Ask the Experts: How Can I Keep My Child Physically Active During the School Year?


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Keith and Jyl Camhi, founders of the children's gym Great Play, offer parents five easy ways to keep their kids active during the school year, from simply turning off the TV to making fitness a family effort. Read on for their advice.


little girl exercisingThe New York Department of Education may encourage schools to provide a play period, but it doesn't enforce one. This leaves each school district to decide individually how much -- if any -- recess will be offered. In an effort to raise standardized test scores, many schools are opting out, thinking that another half hour of math or reading time will boost scores when in reality, free time to run around would actually be more beneficial to test scores. Keith and Jyl Camhi are founders of Great Play, a children's gym with about 10 franchises throughout the country, including locations in Scarsdale, NY, and Stamford, CT. Here, the Camhis offer up their expert advice on what parents can do to make sure their kids continue to stay active during the school year, particularly with less institutional support from schools.


Turn your basement into an Interactive arena.

You don't have to be tech-savvy to turn your home into a fitness hot spot. Clear out a safe space in your home, set up speakers, and make the kids feel like professional athletes as they play floor hockey or basketball, complete aerobic activities, or work up a sweat dancing around. Most households own some form of a video game system, so consider investing in an interactive one such as Wii or a game like Dance, Dance Revolution.


Sign up for a sports league or gym class.

Numerous studies show that kids can benefit immensely from participating in organized sports, both physically and socially. Make sure you choose a team or league that encourages active participation and your child is not just watching other kids and waiting for his or her turn. Ask to sit in on a class or practice and look for evidence that kids are in motion most of the time and having fun.


Turn off the TV.

Most children spend four to six hours per day in front of the television, so setting limits on screen time is essential. It may be tempting to let kids create their own television schedule, but if they know television is not an option until later in the evening, they are more likely to engage in other, healthier activities during the afternoon.


Support your child's sport.

We all like to have someone in our corner, and your kids are no exception. Make an effort to drive your kids to soccer practice yourself or cheer them on during their basketball games. Researchers have found that children with supportive parents are more likely to stick with the activity. No matter what the sport is, the main focus should be making the fitness fun and developing skills that will benefit them for years to come.


Stay fit as a family.

Turn your regular workout into quality time with your kids. Set aside time to hike, bicycle, or even walk the dog together. Kids will copy what you do, so help them develop healthy habits by setting the example yourself.


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