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6 Tips to Get Your Kid Off Games and Get Active

Posted 2/12/2016 by UHBlog

Are you worried your child is spending too many hours staring at a video game screen and not enough time outdoors? We can help.

6 Tips to Get Your Kid Off Games and Get Active

While your child’s thumbs might be getting a workout pressing down constantly on a game pad, it’s the neglect of the rest of the body that concerns health care providers most. Increasingly, children spend a lot of time playing video games.

“Childhood obesity is becoming such an epidemic in this country,” says pediatric certified nurse practitioner Annamarie D Orazio-Skowronski, CNP. “A lot of the times when children are playing video games or spending a lot of time in front of the screen, they’re mindlessly eating. It’s not healthy.”

Getting your kids off the couch and moving can help get those rates down. Plus, it boosts their endorphins in the process, helping them to feel good.

Doctors recommend that children get 60 minutes of physical activity three to five days a week to stay healthy. But don’t fret if your child lacks athletic talent, says D'Orazio-Skowronski.

“Exercise doesn’t have to be an athletic thing,” she says. “It can be any activity that gets the heart rate up. Racing up the stairs counts – so long as you aren’t slipping on the stairs – or chasing the dog around the house.”

D’Orazio-Skowronski understands, though, that it may not be easy for your child to go from couch potato to regular exerciser. She recommends these six tips to help her transition into a regular activity routine:

  1. Know your numbers – Record how much time both you and your child spend in front of the screen. Then decide together how many hours a week is acceptable to spend on video games.
    “I think a lot of adults don’t realize how much time they are spending on electronics themselves,” D'Orazio-Skowronski says “It’s a good learning opportunity.”
    A good rule of thumb, D’Orazio-Skowronski says, is as much time as your child spends working on homework is the amount of time he can play video games.
  2. Brainstorm activity ideas – Set aside 15 minutes together as a family to come up with a list of activities your child might want to try. Make a pact to do one of them together each week.
    “The key is to find something they are interested in,” D’Orazio-Skowronski says. You might have to try a multitude of different activities before your child finds one that clicks.
  3. Pick a time of day – “You want to start getting into a pattern, where your children knows that at a certain time of day, like right before dinner or right after school, that’s activity time,” she says. Whether it’s racing through a set of calisthenics or doing 10 minutes of yoga, the activity helps create routine, which is one of the best ways to get your kids to stick to an activity plan.
  4. Choose active video games – One option is to use what your child already likes – video games – to promote physical activity. For instance, games designed for Xbox-Kinect and Wii can track player movement and help get your child’s heart rate up.
  5. Limit where video games are played – “I do not advocate for televisions or video games in the bedroom,” D’Orazio-Skowronski says. “It inhibits sleep and it makes children want to stay up longer.” Instead, make a rule that video games are only allowed to be played in one, central common area – and not in your child’s bedroom.
  6. Provide rewards – Each time your child decides to kick a ball around outside or go for a walk instead of picking up the game controllers, note it on a board. When your child acquires enough points, reward him – preferably with something that reinforces his healthy lifestyle.
    “Tickets to a sporting event or signing your child up for summer camp are good options,” D’Orazio-Skowronski says.
    The ultimate goal, she says, is getting your child to find physical activities that provide as much of a thrill to her as video games.
    “They’re not going to commit to it if they don’t like it,” she says.

Annamarie D Orazio-Skowronski, CNP is a pediatric certified nurse practitioner at University Hospitals Ulrich Professional Group. You can request an appointment with D’Orazio-Skowronski or any other University Hospitals health care professional online.

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