Concern for your children’s health can peak during the holiday break, when all they do is laze around worshipping the teen trinity of cell phone, keyboard and game controller, while grabbing bags of unhealthy snacks and slurping down 32-ounce soft drinks. With more than one-third of American children overweight, how on earth do you keep your kids off the couch and get them healthy and active during the holiday break — and hopefully jump-start a healthier new year? We asked Dr. Sejal Shah, pediatrician at Miami’s Children’s Hospital and creator of teen weight loss program Power Play, to give us parents the skinny on holiday break health. Here are Dr. Shah’s 10 tips for keeping our kids active and at a healthy weight.
10 Ways to keep the kids off the couch during the holiday break
“It sounds simple, but to keep kids healthy on break, you have to make it fun,”says Dr. Sejal Shah, creator of Power Play, the revolutionary and first-of-its kind doctor-supervised teen weight loss program available throughout the country. “If you demand your kids drop and do 20 pushups, it will backfire. It’s got to feel like play, and more importantly, it’s got to feel like their idea, not your idea.”
Take active commercial breaks
While watching TV, have a contest for who can come up with the most fun exercise during commercial breaks, like jump roping with an invisible rope.
Have fun fitness tools on hand
Bring a football, soccer ball or basketball on vacation. Get outside with the kids and join the fun, or invite a bunch of kids over to join in.
Head to the mall
What teen turns down a chance to go hang at the mall? Even if they aren’t doing power laps around the storefront perimeter, they will at least be off the couch and moving. While they cruise the mall for their friends, you can walk, window shop and burn some extra energy, too.
Make a family play date
The holiday break is the perfect time to do something fun as a family. Instead of sitting down to a board game (which your kids don’t really like, anyway), visit indoor jump houses or trampoline facilities, rock climbing centers and playgrounds that have open play for kids.
Walk to see the holiday lights
Instead of piling in the car to drive around the neighborhood, bundle up and walk to see the holiday lights.
Develop an indoor scavenger hunt
Depending on the age of your children, you can develop a hunt that will get the kids moving around the house. Try a “Safari Hide-and-Seek” for the little ones using toy animals, or a “Money Scavenger Hunt” for the older kids, using Monopoly money. Just finding the most animals will delight the younger kids, and to give motivation to the teens, whoever wins gets time off from dish-cleaning or trash duty.
Stir up a little family competition
Even if your teen would rather thumb her way through a game on her phone, she probably doesn’t want Mom to beat her doing a physical activity. See who can do the most sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks or any other activity that will get your kid’s heart’s pumping.
Buy active holiday presents
Purchase at least one present for the kids that will get them up and moving. A skipping rope, Wii game or even a hacky sack will encourage more movement.
Families who exercise together, stay healthy together. Many towns have holiday fun runs for charity. Rally your family to train and race together for the big event. Then pick another race every month or so to keep everyone motivated to stay in racing shape.
Create an active holiday tradition
Whether it’s a yearly ski trip, a hike through the woods to cut a Christmas tree or a visit to the outdoor skating rink, replace sedentary holiday traditions with more active ones. Then make sure you encourage active outings all year round.