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tips for raising happy and healthy kids

healthy kids, physical education, American Heart Association

This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

When I was growing up, kids were encouraged to play outside. It was the most natural thing to see children outside playing; climbing trees, riding bikes, playing tag, kickball, or just running. Neighborhood parks were our favorite place to be.

Of course, when I was growing up there wasn’t the Internet. There were no laptops, iPads, kindles or Google. There were computers but they were big and bulky and not everyone had access to them. If you wanted to know what the name of that guy was who did the voice of that character in your favorite movie, you couldn’t Google it, you had to get up off your butt, go to the library and check the encyclopedias, the papers and the magazines. It was a whole big thing so why not just go swimming with your friends?

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These days, kids are becoming tech savvy at a lot younger age. The Internet is commonplace and as we evolve technologically, we seem to be doing a lot more sitting and a lot less moving. Kids are not playing outside like they used to. Physical education is being phased out. Recess is becoming viewed as an obsolete dinosaur because who needs fresh air and playing on jungle gyms when you can play a video game about being outside and playing on jungle gyms?

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We’re supposed to be moving forward but in a way, I feel we are moving backwards. Just because we have the Internet to answer every question we can ever dream of that doesn’t mean that we should stop moving, just because we can.

I believe our children’s physical health and well-being is just as important as their intellect, maybe more so because we only have one body and once that body is damaged, it’s hard to repair that. Research shows kids need 60 minutes of physical activity per day and PE programs can help get them there so why not teach our kids at a very young age to cherish their bodies and physical well-being.

healthy kids, physical education, American Heart Association

It’s our job as parents to ensure that our little ones are healthy, and for me that includes advocating for physical education and more recess. In a world where it is getting easier and easier to do everything from the touch of a button, it’s important that we instill in our children not only the importance of physical activity, but the habit of moving. We need to model that behavior from a very early age. Heaven knows it’s easier to hand our kids the phone to play than to stop what we are doing and engage them physically, but we have to make the time and find the energy to just do it.

Childhood obesity is not only “a thing” in our society but it is commonplace. We live in a world where super-sized everything is the norm, and it is cheaper to buy junk food than it is to buy healthy food. Did you realize only 4% of elementary schools, 8% of middle schools, and 2% of high schools provide daily PE or its equivalent for the entire school year?

Kids don’t get time to just play anymore. Everything is scheduled and those schedules are packed. In my family, 6 days a week, my girls have extracurricular activities. It just so happens that their activities are physical, but there is very little time for free play and not all kids have these kinds of rigorous physical schedules. This is one of the reasons they don’t spend a lot of time on their devices. A healthy body fosters a healthy mind and increases academic performance. That’s a good thing, in my opinion.

healthy kids

I try to fill our summers with activities like hiking, bike riding, swimming and playing outside. The girls like to spend a lot of time on the trampoline, slack line and zip line and luckily for us, they are not that into being on the computer unless it’s for homework. They’ve not discovered Minecraft or video games yet.

I’m always advocating for more recess and additional days of physical education because those days are important, not only for our children’s physical well-being but their mental well-being too. PE addresses the needs of the whole child, positively impacting their physical, mental, and emotional health. Physical education also seems to have a positive impact on children’s self-confidence because when you feel more physically fit, you feel stronger and more confident.

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We encourage our girls to embrace physical activity and to strive to be their healthiest. The Voices for Healthy Kids initiative aims to foster a national conversation about the need to ensure quality physical education as a part of every child’s education.

Throughout 2017, they’re aiming to deliberately and consistently insert the need for expanded PE into the national dialogue to push for changes in the states and communities where change is most needed and where clear opportunities exist.

healthy kids, physical education, American Heart Association

Under ESSA (the federal education law), all states must develop a comprehensive plan to ensure all students receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education. Unlike previous federal education law, ESSA includes physical education (PE) and health as part of a “well-rounded curriculum” this means that for the first time ever, health and PE have access to significant federal funding!

But here’s the caveat: inclusion of health and PE in ESSA is not a mandate. We need to advocate for daily PE to be included as a core component in ESSA plans so that money can be accessed for PE. If PE is not included in the plan, it won’t have access to funding. 95% of parents with children under the age of 18 think PE should be part of the school curriculum for all students K-12. I agree. Children need PE, as often as possible.

Do you know if your kids are getting enough PE? Protect PE by joining the PE Action Team at www.voicesforhealthykids.org/PE

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