Minimizing Screen Time, Maximizing Play Time

In an effort to dispel his boredom over a recent rainy weekend, my son spent an unusually long time in front of the television and computer. What I found interesting was that the computer characters as well as the television characters both reminded him about the importance of physical activity and a healthy diet. In one computer game, a Disney character appeared on the screen to tell us that while playing on the computer is fun, it's also fun to play with our friends and play outdoors. One of the television shows aired commercials aimed at getting children moving.

This type of promotion of physical activity is encouraging, especially when you consider that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2-19 years are overweight. We know that the time children spend in front of a computer or TV may influence how much time they spend in active play.

Here are some tips to help you get your child away from the screen and out on the playground:

  • Be a role model. If your children see you enjoying a hike, a bike ride, or a game of catch, they're more likely to want to follow along and to be active throughout their lives.

  • Provide opportunities. Encourage your child to join a sports team or class such as soccer, dance, karate, or gymnastics. These are often offered at reasonable rates, with discounts for multiple children in the same family, at local recreation centers or community centers.

  • Be sensitive to their needs. Remember, not all children may feel comfortable participating in activities like sports. Help children to whom competitive sports don't appeal to find suitable activities they'll enjoy.

  • Be active as a family. Do more than the family chores together. Plan active outings such as a trip to the zoo or a walk in the park.

  • Stay prepared for activity. Keep a soccer ball, basketball or jump rope in the car or at a grandparent's house. You never know when you may need to fight boredom or want to make a spontaneous trip to the park.

  • Share your activity goals with others. Encourage caregivers to promote the same environment of activity. If your babysitter wants to sit on the couch and watch TV, so will your child.

  • Make it fun!

What can you add to this list of "moving ideas"?