Experts offers gift tips to 'move' children
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - There are a number of gift ideas to get sedentary children of all age active, says a Purdue University childhood fitness expert.
"The key is to find gifts that also motivate the entire family to move," says Carole DeHaven, a continuing lecturer in the Department of Health and Kinesiology. "Parents are the gatekeepers for healthy living. By providing activities that children enjoy, along with healthy food choices, we can help reverse the number of children who are overweight or obese.
"If the trend is not reversed, then obese children grow up to be obese adolescents who grow in to obese adults."
Gift ideas that promote activity include:
* Bicycles, sleds, skates, in-line skates, scooters, snowboards. Be sure to provide the necessary safety gear.
* Cup stacking and timing pad, ladder games such as Ladder Golf, washoos, Bocce Ball.
* Consider community resources. For example, give a coupon to meet a child every Tuesday for a walk in the park, or give passes to the zoo or an ice skating rink.
* Money to pay for their participation in organized sports, such as local youth programs for sports, gymnastics or ballet.
* Books that promote physical activity, such as "Angelina's Ballet Class."
* Pedometers for the whole family. Challenge family members to see who can log the most footsteps in a day.
* Jump ropes, tumbling mats, balls, pogo sticks or Hula-Hoops.
* Interactive videogames that require movement such as Smart Cycle Physical Learning Arcade System and DDR: Dance Revolution.
* Active board games like Twister, Toss Across, Hopper Bounce Balls or virtual reality games where children dance or participate in aerobic football.
* Tunnels and playhouses, such as Crawl N' Play.
* Favorite music that energizes children, such as hip-hop varieties or Disney or Jock Jams.
* New workout gear, such as shoes and clothing, as well as skip-it, exercise balls, playing balls and weights.
* Books by Klutz teach children how to juggle, learn rhymes with tinkling sticks and Chinese jump ropes. Books about favorite athletes.
"The best present parents can give is their time," says DeHaven, who works with physicians to teach children about physical activity. "When adults give themselves as part of the gift it also encourages that child to participate in the activity. If you give a child in-line skates or a sled, be sure to schedule a specific time you can skate, sled or walk with the child.
"Think about what you have at home, too. If you have a dog, make time to take your pet for a walk together."
DeHaven also recommends speaking to the child's pediatricians for any suggestions they might have to encourage physical activity.
"Be realistic," she says. "Consider how likely it is that your child will run on a treadmill for 35 minutes. Children are more likely to be active if they are interested in the activity.
"Encourage your child to go outside for a walk or just play outside. A simple game of catch or a family game of touch football or Ladder Golf will engage everyone in activity. A child is not interested in exercise but is thrilled to play on the playground, shoot a new basketball or ride their bicycle while parents are walking or running with them."