We’re going to the Park!
Let’s face it, everybody loves the weekend! You don’t have to get up early to go to work; you don’t really have to do anything really. You have two days to yourself and your family. So why are so many parents opting to stay at home- indoors- when there’s more than enough sunlight and fresh air to go around?
Come Saturday, you should be out the door faster than you can say the word ‘Park’. All you really need is some sunscreen, maybe a hat and some water for you and the kids- the icing on the cake would be any type of ball. It doesn’t take a lot for any child to be excited about going to the park, so when they hear that you- their favorite person in the entire world- is going to spend some time playing with them, well you just brought them Christmas in August.
As a parent or guardian you should take advantage of every opportunity to encourage your kids to have fun, get dirty (yes moms, this means grass and dirt stains on their clothes- nothing some detergent can’t handle) and make friends. Most importantly, you absolutely need to encourage them to move; it is one of the simplest and most effective ways to combat the epidemic of childhood obesity. Equally as important however, is the risk of dehydration and overheating! Kids sweat less than adults which means that their bodies are not as efficient at regulating temperature, making them more susceptible to heat related illness. It is important for kids – and adults- to stay hydrated and get out of the sun and into the shade for a cool down break every so often.
Now, I’m not saying to have them run a marathon or participate in the 100 meter dash, but let your kids be kids. Let’s take the game of ‘Tag’. For starters, and probably my favorite, it’s absolutely free. By simply running away from the kid who is ‘it’, your child is working on his/her endurance, speed, agility and get this, s/he’s having fun! “Tag” is, for lack of a better word, a sneaky way to get your kids to engage in aerobic exercise and directly strengths their heart. If done often enough, this type of ‘exercise’ can improve their body’s capacity to efficiently deliver oxygen to each of its cells. Soccer and basketball are also great ways to teach your kids the importance of working as a team, plus they also get in some exercise!
Another great piece of exercise equipment that you’ll often find at the park is monkey bars and ladders! While admittedly more difficult than Tag, the monkey bars provide an entertaining and unique way for your child to work on his/her strength. The funny thing about monkey bars is that there’s so much more to them than meets the eye. Parents shouldn’t be afraid of them; in fact, parents should encourage their child to attempt to cross them! Silly as it may sound; Monkey Bars can teach you a lot about life. They force you to face the very real reality that you will likely fall the first time you attempt them. They teach you that it’s okay to fall, and that the only thing standing in your way from getting back up again is you. They teach you to look up and to look straight at the goal in front of you instead of down at your fears or ahead at your obstacles. They teach you confidence and give you the most gratifying sense of accomplishment once you’ve reached the other side.
It’s not always enough to go in the backyard and throw the ball around with your family. The social aspect of being at the park is one that cannot be recreated at home. Kids are more likely to engage in high intensity physical activity if there are other kids involved. As parents we have the responsibility to make sure our children are safe, but that doesn’t mean we can sit back and let them play with their friends while we watch from a safe distance. It has been observed that parents actually obstruct a child’s play (i.e. physical activity levels) for fear that the child will be hurt. Nobody is asking you to allow any harm to come to your or any other child. That being said, can you recall a time during your childhood that you fell and scraped your knee and lived to tell the tale? Those bumps, bruises and scrapes made you who you are today. They taught you to get up and keep going; coincidentally they also thought you how to avoid getting bumped or scraped in the future.
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