7 ways to keep the kids active this winter


According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average child watches about three hours of television a day. And the average kid spends five and a half hours on TV, DVDs, computer time outside of schoolwork and video games combined. So where does the recommended 60 minutes of vigorous activity for children 2 and older get squeezed in, especially for school-age kids?

As kids get older, they can face challenges to making fitness a priority in their daily lives, such as schoolwork, busy families or a lack of active role models. Kids are naturally active, wanting to run, jump and skip, but sometimes they just don't have the time for 60 consecutive minutes of it. When a solid hour to ride a bike, go for a hike or swim at the YMCA isn't in the cards, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) recommends taking that hour and breaking it into four 15-minute intervals during the day.

1. Overcome the obstacle
Create an obstacle course in the backyard, in one room of the house or throughout the entire house. What's more fun than watching Mom and Dad crawl under the table or getting permission to jump off the couch just this once, all for the sake of fitness? Gather couch pillows, chairs, balls and any equipment or furniture that can easily be moved around and used for props in your obstacle course. Inexpensive pool noodles make great props, too. For inspiration, check out some video clips from the show "Wipeout" and re-create them in a safe, family-friendly way. "We like to set up forts and tents and pretend that we are outside scaling pillow mountains," says Diana Rumage, mom of boys ages 5 and 2. "Once the cushions are off the couches, they use them as indoor trampolines."

2. Mall movin'
Malls can provide much more than retail therapy. If the weather is not cooperating for a quick, post-dinner walk, take the family out for a power walk through the mall. Challenge the family to walk all levels, including the stairs. "Both our girls love going to the mall," said Anthony Falcone, dad to 2-year-old and 6-month-old daughters. "We don't force our 2-year-old to stay in the stroller, so she can run around and have some freedom. Her favorite activity is riding the escalator. She will take me up and down it countless times and never get tired of it."

3. Saturday Night Fever
Throw a family dance party one night a week. Pick a night to get the family playlist together. It only takes 15-20 minutes to get your groove on.

4. Cleaning challenge
In addition to keeping your home tidy, cleaning has fitness benefits, too. When we clean, we bend, lift and move around. But this activity might take some reward incentive, so make it a game. Every member of the family gets one room and a list of what to clean in each room (make sure it's equal, to be fair).  Set a timer for 15 minutes, and the first person to complete all of their chores wins a prize. The Cleaning Champion gets his or her pick of which room to clean during the next Cleaning Challenge.

5. Be a winter winner
Winter sports such as basketball and skating are a great way to get kids moving inside. Local recreation departments almost always offer a winter sport like basketball or wrestling. Research local establishments such as karate or dance studios for classes that your local recreation department may not offer.

6. Wild child
Sometimes we just have to let our children release their inner beast. Run around the house, play tag, wrestle in the living room. "At night, after dinner and before baths, I make it a point to spend time playing, wrestling and generally wearing them out so they're willing to sleep," says Falcone. Jon Rosenberg, dad to a first-grader, agreed. "At home we will play games running around the house and wrestling," he said. This is the time when Mom is not allowed to yell "No running in the house!" Think of the kids' health!

7. Drop and give me 10!
Let family members take turns being drill sergeant for the day. At any time during the day, the drill sergeant can call out "10 push-ups!" or "20 jumping jacks!" The kids will love telling Mom and Dad what to do and will have just as much fun dropping and giving you 10.

At the end of the day, these all contribute to a healthy, happy, active kid.

According to the Harvard Medical School, the following are some activities and calories burned in 30 minutes for a 125-pound person:

Jump rope, 300 calories
Walking (17-minute mile), 125 calories
Raking the leaves, 120 calories
Frisbee, 90 calories
Dance with your family or friends, 180 calories

Pam Melyan-Bratton is a freelance writer, mom, teacher and a kickboxing instructor.

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