Now that spring is here, with nice weather and seasonal places opening up, it is a great time to focus on getting the kids active at least a few times per week. As we all know, childhood obesity has become an epidemic in our country. Without calling names or making accusations, here are some real suggestions for ways you, the au pair, can get the kids active and moving. Be sure to provide lots of clean drinking water before, during and after activities. Sports drinks and flavored waters contain a surprising amount of sugar kids don’t need.
I want to share really useful information with you, so I will try to include some indoor and outdoor activities, as well as ones you can do with just one or two children or with a large family like mine, with six kids! Ready, set, here we go!
First, indoor or out, with one or many, this is one for everyone! If you or your host family children have a talent or take any kind of class, take turns teaching each other a skill or move. For example, if your host children take karate, gymnastics or dance, have them show you a move from a recent class and you do it as best you can. Then teach them something from your own skill or hobby, such as your favorite yoga pose or a dance from your native country. Have them practice it once or twice. Go back and forth, or around the group, like this until everyone has shared at least one pose, move, or activity. If the kids don’t take any classes or lessons, have them show you a game they learned or practiced recently in school (if you want to, check out this site with group games for kids: http://kidshealth.org/parent/growth/learning/school_age_games.html).
Second, try to put together a neighborhood basketball or kickball or soccer game after school or on Saturday morning. If none of the neighbors have a basketball net or enough room, most towns have local parks or fields with lots of availability. Those games basically only require a ball and can be done with just a couple of kids or a crowd.
A favorite of my kids is probably a tie for third place: hide and seek (indoors or out) or any number of variations of the game of tag (outside only, for obvious reasons). My kids never seem to tire of taking turns, whether inside or out, as long as clear boundaries or limitations are made, of hiding from each other or chasing each other across the yard. My kids invent their own kinds of tag, but a couple of the regulars are freeze tag (where you freeze/stop in place when tagged until unfrozen by a teammate) and cartoon tag (where you must touch the ground and say the name of a cartoon character before getting tagged). A word of caution while playing hide and seek: always make sure the children understand places that are safe or not safe to hide. For example, never hide under blankets or pillows or in containers that latch closed. Parent’s rooms and other rooms may be off-limits if you play indoors.
If you have an only child, be sure to invite friends over when the weather is nice and encourage or facilitate outside play. Giving kids very simple toys can get them moving in surprising ways. Little kids love to chase and pop bubbles. Bigger kids can keep a balloon off the ground or floor using a clean fly-swatter or their hands and have a contest for longest time in the air. Girls and boys both can do very well at jumping rope and playing catch. Hopscotch can be played on a sidewalk with a simple chalk drawing.
Very little kids can act out stories as you read them or for certain parts of the story. This can help get out that last little bit of energy before bed and make sure they are listening for their part of the story to get up and act it out on cue. Just putting on some music and busting out some dancing moves can get kids moving, especially if they see adults around them doing the same thing.
Above all, be an active person yourself. Don’t spend all of your spare time on the couch in front of the television or in front of a computer screen. Take the dog for a walk and get out in the fresh air whenever you can, and take the kids with you. You may just discover a world of activities just waiting for you to try!
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My name is Joan Lowell, LAR (Local Area Rep) in the Providence area; please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-309-1925 with your questions.