Hang onto something, because what we are about to tell you still even shocks us here at Play Unplugged! Truly this is why our founders Erik Rowland and Corbin Gordon created Play Unplugged--and that was to get kids active once again.
Parents these days are sadly discovering that kids are not nearly as active as they once were years ago. Cases of childhood diabetes and weight gain have simply SKYROCKETED as many parents are now asking themselves; "how to I get my kids motivated to turn off the televisions?" or "how do I get them to play outside this summer?" So. How do you prevent your child from gaining weight this summer?
It is hard to imagine that this generation of kids across America will be the first generation of children ever, to actually GAIN weight during the summer months. Yes, you read that correctly! According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), our kids today are more susceptible to gaining weight than any prior generation...but there is something we can do about preventing kids from gaining weight. And that is helping motivate them to get outside, be more active and involved in what clinical professionals call 'real play' activities.
Real Play activities are just what you imagine when reading it--riding bikes, playing Hide-&-Go Seek, running through sprinklers, throwing a ball, riding skateboards, walking, swimming and the many other healthy activities which Play Unplugged promotes each and every summer.
According to many studies published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) researchers cite that "one in three U.S. children is obese." That is a fact. Kids are packing on weight and when school dismisses for the summer time and kids are less likely to be active without that structure of set playground time or activity they enjoy in school!
You as a parent can help prevent this trend in your kids and here are four ways to help your kids avoid gaining weight during the summer months:
1. Reduce their screen time. Did you know that The American Academy of Pediatrics has come out and recommended that for a child there should be no more than two hours of entertainment media time for school-aged kids a day. That number includes one to two hours of educational, nonviolent TV. So ask yourself; how much media time are your kids spending in front of a screen per day?
Parents may or may not realize this, but reducing screen time the one crucial prevention tool that parents have a lot of control over when it comes to preventing weight gain over the summer. The idea is parents can literally control the remote, the Internet system and the computer screen and how many hours kids can access and digest!
Limiting the time a child spends sitting and playing video games, 'binge watching' their favorite shows or even spending hours on social media or gaming apps on their mobile devices has a dramatic effect upon your child's health. So how do I limit my child's screen time?
Not only can a parent use effective controls like The Circle to limit the time a child can access the Internet per day, but they can also set up family rules that will help as well. Look into such things as setting family rules as to how much television to watch per day (and then the parents sticking to it as well!)
Or set a family viewing time where parents can interact with their kids by asking questions about the program they are watching together such as; "why do you think the characters are acting this way?" and then actually turning that time into meaningful dialogue inside the home.
A really simple and effective idea is that you can make sure you keep televisions out of your child's rooms, which studies have proven clearly leads to weight gain and an increase in media consumption. When a child does not have immediate and easy access to the television (and video games, etc) that alone helps a child consume significantly less media and the ability to spend time in other healthier endeavours such as playing outside.
2. Give them a reason to get outside. Kids everywhere would rather be engaged in something fun than something that is 'not fun.' This is a no-brainer! Parents sometimes fail to fully grasp that as their child's role model, if they take some time to plan an activity other than the media, and are excited about the activity they create, then the kids are more likely jump on board and participate. Of course pretending to be excited sometimes can get you nominated for Best Supporting Actor In A Dramatic Role!
But it is important for you to be excited. Yes, we get it! As a working adult, you come home at the end of the day and all you want to do is crash land before getting to the chores around the house. But by creating incentives and even rewarding for help with said chores that helps them turn off the screen time. (ie; if we get the floors cleaned and vacuumed by 7pm, we can go to get a $1 ice cream cone at McDonalds!)
The time you spend creating that activity, and your budding acting skills can have a dramatic impact on your kid's lives and getting them outside and enjoying a short walk, outdoor activity or hobby that doesn't involve sitting in front of a screen...
Find time (even short moments on weekend mornings or week nights when you get home) to have an activity that is outside and healthier for your kids than the another hour of media.
Of course Play Unplugged offers amazing and proven incentives through the Brag Badge reward system, so please look into that as well!
3. Give your kids healthy fuel this summer. Diet is the key to any successful weight loss or obesity prevention program. Dieticians everywhere are linking childhood obesity to excessive media consumption because as researchers point out, our bodies do in fact possess an innate preference for sweet, high-fat and salty foods. Also the older we get, the less likely we are to try new tastes and foods...
Now look at your kids. Odds are you may notice they often exhibit a reluctance to try unfamiliar foods, right? As a parent you have more influence here during their younger years than you may think!
Early experiences are critical in shaping individual food preferences. Children learn about foods they like or dislike by being exposed to a variety of foods and observing and experiencing the consequences and rewards of consuming those foods--and what happens when the MAIN source of that exposure are the commercials shown on TV, as banner ads on the computer games or what kids are exposed to via the medium of their choice? Well, we can tell ya it's not good. :(
Can you begin to see it now? Less media does have an impact on weight gain during the summers when kids increase media usage, and exposure to overly salty and sweet snacks they are exposed to.
By actively engaging them in exploring new foods (ie; healthy) you are on the front line of preventing them from choosing those high sodium and sugary food commercials they would see in the media. By teaching them to spend time with you making FUN, healthy snacks and meals, you are 'teaching' their palates to explore (and prefer) healthy options!
4. Encourage creativity and adventure. Sometimes parents confuse activity with the gym. And despite there being a few kids who actually do get a kick out of the gym, most would rather go fishing, ride a bike along the trail or learn a new hobby--all of this is much better than doing what? Yeppers! It is MUCH better than them sitting in front of a computer or television for the same duration of time, so it's time to explore new hobbies with them and find out what they like to do!
Then do it!
...that is one of the best motivators out there to get your child to voluntarily turn off the media, and turn on their lives!
Remember that the more time you encourage (and create) options for them other than sitting and staring at a screen, are times that reduce your child's inactivity and increase their brain and muscle power. And that helps get them active again and less likely to gain weight this summer!
In conclusion, too much screen time not only opens the door for weight gain during the summer months, but also impairs your child by saddling them with a higher propensity for struggles with school when they return in fall. The American Pediatrics Association has boldly stated that spending too much screen time is associated with attention problems at home, sleep disorders and can even provide platforms for illicit and risky behaviors via cell phones and social media. Here is that study; CLICK HERE
Play Unplugged does not want you to be scared and lock your kids up in a deep, underground vault because of the information in this blog post Hardly! We want you as parents to be aware of these issues that are tied into why your child may be gaining weight during the summer so you can prevent it using basic common sense and being actively engaged in what your child consumes and the time spent doing it.
By thinking about these ideas and implementing them (and many other ideas out there) you will see not only a healthier child, but we as parents here at Play Unplugged know you will see a happier child this summer as well!
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