Getting Your Kids to Exercise and Unplug Without Losing Your Mind

How important is it to get your kids playing outside?

We'll present the facts, and let you answer that for yourself.

Every year, obesity rates in the United States increase, and more people develop illnesses as a result of their excess weight. Childhood obesity is especially concerning because habits formed at a young age are difficult to break.

A BMI at or above the 95th percentile for the child's age is defined as childhood obesity. Children who are between the 85th and 95th percentile are considered overweight.

Fortunately, parents can prevent and reverse obesity in their children.

Because of technology's growing presence in our lives, kids playing outside is less common than it used to be.

One of the best ways to keep your children healthy and active is to encourage them to put down their electronics and play outside.

What follows is our attempt to help you with this vital mission.

Childhood Obesity Is on the Rise

According to the CDC, childhood obesity in America has increased drastically in the last 40 years. The percentage of kids and adolescents who are obese has tripled since the 1970s. Today, about one in five children aged 6 to 19 are obese, which amounts to almost 15 million children and adolescents.

Recent childhood obesity statistics make it clear that there is a severe problem in the United States. Things are getting worse, not better.

Childhood obesity can start to be a problem at an extremely young age, too. According to childhood obesity statistics from the Partnership for a Healthier America, almost 10 percent of children aged 2 to 5 are already obese. Health experts believe that one-third of kids born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes during their lifetime.

Causes of Obesity

Video: Top 10 Causes of Obesity in Children - Boston Children's Hospital

There are several risk factors for childhood obesity. One cause is your children’s metabolism, which is their body's process of converting food into energy. Different people may have slight differences in their metabolism, which may cause them to burn more or fewer calories throughout the day. A child with a "slower" metabolism may accidentally eat more calories than they burn, leading to weight gain.

Metabolism is only one factor in obesity, though. In most cases, there are multiple contributors to weight gain in both children and adults. Eating too many calories, consuming unhealthy foods, and getting little physical activity are all common causes of overweight and obesity.

It's easy for children to overeat by consuming too much junk food, which has lots of calories but doesn't provide much energy or nutrition. With the popularity of the internet, video games, smartphones, and TV, it's also easy for children to entertain themselves by staying indoors and remaining sedentary. Unhealthy eating habits, lack of exercise, or both can easily lead to weight gain.

Socioeconomic status and family habits can also be risk factors for childhood obesity. The CDC reports that obesity rates decline in children and adolescents as their parents' level of education increases.

Obesity rates are also much higher among kids in the lowest and middle-income groups than they are among kids in the top income group. Parents who have had less access to education or who have a lower income may not have as many resources to teach their children about healthy eating and exercise habits, leading to an increase in overweight and obesity.

Parents' eating and exercise habits can have a significant impact on their children's lifestyles, too. Kids typically learn habits from mimicking their parents. If they see their parents consuming unhealthy foods and living a sedentary lifestyle, they may adopt those behaviors from a young age.

Children with obesity often become parents with obesity, continuing the problem to the next generation.

Effects of Obesity

Childhood obesity has several short-term and long-term effects. Some of the most severe immediate health risks include the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
  • Asthma, sleep apnea, and other breathing problems
  • Joint and musculoskeletal pain
  • Fatty liver disease or gallstones
  • Acid reflux

According to the World Health Organization, the following are some of the most common health issues affecting adults with obesity:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Endometrial, breast, and colon cancer

Other harmful childhood obesity effects are psychological. Being overweight or obese can lead to mental health problems like anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

Unfortunately, childhood obesity is also sometimes linked to social issues like bullying. Although bullying is never the fault of the victim, children who are overweight or obese may be more likely to experience social problems than children at a healthy weight.

Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to become overweight or obese adults and to develop some long-term health problems. The Partnership for a Healthier America reports that children with obesity are ten times more likely to become obese adults than children who are at a healthy weight.

How Playing Outside Can Improve Your Child's Health

Childhood obesity effects are harmful. Without intervention, childhood obesity can quickly turn into adult obesity, which can lead to several life-threatening illnesses. Fortunately, it is possible to fix the problem before it worsens.

One of the best childhood obesity solutions is to increase the amount of time your kids spend playing outside. Instead of their default form of entertainment being screens and electronics, it should be playing games or sports outdoors. Even a little extra exercise every day can make a big difference in your child's overall health and well-being.

A study published in the European Heart Journal examined the effects of weight changes from childhood to adulthood. The researchers found that people who were obese as children but lost the excess weight by their 20s were no longer at an increased risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Their risk for these illnesses was the same as those who were never overweight or obese.

When children with obesity lose weight and learn healthy habits before they become adults, they set themselves up for a longer and healthier life. Most psychologists agree that children form habits more easily than adults, so it's best for kids to learn to make healthy choices from a young age.

The best way to figure out how to prevent childhood obesity in your kids is to identify the possible causes of the issue. While some reasons, like metabolism and socioeconomic factors, are difficult to change, others are within your control. One of the most common causes of childhood obesity is a sedentary lifestyle. Although it isn't easy to make a significant lifestyle change, it is possible with parental intervention.

Outdoor Games for Your Child to Play

Active outdoor activities for kids can help them burn extra calories, preventing or reversing weight gain. Playing outside can also help children build stronger muscles, improve their coordination, boost their heart health, and strengthen their immune systems.

Kids today are more dependent on technology than ever. According to several surveys, most parents report that their children spend less time outside than they did at the same age. Smartphones, computers, televisions, and video games provide endless entertainment opportunities, so kids don't need to go outside to stay occupied.

One of the best ways to motivate your child to go outdoors is to give them ideas for fun games to play outside. Children who aren't used to spending time outside may have a hard time coming up with games or activities on their own, so suggesting some outdoor activities for kids may help inspire them.

If you have multiple children within a close age range, you can encourage them to play with each other. You can also help your kids to play with other children in the neighborhood or to invite their friends over to play outside. Not only does this promote an active lifestyle, but it also strengthens their social skills.

Here are some outdoor activities for kids to play with their friends or siblings. One person tries to protect a can or other small object while the other players attempt to sneak up and knock it over. If the protector tags a player, that player joins the protector's team.

Freeze Tag

One player is "it" and tries to catch and tag the other players. If the "it" player catches you, you must stand still and can only be unfrozen if a player on your team tags you.


This game is the opposite of hide and seek. One person hides while the others search. When a searcher finds the hider, they join them in the hiding place. The last person to find the hiding place loses.

Three Flies Up

One player is the thrower, and the rest are catchers. The thrower tosses the ball toward the catchers. The player who catches the ball gets the point. The first player who reaches three points becomes the new thrower.

Red Light, Green Light

One person stands at the finish line while the rest of the players stand at the starting line. The player at the finish line shouts "green light" to tell the other players to run and "red light" to have the players to stop. If a player moves during a "red light," they must go back to the starting line. The first player to reach the finish line wins.

Playing group games is a great way to encourage physical activity and social interaction. However, your child may not always have someone else to play with at all times.

Here are some outdoor games your child can play alone:


This game requires a smooth wall and a bouncy ball. The player practices different skills by bouncing the ball against the wall. For example, sevensies requires the player to bounce the ball against the wall seven times and catch it on the seventh time. Sixies requires the player to bounce the ball against the wall and allow it to hit the ground one time before catching it. Fivesies requires the player to bounce the ball five times on the ground.

Jumping Rope

Jumping rope is a fantastic solo activity that requires minimal equipment. Your child can learn jump rope tricks or count how many times they jump before missing the rope.

Sidewalk Chalk Games

our child can use sidewalk chalk to make hopscotch, an obstacle course, or a maze. Sidewalk chalk is also a great way to create art projects.

Soccer Footwork

You don't need a team to have fun with a soccer ball. Your child can practice soccer footwork tricks by themselves to impress their friends or family later.

Tips for Transitioning Away from Electronics

Getting your kids away from electronics and out of the house will be difficult, primarily if they usually rely on phones, television, or video games for entertainment. Screen addiction can be a severe issue for children and teenagers, and it takes time to get over-dependency on electronics.

If your kids are used to spending most of their free time on electronic devices, they may resist the rules at first. Don't let whining, pouting, or yelling wear you down. Also, make sure all the adults in your household are on the same page. Communicate with each other about the rules so that the new boundaries always stay consistent.

Here are some tips to keep your kids playing outside away from screens:

Set Clear Rules and Boundaries

Your first step in helping your children transition away from their electronics and toward spending time outside is to determine how much screen time they're allowed each day. Some parents may allow 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening, and others may allow an hour at any time of day. You could allow more screen time on the weekends and less during the week, or you could permit screens on certain days and not at all on other days.

All families are different, so you should consider your children's schedules, needs, and circumstances when deciding on the rules. However, once you establish the rules, it's essential to stick to them. Your kids should know exactly how much time they're allowed on their electronics, and they should not be able to convince you to change the rules.

Be Honest with Your Children

Your children will probably ask you why you're limiting their screen time and sending them outside to play. Explain your reasoning to them so that they know you're not just trying to ruin their fun. Tell your kids that you want them to have a healthy lifestyle and that you're concerned that screen time is preventing them from getting exercise. You can mention childhood obesity statistics and how obesity rates have increased over time.

Your kids may not accept your reasoning at first. Children don't usually think about the long-term effects of their actions, so they may not realize that the habits they form now will impact them for the rest of their lives. However, starting a discussion about healthy living with your children now may help them realize the importance of exercise as they get older.

Give Them Specific Outdoor Activity Ideas

Kids usually respond better to starting rather than stopping something. If they're not used to playing outdoors, they may not know any fun games to play outside. Without a sport or an activity in mind, your kids may sit outside daydreaming about being on the computer.

Whenever you tell your kids to stop using their electronics, you should give them an alternative activity idea. Doing this will make the transition from screen time to outdoor time easier because they'll have something new to preoccupy their minds. You could suggest outside activities for kids that you enjoyed playing when you were younger, or you could give them a new piece of outdoor play equipment to keep them busy.

Invest in Fun Outdoor Equipment

Outdoor play equipment can be a great way to get your children playing outside. Consider investing in a swing set or play system with a slide and climbing wall. Outdoor equipment like this can provide countless outside activities for kids. You can encourage imaginative play by pretending that the playground is a castle or a pirate ship. If you have more than one child, you can encourage friendly competition by asking who can swing higher or who can climb the tower faster.

If you have preteens or teens who won't be impressed by a swing set, try giving them sports equipment like a soccer ball or Whiffle ball set. Not only does this give them a specific activity idea, but it also encourages their sportsmanship and competitive play. Other great toys to get your kids playing outside include bikes, skateboards, pogo sticks, and sprinklers.

Bring Indoor Activities Outside

Bringing your child's favorite indoor activities outside can be an effective way to ease into outdoor play. If your child likes reading, coloring, or playing board games, encourage them to take those activities to the porch or the front yard. Your kids could even eat dinner or do their homework outside.

Having these everyday activities in a new environment may help with the transition to outdoor play. Eventually, your child may be inspired to try the outdoor play equipment or participate in an outdoor game.

Be Vigilant

Unfortunately, your kids may try to sneak extra screen time. All children sometimes push boundaries, especially if a new rule is drastically different from the lifestyle they're used to. Keep a close eye on your kids to make sure they're not sneaking devices into their rooms or logging onto the computer when they think you're not looking.

Stay Committed to Your Kids Playing Outside

The transition to a healthier lifestyle will not happen overnight. You and your kids will struggle with the change, and it may seem easier to give up and revert to your sedentary ways. However, the longer you stay committed, the easier it will become to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

To prevent boredom, search online for outdoor activities for kids. Always have a few games or sports in mind in case your kids don't know what they should do. Spend time with other active families to learn about new activities and encourage social interaction for your children. Most importantly, remember that by getting your kids playing outside, you're helping them build healthy habits for the rest of their lives.

Lead by Example

Children learn behaviors by mimicking adults. Several studies have found a close link between childhood obesity and parental BMI. While genetics may play a small role, the shared family environment is likely the more significant cause. If you eat unhealthy foods and avoid exercising, your children may follow that example. Even if you encourage your kids playing outside, they may only truly change their habits if you lead by example.

Technology addiction is not just a problem affecting children. Many adults spend too much time looking at screens. When you're around your kids, be mindful of how much time you spend with technology. If you regularly check your phone or have the television on, you're sending an unhealthy message to your children.

When you have time, join your children playing outside. Teach them your favorite games and show an interest in what they're doing. If your kids see you genuinely having fun outdoors, they'll want to have fun as well. This will also teach them that there's no age limit to enjoying time outside, which will help them continue with their new active lifestyle as they get older.

Try to involve the whole family in outdoor activities whenever possible. Go hiking or swimming on the weekends or have family sports tournaments. You can encourage your kids to be active while also enjoying quality time together.

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