Kids Active as the Air Starts to Cool
Jack Frost begins to creep closer, kids become less active by hibernating
and photos by Jessica Bellack
As the air temperature starts to drop in the North Country, kids begin moving their activities indoors. Instead of riding bikes or playing a pickup game of basketball, they focus their attention on mastering their latest Playstation game, surfing the Internet, or wasting time in front of the TV, all the while munching on sweet and salty snacks.
“My kids are definitely less active in the winter,” said Gail Schrumpf, mother of two school-age kids. In the summer her children swim everyday and take long walks around their neighborhood, while in the fall Jenna, 13, plays tennis, and Nikki, 10, plays soccer. “They don't play sports in the winter, so when it gets colder they spend much more time indoors,” Schrumpf added. “They come home from school, watch TV, do homework, and have friends over.”
“Starting physical activities at a young age establishes habits that kids will use as adults.”
As the level of inactivity rises, so does the desire to eat junk food. According to the American Obesity Association, about 31 percent of children and adolescents (ages 6 to 19) are obese, a 19 percent increase since 1980. This is a trend that has been on the rise since 1960 and shows no signs of slowing down.
“My kids have less of an appetite in the summer when it's hot outside. Plus, when their friends are over in the winter, we'll often bake cookies or order pizza,” said Shrumpf.
So how can you ensure your child gets up-and-out during the cold months?
Consider indoor sports. Try checking out your local YMCA. Most offer indoor youth sports year round like basketball, floor hockey, swimming, and indoor soccer. They offer these programs in the form of organized teams, and you don't have to be a member to sign up. These leagues tend to strengthen family bonds, as parents act as spectators at their children's games. “Starting these activities at a young age establishes habits that kids will use as adults,” said Peter Price, Associate Executive Director of the Plattsburgh YMCA. Price, who has a degree in physical education, believes that sports like basketball and swimming are activities that kids can enjoy into adulthood. Price admits that the YMCA isn't looking to beef kids up, but rather give them skills to establish fitness and sports ethics.
“If parents stay inside watching television, they can't expect their children to do otherwise.”
Embrace the snow. Snowsports can be a physical activity for the whole family and most big mountains have accommodations for children. Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, New York, offers Kids Campus programs, group and private lessons for ages 4 to 15. “Our children's program is very popular. So much so that during the holiday season a reservation is usually required,” said Alexis Hickey, snowsports director at Whiteface Mountain. Hickey explains that skiing and snowboarding keeps kids fit by utilizing the muscles needed for balance. Whiteface also offers a nursery program for kids ages 1 to 6, which allows for social activity by playing games.
Make it fun. Set up a winter scavenger hunt, or build a snowman. Sledding can also keep children active, while treading up steep hills. These activities are inexpensive, so invite the neighborhood kids to participate.
"Stay healthy and active yourself," suggests child psychologist, Dr. Margaret Paul. If parents bundle up and walk each day, children will have less of a tendency to stay indoors. “If parents stay inside watching television, they can't expect their children to do otherwise.”
Forget those Lunchables! They're full of processed food and sugar. Here are some easy and healthy lunch options that won't leave your child trading at the lunch table.
Mini Pizza Bagels: Contrary to what you might think, this is a healthy option that covers many of the food groups. A mini bagel contains a moderate amount of carbohydrates and the lycopene in tomato sauce is proven to prevent cancer. Choose cheese that is high in calcium, and ditch the fatty pepperoni for small bits of baked chicken.
South Western Roll-Ups: Combine lean grilled chicken with lettuce, tomato, and one percent shredded cheese, all in a low-carb wrap. Add salsa for a healthy kick, instead of high calorie sour cream.
Chocolate Ants on a Log: A twist on the traditional celery, peanut butter, and raisin treat. Ditch the raisons that kids usually despise, and surprise them with chocolate chips. In moderation, chocolate is actually a good source of flavonoids, magnesium, and antioxidants.
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