoor playground, or your local Scheels, you’re keeping yourself SANE, building your relationships with your kids, and promoting activity. Do you have to entertain them the whole time? No. Getting together with a friend may give you and your kids a chance to socialize. We loved visiting our fancy mall playground this winter because it gave them time to play independently. Find what works for you and do it.
You don’t have money? Welcome to the club! It doesn’t seem to matter how much money we get, it just goes away. You already spend so much on your kids between school, clothes, extracurricular fun, doctor visits, food, toys, etc… it’s hard to want to put any extra money into getting your kids active.
A couple years ago, I thought it would be fun to begin a little homeschool-preschool for my oldest. I came up with a curriculum based on a local nature club’s preschool and milestone checklists. Each section included books, puzzles, movies, games, crafts and more. I thought it was such a good idea!
It was fun… until I realized I was spending more than it cost to just put her in preschool, which I ended up doing, hoping that she would get similar instruction and more socialization with adults and children.
Fortunately, there are plenty of free and low-cost activities that your children can participate in. Getting kids active doesn’t have to put a dent in your checking account!
- Free local activities. As this blog grows, we will create a community for users to post free activities in their local areas. Since I only live in one city (can’t foresee that ever changing), it would be difficult for me to include free activities even for the major cities in each state. I encourage you to go check it out.
- Service. Sometimes the best way to get out of a mental funk is to serve up some service. Make cookies or nice notes to deliver to neighbors or friends nearby. You don’t even need to get the courage to put the kids in the car. Young kids, like preschoolers and toddlers, will especially love to give to those around them.
- Socialize! Not only is it a breath of fresh air to know others are going through the same issues you are, but your toddlers and preschoolers need to socialize too. Join your local playgroup or just get to know the regulars at your nearest playground.