Childhood obesity is on the rise. In this modern day and age where technology is rampant and there are fewer opportunities for physical play, how can we ensure that we are raising fit kids?
WORDS CINDY LIM
The technologically driven world today offers fewer opportunities for physical activity through play. Children are exposed to the wonders of digital devices from a young age.
The more time spent on the computer, smartphone or tablet,
the less time they spend on outdoor activities.
According to the Health Promotion Board (HPB), screen time at home should be limited to two hours or less a day. Screen time refers to activities done in front of a screen such as the TV, computer, tablet or smartphone. All these are sedentary activities—being physically inactive while sitting down. Increased screen time translates to a lack of adequate exercise. Parents should impose limits on time spent on sedentary activities.
One such example is Jake Koh, three, who spends a large part of his day watching videos on his mother’s tablet. He watches it during his meals, in the car and even in the shower! “At first, I used the tablet as a substitute nanny to entertain and occupy his attention when I was busy with his siblings,” shares Jake’s mother, Lim Siang Di, 37.
“However, I noticed that he has become increasingly attached to the tablet. Whenever I would take it away from him during meal times or when he needed to take a nap, he would cry and throw tantrums. When we bring him out to the park to play or to fun attractions like the Jurong Bird Park and Singapore Zoo, he is more concerned about when he can next get his hands on the tablet instead of enjoying himself playing and running around. He does not want to cycle or scoot around now, which he used to love doing,” explains the mother of three.
To reduce Jake’s addiction to the tablet, Siang Di has started enforcing a limit of one hour screen time for him, split into four fifteen minute sessions. When she is busy, Jake’s older siblings would play games with him like Tag or Hide and Seek to encourage him to move around more.
Siang Di and Jake are on the right track. Regular physical activity, combined with healthy eating habits, is the most effective way to control your child’s weight. For children, physical activity includes play, games, sports, chores, recreation, physical education or planned exercise. HPB recommends at least 60 to 90 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day.
Apart from structured sports, exercise can be fun activities and creative workouts to encourage children to get physical. Every child is different—let the children experiment with different activities until they find something they enjoy doing. Exercise can also be a bonding time for the family—spend time together going for walks, hikes or cycling.
Some examples of fun physical activities include: -
Builds core strength while working on coordination and rhythm
Low-impact, full body workout that is fun and teaches muscle control and coordination
Overall body exercise and conditioning, helps with the learning of counting
Simple to set up at home or just utilise the playground or exercise equipment in the park. Make each obstacle fun and challenging; encourage the children to come up with their own obstacles.
Crank up the volume and boogie the night away with your kids. Teach them to follow your funky retro moves while having a barrel of laughs.
Make sweeping the floor, doing the laundry or washing the car fun! Turn the kids into helpful little minions!
Family game night
Once a week, get everyone in the family off their butts by playing games like lawn bowling, Hide n Seek, Tag (catching), Frisbee, Twister or even Minute to Win It challenges.
Walk or run for charity
Exercise for a good cause. Sign up for kid friendly runs like the annual POSB PAssion Run for Kids or the Standard Chartered Marathon Kids Dash. In the weeks leading up to the event, train as a family by jogging or brisk walking.
Healthy habits are best shaped from young. By limiting screen time, enforcing healthy eating habits and engaging in more physical activities, we can all work together to raise fit kids.