Research has shown that inappropriate time spent by kids watching television, playing video games, using computers, riding motorized vehicles and so forth leads to poor fitness later in life, to weight gain and to an increased risk of chronic diseases. Modifying children’s leisure-time habits can be particularly challenging for parents but a gradual reduction of one sedentary activity will nurture your kid’s good physical habits.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Sports Nutritionist Mihira AR Khopkar, shared, “You don’t want your kid to be a couch potato, adding in dead fat weight that is further difficult to lose as your child grows. In the earlier days, we always used to indulge in some kind of play – kho-kho, catch-catch, ball activities etc. These days the kids spend too much time across the screen and the best thing really is to expose your kid to sports.”
She advised, “Put them in a sporting academy and let them learn a new sport and develop those skills. At the same time, as parents, be involved in a sport with your kid; play badminton, play tennis, play football etc. Most importantly, as parents you need to be role models and work towards your fitness and health yourself for your kid to follow path.”
Himani Narula, Developmental and Behavioural Paediatrician Director and Co-Founder of Continua Kids, suggested:
1. Make room for play
2. Reward and encourage active behaviour
3. Limit their video screen time
4. Be a good role model, ensure your parenting behaviours are as positive and active as possible
5. Let them try things like sports or other physical activities
6. Find alternative ways to be active
Encouraging parents to plan a day that has 60 minutes of physical activity for their kids with 8-10 hours of sleep and less than two hours of screen time, Kamal Patel, Child Behaviourist and Parenting coach at HUMM, recommended some quick tips that include:
1. Arrange screen-free play dates with friends. This is great because it builds social skills encouraging them to indulge in imaginative games or robust physical activity.
2. Set 20-minute screen-time alarms followed by 20 minutes of physical activity. Stretching, jumping, doing household chores, etc.
3. Designate strict screen-free times including family time, mealtimes, bedtime, etc.
4. Do one daily physical activity with your child like going for a walk, swimming, playing football, or hide-and-seek.
5. Set targets depending on the child’s age and ability – 15 minutes of reading and writing followed by 10 minutes of screen time.
6. Screen time is meaningful when followed by a discussion:
· A new word or concept that you learned.
· Who was your favourite character?
· Did you agree with what was said at the end?
· Would you do it differently?
7. Most importantly, you must be present and available. Don’t use the screen as a pacifier, babysitter, or to stop a tantrum.
8. Model the behaviour you want from your child – ditch your phone.