Spring into Active, Outdoor Play


By Michelle LaRowe

With the days of snow and freezing temperatures quickly fading into the distant past, spring flowers and green grass provide the ultimate playground for kids of all ages. And it may be hard to believe that with all the wiggling, moving, running and jumping young children do throughout the day, it’s still not enough physical activity.

But according to the Institute of Medicine the number of overweight children aged 2 to 5 has doubled in the last 30 years. So with the rising rate of childhood obesity it’s more important than ever that we encourage our kids to get out and get active.

Now after a winter season of mostly staying put and drinking hot cocoa by the warm fire, how can parents help their children transition from indoor time to ois utdoor time and to foster an attitude of activeness in young kids?

Toddlers and preschool aged children should be encouraged to take part in 30-60 minutes of structured or planned physical activity per day. And it doesn’t have to be a continuous hour of activity. Time spent going for a nature walk, kicking around a soccer ball and running backyard races can easily accumulate to an hour of physical activity over the course of a day. And although some activities like dancing and makeshift bowling can be done inside of the house, there is nothing like fresh air and open space to encourage physical activity in young children.

But besides structured active time, look for natural opportunities to get your child moving throughout the day. Put some music on and encourage kids to dance around. Freeze dance is a great game kids love to play. When out and about, allow time for your child to be outside of the stroller and to walk beside you, rather than to sit and be strolled. If you’re gardening, encourage your child to grab his pint sized shovel and to plant alongside you.

Parking away from the grocery store entrance, taking the family dog for a walk, and walking to preschool or daycare (if it’s a short enough distance away) are all great ways to encourage physical activity throughout the day.

Encouraging kids to take part in active, rather than sedative play is another way to get young children moving. Board games and blocks are great mind boosters, but kids need body boosters too. Children love navigating mom made backyard obstacle courses, playing at the playground, climbing on play structures and swinging on swings. Turning playtime into active time is the best way to make moving fun.

And if your child is enrolled in a daycare or a preschool program, you’ll want to be sure that they include active play in their daily routine. Programs should have set times for outdoor play each day and you’ll want to be sure that teachers and staff encourage kids to be active during that time.

You’ll also want to limit TV time. If you’re going to allow a daily dose of the boob tube, save it for when it’s dark out or when the weather isn’t conducive to playing outdoors.

And remember kids model what they see. Seeing mom walk, rather than take the car to the corner store, going for a daily jog or taking the family dog for a nightly stroll show your child that moms need to get moving too.

So with the warm weather coming in, make a conscious decision to foster an attitude of activeness in your children this season. Take time to play outside, go for walks and enjoy all of nature that winter had hidden away.

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