10 Ways to Entertain and Energize Without Focusing on Food
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Throw Out the Pork Rinds -- Toss the Pigskin
Plan to watch the game on the weekend? Instead of focusing on snacks, use commercials and halftime to get everyone off the couch and into the yard to throw the football for a few brisk minutes. When it comes to sports practice, children are often more comfortable with family than with other kids, and are likely to join in the fun and may even start to form new, healthy habits without realizing it.
Rev Up Slow Saturdays With Extreme Cleaning
If your kids sleep in, eat a pancake breakfast, and lounge while watching cartoons, their energy levels may be low. Instead, keep boredom at bay with a cleaning race challenge. Add music for some fun. "Flight of the Bumblebee" by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov makes a particularly good speed-cleaning tune. Set the kitchen timer for 10 minutes to tidy each room. Children as young as 3 are able to stack books or pick up toys.
Put Together a Pet Parade
Instead of a potluck for family and friends, organize a pet walking get-together. Time spent with animals lowers blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and loneliness. Everyone will benefit from the chatter and the exercise. Don’t have a dog? Offer to walk a neighbor’s or gather and deliver old towels to a local animal shelter. While you’re there, stop to pet a few pups.
Get All Tangled Up
At birthday parties, take the emphasis off cake and try this energetic group game. It uses communication and reflexes.
1) Form a circle.
2) Everyone grabs the hand of someone across the circle.
3) With the other hand, grab the hand of someone else who is not next to you so everyone is connected.
4) Continue to hold hands as you twist, turn and step over arms to untangle the knot of arms.
Try Stacking Instead of Snacking
Hangouts in the kitchen can be time for your family to bond. Don’t put out countless snacks while you spend time together. Instead, keep the kids (and yourself) busy with something more fun. Get the kids to stack plastic cups as quickly as possible to improve their hand-eye coordination and reaction time. Try to build a pyramid: a row of 6, topped by 5, 4, 3, 2, then a single cup.
Snowed in? Build a Friend.
When school and work are called off, skip the all-day TV marathon with hot cocoa and marshmallows. Instead, bundle up and get family members or neighbors to make snowmen. When you build your very own Frosty, you can burn up to 285 calories an hour. Get creative by making a Hawaiian shirt-and flip-flopped tropical snowman or even icy look-a-likes of family members or pets.
Put the Play in Playtime
Suggest this game as an afterschool wind-down ritual instead of snacks and TV. As two people face each other, the “leader” makes movements, such as raising an arm or hand claps. The “follower” copies the moves as if in front of a mirror. Mix in moves that require more flexibility, such as a toe touch, or balance on one foot. The faster kids move, the better workout they will get.
Get Off the Couch, Go Around the World
Have older kids take a break from video games for this old favorite. All you need is a basketball and hoop.
1) Place cones or chalk marks on the ground around the hoop.
2) Stand on a mark and make a basket.
3) Move to the next mark to make a shot. See how many baskets you can make in a row.
4) When a player misses, it’s the next player’s turn.
5) Return to the mark where you last missed until one player makes a shot from each mark.
Turn Movie Night Into Moving Night
Instead of a movie marathon with breaks only for pizza, call an active intermission. Search for free cable or Internet exercise programs that the whole family can do, like easy “10-minute workouts.” Or make up your own routine. Try 5 minutes of a high-knee march, 3 minutes of walking, and 2 minutes of jogging in place.
Make Your Holiday Treats Calorie-Free
Many holidays are filled with one food-focused event after another. Start new traditions away from the table to spread some joy. Instead of baked goods, make holiday cards or original art for gifts. Or give the gift of music with a Christmas carol performance on your street. With all these activities, you will burn calories and build a sense of community.
American Heart Association.
Brooks, R. and Goldstein, S. Raising a Self-Disciplined Child: Help Your Child Become More Responsible, Confident, and Resilient, McGraw Hill, 2007.
Cohn, J. Raising Compassionate, Courageous Children in a Violent World, Longstreet Press, 1996.
Elizabeth Pantley, author, Kid Cooperation: How to Stop Yelling, Nagging, and Pleading and Get Kids to Cooperate. Jim Fay, co-founder, loveandlogic.com.
President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition.
Roger W. McIntire, PhD, author, Raising Good Kids in Tough Times.
Udermann, B. Perceptual and Motor Skills, April 2004.
Whyte, G. Fit in 5, Human Kinetics, 2009.
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.