As families are balancing working from home, parenting, schooling, cooking meals, maintaining the house, and keeping kids entertained, all while staying sane and healthy, it’s understandable why we’ve needed to rely on screens a little (or a lot) more to help navigate our new normal. While the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that school-age kids limit their screen time to 1-2 hours and participate in at least 1 hour of physical activity each day*, those guidelines may feel a bit unrealistic at a time like this. First of all, it’s important that we all cut ourselves some slack as we figure out how to make sheltering in place work for ourselves and our families. Second, Total Education Solutions (TES) is here to help! Our team of physical therapists want to remind you of how important physical activity is for the whole family, not only to keep everyone healthy but also to reduce stress and increase enjoyment during this unique time. Here are a few recommendations to help pull kids away from their screens and set you and your family up for success.
- Use what you already have around your home – There is no need to have fancy equipment or new toys to make movement fun. You’d be surprised what you can do with every day, household objects! Work on your balance by stepping on pillows or couch cushions spread out along the floor. Create your own indoor bowling alley with plastic cups instead of pins. Swap out a tennis ball and racket for a balloon and a fly swatter. “Walk the tight rope” using painter’s tape on the floor. It’s time to get creative with what you already have!
- Make it a competition – Adults and kids alike enjoy some fun, friendly competition. Create a scoreboard and keep a tally of who did the most sit-ups, took the most steps, exercised for the most minutes, or whatever fitness goal works for you and your family. Using a scoreboard can be a great visual reminder of what your goals are and how much progress you’ve made throughout the day.
- Take 5-20 minute brain breaks several times a day – Physical activity is important for preparing the brain for learning. Kids who engage in exercise often have higher test scores, improved concentration, increased creativity, and better visual/special skills. Taking the opportunity to move for even 5 minutes before doing a classroom lesson can increase your child’s academic performance. Creating a movement station in each room of the house can help you get those 5 minutes in.. 12 jumping jacks in the bathroom, 15 pushups in the bedroom, 24 lunges in the kitchen, 18 squats in the living room.. got to do a full lap around the house before starting math homework!
- Use timers – Spending the whole day at home can sometimes feel like a time warp. Suddenly it’s 6:00 PM and you haven’t moved from your chair in 4 hours! Set an alarm for every hour to signal to the family that it is time to get up and move around. Timers can also be helpful for signaling when it is time to transition from TV time to another activity. Having a visual countdown of how much screen time is left can help prevent tears when it’s time to put the screen away.
- Make a list of fun fitness activities – Planning ahead is key when your kids are complaining of boredom and you have a video conference coming up in 5 minutes! Take some free time to sit down and come up with a long list of fun activities. Thankfully, there are lots of internet resources out there to help with ideas. Your kids will be more motivated when you pick developmentally appropriate activities, so here are some of our favorite websites to help you figure out what will work best: Pink Oatmeal, The Inspired Treehouse, and Milestones and Miracles.
If you have any concerns about your child’s development, please talk to your pediatrician to see if a pediatric physical therapy referral would be helpful.
*CDC Screen Time vs. Lean Time: https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/multimedia/infographics/getmoving.html
*CDC Physical Activity for Children: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/children/