Thursday, January 11, 2007

Getting your kids off the couch

As a kid I found myself sitting in front of the television, eating TV dinners. I wasn't really motivated to get up and do anything. I mean, since I had every source of entertainment in the living room, what was the big appeal of going outside? As a result, I became a little fatty. Also, as an adult I find that I have to motivate myself to stay in shape and exercise. What are some steps that we as parents can take to make sure that our kids enjoy fitness, eating right, and going out every now and then to catch a breath of fresh air?

I find that recently the video gaming industry has taken a wonderful turn in the fight against childhood obesity. All too many times parents, and teachers blame the video game for excessive violence, and facilitating sloth in our nations youth. However, the industry has released several titles that I think educators and parents alike can appreciate.

The recent release of the Nintendo Wii is a major step in the right direction. This gaming system actually wants kids, adults, and seniors to forget their lazy ways by simply having them break free of the bindings of the couch monster. I have purchased one of these machines over the holidays, and found myself enjoying bouncing around my living room, in order to return a serve while playing tennis on Wii Sports. I've actually felt my heart rate increase while playing Raymond Rabbid Rabbits. Could this be the way of the future?

This movement craze did not begin with the Wii. Before the Wii was released, there was a game that swept through malls everywhere, challenging the likes of unfit gamers. I was too embarrassed to play the game in public, but found myself mesmerized by the rate at which the arrows flew across the screen! However, I was more amazed at the players ability to keep up!
That game was Dance Dance Revolution (DDR)! It showed me that our kids have the energy, they just have no structured means of letting it out! We actually keep our kids indoors, because who knows what kind of crazy people are out there. Then we fill them full of hyperactivity medication, because they are driving everyone in the house crazy. Why not give them a way to burn off that energy, and a hundred calories a minute by playing a video game they enjoy? I purchased this game for the PS2, and in no time my wife and I were bouncing across the living room trying desperately to catch our breathe as we clumsily stomped the arrows on the dance pad. At first it takes a little getting used to, but after a while we began having competitions with our friends. Can you imagine having twenty kids in a classroom playing DDR on a projector? What fun would that be! The extra pads would not even have to be plugged in! Actually all that you would need is some masking tape arrows pointing up, down, left, and right; and the kids could try to keep up!

Though even before DDR, Nintendo released the "Power Pad" for the Nintendo Entertainment System. This pad encouraged people to run, jump in place, and even do aerobics, as the player watched their little pixilated character mimic their movements. It was really revolutionary for its time, just like the Nintendo Wii is trying something different for our nation's youth. It may or may not last, I can't say... I'm just glad they tried.
Other games that get kids moving: Guitar Hero, Eye Toy, and Karaoke Revolution

Other less expensive ways of getting your kids off the couch:
  • Plan an outdoor activity as a family- (If your kids see that you enjoy getting out of the house then they may just follow your lead.)
  • Enroll them in a sport, or extracurricular activity- (Dancing, karate, soccer, track, all of these build the mind along with the body.)
  • Take them for a hometown tour- (I know that your kids have seen all of the local sites during school field trips, but they will actually get more out of a personal tour with their parents. Think about it. They will be able to ask you questions, go where they want to go, and discover things that the school trip may have passed over because of time restraints.)
  • Have a monthly family picnic- (The kids will get some fresh air, eat a healthy meal, and while they are playing on the swing set; you and your spouse can have a relaxing afternoon.)
  • Conduct a fitness challenge- (There is nothing wrong with a little friendly competition. Challenge your kids to do more jumping jacks than you, to jump rope longer, to make the "behind-the-back-one-legged-no-looking" jump shot. They will strive to make you proud. Side note: When they do beat you, be a gracious loser. This will leave it open for you to challenge them again next week....)
I hope this post gave you a few ideas about how to not only motivate your children and students to get off the couch, but also show how we as parents can positively effect our kid's lives.

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