By Dr. Keili Mistovich, MD, MPH
The data is clear: Kids are spending too little time out in the sunshine and too much time in front of screens.
The trend is dramatic. Over the past decade, the amount of time that kids under the age of 8 years old spend on mobile devices has increased from a mere 5 minutes to nearly 3 hours per day. This is true of even our smallest kids who are now averaging at least 1 hour per day on screens before their second birthday.
As you can imagine, screen time reports get even worse as kids get older. The CDC reports that kids ages 8-10 are clocking in an incredible 6 hours a day in front of a screen. These numbers reach a near staggering 10 hours per day during the teenage years.
Certainly, some of this time can be attributed to the increasing demands of academics for older children; however, social media, gaming, and television streaming are very much to blame and are beginning to creep into our children’s lives earlier and earlier.
Screen Time vs Kids Outdoor Play
So, what’s a parent to do? As discussed in How to Use and Limit Screen Time for Kids, there’s evidence to support the importance of placing limits on screen time. Research continues to mount, but what we already know is that screens are addictive to children’s brains and that too much screen time leads to lower levels of activity and an increased risk of childhood obesity.
The challenge for so many parents is simply finding new and innovative ways to keep their kids entertained. The answer: Get them outside and get them moving!
Not only will outdoor activity give your kids their needed daily dose of vitamin D, but it improves the development of critical gross motor skills, coordination, and balance. And, best of all, children who develop a love for playing outside grow to be more active and happier adults.
Fun Exercises for Kids
Here’s a list of exercises for kids—and a great way to lessen screen time!
Hit the Playgrounds
These types of activities get kids moving, turn on their big muscles, and even throw in some good social skills practice with turn taking and sharing—toddler swing sets and climbers for the win!
Nature Scavenger Hunt
Walking to the playground or taking your kids for a hike is a perfect opportunity to engage your children in a nature scavenger hunt. Before you leave, give each kid a list of 5-10 items to find along the way. This could include things, such as acorns, certain flowers, trees, or leaves—and even trash that could be picked up and disposed of properly!
But remember, nature is for enjoying, not for picking! Make sure to teach your kids to look but not take. When they spot an item on their list, they can announce it to the group and point out what they’ve found.
Get Rolling with Toys with Wheels
Grab their helmets (and yours!) and take your kids out for a ride on their bike, scooter, roller skates, or anything with wheels! Practice balance, coordination, endurance and get those muscles moving.
Unable to join your kids for a ride? Time to pull out your Step2 coaster! These coasters are perfect for a safe and fun-filled afternoon for your toddler. Not only do these coasters allow for non-stop activity, but they also activate some critical parts of the brain for learning.
A toddler’s world is all about encountering new stimuli and repeating an activity over and over again until they’ve explored it fully. With the expertly designed thrill of momentum, gravity, and force, toddlers can’t help but to want to play with their coasters for hours on end.
Get Active with Play Balls
Play balls of any and all varieties will do! An important developmental skill for all kids is to learn muscle coordination for throwing, kicking, and catching:
- Strike up a game of basketball
- Practice hand-eye coordination with a game of catch and batting practice
- Gather the neighborhood kids for an impromptu game of soccer or kickball
Don’t have all of the equipment you need? Step2 has you covered! Their ball activity toys will provide daily exercise for kids’ bodies and minds and can even help develop coordination and confidence! With all this activity, make sure your little ones stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Challenge Your Kids with an Obstacle Course
Nothing spells coordination, problem solving, big-muscle exercise, and good old-fashioned competition like an obstacle course. Not only do kids get to put their creative engineering minds to work by creating and designing intricate courses, but they also get to exercise their bodies to navigate their creations in record time!
Get Your Littles Ones Moving with Fun Exercises for Kids
Now that you’re equipped with all these fun exercise for kids, it’s time to build this into your routine and goals for each day. Admittedly, moving kids away from their screens and out the door isn’t always easy. Certainly, some kids are going to be more resistant than others.
I recommend families make screen time an earned privilege. For example, every 30 min of active play earns them 5 minutes of screen time. The value gained by having kids earn their rewards is immeasurable.
Parents: If you take the time to expose kids to new ideas and engage them in active play, it’s bound to become their new norm and likely even their preferred way to spend their time. Remember, kids—especially little ones—absolutely love to play with their parents. Time to get out, run, play, and sweat with your kids! When screens are no longer the default cure for boredom, everyone wins!
What fun ways do you get your little ones moving? Share in the comments below!
Dr. Keili Mistovich, MD, MPH, is a mom, pediatrician, and fierce advocate for children. She earned a Doctor of Medicine degree and Master’s of Public Health from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Dr. Keili graduated from the Pediatric Residency Program at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and was on the clinical faculty at Pitt. She also cared for children at the nationally renowned Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital. Dr. Keili is now a co-founder of Greater Cleveland Pediatrics, a new practice with a unique and personalized approach to patient care for all families.