By Greg Bach
Parents’ quest for fun, engaging and healthy activities to bust boredom with their children rages on these days, as life confined to home continues to present all sorts of challenges for families.
But now, more than ever, making healthy choices is so important for both emotional and physical well-being.
“Even as little as 10 minutes of exercise a day can be shown to reduce stress and so in terms of stress relief it is massively important,” says Nora Minno, a New York-based Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer. “It’s also really important to keep your immune system strong – we want to keep moving.”
As households adjust to this new way of living in the fight against the Coronavirus, parents face new struggles with keeping children who are accustomed to busy practice and game schedules entertained and active at home.
“Definitely start by building a schedule,” Minno says. “Kids are used to having a lot of structure, whether it’s going to school and having their set class times and having their set practice, so kind of stick to that routine as much as possible by building a schedule that they can rely on. That way they’ll have something to look forward to.”
Check out these terrific ways Minno shared for getting kids excited about exercising and eating healthy during these unprecedented times, so when lives return to normal they’ll be ready to go with their busy sports schedules.
Child in Charge: Mix things up by letting your child choose the day’s activity. “Have a day where it’s the kid’s choice to lead and they can pick out a workout video to do from YouTube or a video game like Just Dance where everybody does it together,” Minno says. “Have a schedule but then allow fun and flexibility within that by giving the kids the chance to lead the parents.”
Eye on Experimenting: Since many kids are reluctant to try new sports for fear of embarrassment in front of a group, parents can use this new-found free time at home these days to experiment with new activities with their children. “It’s absolutely a good time to try something,” Minno says. “And the child might be more willing to try something because you are in your own home and the child isn’t in front of other kids in a gym class. So it can be a fun way to try things – and even let them pick the activity.” She suggests that parents can mention options that may never have crossed a child’s radar, everything from a kickboxing video on YouTube or learning to dance on Tik Tok together. “These are activities that you can do together and have some fun with it,” Minno says.
Get ‘em off the couch: “Make a scavenger hunt around the house where you kind of have to run to different places and grab something,” Minno says. “Or get them involved in a video game that requires movement, like a Wii game or a dance video to make it fun and where you are getting a lot of movement.”
Navigating nutrition: Another challenge these days – for both parents and kids – is sticking to a healthy diet when it’s easy to indulge in unhealthy snacks throughout the day. For starters, Minno suggests getting the kids involved in both the menu planning and food preparation. “Create a weekly or daily menu together and make it fun,” she says. “Make it a craft project. Sit down at the kitchen table and decide what would be good for dinner on Monday night. Make a menu, and include what snacks the child thinks you should have at 11 and 3. If it’s apples and peanut butter, for example, you can even have the kids draw it out and color in an apple.” By engaging the kids and making them a part of the process they’ll be more enthused about following a healthy diet. “Make it fun and easy and have the kids feel like they are part of building this plan so it doesn’t come from the parents of ‘you can eat this but can’t eat this,’” Minno says. “Also get the kids involved in the cooking. You can look up some simple recipes on line.”
Rev up Energy: To help keep kids energized and enthused about exercising, track the progress of everyone in the house. “Build a schedule, stick to it and hold each other accountable,” Minno says. “Create some type of reward that comes if they complete all of their workouts.”
Creative thinking: Some sports, like tennis and football, pose added challenges for young athletes who aren’t able to practice like they are accustomed to doing. “Think about what drills you could do,” Minno says. “Like doing some agility work with ladders, going up and down stairs, and strength-building skills. Think about how you can break it down into skill-based exercises and build a weekly schedule around that.”
Start slow: With those children who haven’t been active now is a good time to gradually work in some moderate exercise into their daily routine. “I think with kids who haven’t been as active giving them a schedule where they have video time, class time, and exercise time where we are all going to get moving,” Minno says. “It could even be as simple as taking a walk around the block together to get some fresh air.”
Connect with Coaches: Not all parents played the same sports their children are, so for those not well-versed in a particular sport they can reach out to their son or daughter’s coach for help. “Consult your coaches,” Minno says. “Depending on the age and skill level of the child and what sport they are playing, I’m sure the coaches have a great set of exercises or different types of drills that the kids can do at home. That way a parent who has never played soccer before, for example, can get advice on different skills to do at home.”
You can connect with Nora Minno on her website and follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. She’s also a trainer on Daily Burn, an online streaming fitness platform that is offering a free 60-day trial. Over 1,000 workouts are available and many of them don’t require any equipment.Fitness Health Exercise Nutrition Family