By Kathy Kurtenbach
Family time. What is that again? As my sons have gotten older, I find it harder to carve out time for family activities. Their lives are filled with school activities, soccer practice, orchestra practice, etc. My husband’s and mine are filled with playing taxi driver, work, juggling four people’s schedules and squeezing in dinner.
Family time, especially when it includes physical activity, is important for everyone’s health and well-being. Why not make 2015 the year to play more with your kids? The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reports more than 28 percent of adults and 17 percent of children in Alaska are obese. The report also notes that obese children are more likely to experience serious health concerns before adulthood — such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers.
Physically active children tend to be active adults and a lifetime of physical activity can lead to better health. It decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes to name a few.
What can we do as parents to increase our children’s physical activity? We can help our children by making exercise an important part of family life. We can come up with fun ways to add more activity for the whole family. There are lots of activities that families can do indoors or outdoors. Gaming systems have lots of physically active games available to play. Turn cleaning the house into a fun game, have a dance party in your living room or walk at indoor facilities such as the ice rink or mall.
The warm weather this winter has made playing outside easier and more fun. For younger families, play Simon says or red light, green light, go swimming or take a walk with your kids and teach them about animal prints in the snow. You can also bury some goodies in the snow, create a treasure map and send your kids on a hunt for the buried treasures, play hide and seek or build a snowman. For families with older kids, go on a hike, participate in a 5K, go snowshoeing or incorporate your children’s sports/hobbies into the family activity. You can also join 4-H. The whole family can get involved. 4-H has lots of family activities.
It is recommended that kids get 60 minutes of play every day. Finding time for family activities can be difficult and overwhelming at first. Multiple schedules, work, life and other commitments all need to be taken into consideration. To help start the process, set specific, measurable, attainable, results-focused and time-bound goals. Write down why getting your family physically active is important to you. You may want to refer back to it later on. Include your children in the planning process. Children will be more engaged if they have a say in planning the activities.
Think about the obstacles that could prevent the activity. Look at ways to overcome those obstacles. Write them down so you can refer back to them. List some possible sources to help you successfully make the change. These can include friends, co-workers, extended family members, websites, books, etc.
Lastly look at everyone’s schedule and figure out when would be a good date to begin the activity as a family. Taking little steps in the beginning will help you succeed in reaching your vision of a more physically active family time and healthier children.
4-H is a youth organization for youth K-12 that helps youth learn about certain items of interest to them, but also teaches them life skills that will help them in the future. 4-H is a club structure that has leaders who are adult volunteers with current background checks.
To learn more about the local 4-H program, contact Marla Lowder, Tanana District 4-H agent, at 474-2427 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Kathy Kurtenbach, 4-H program assistant, at 474-1914 or email@example.com. You can also check out our web page at www.alaska4h.org/fairbankstanana-district.html.