September 27, 2013 | by Nicole White
Hand-held video games, smart phones, tablets loaded with every app imaginable ... all are stiff competition for a game of tag or a walk around the block. In much the same way, grilled squash and steamed broccoli can be a much tougher sell than an order of French fries when it comes to a “serving of vegetables."
Parents face plenty of challenges convincing their children to reach for a healthy snack and a soccer ball over a cookie and the remote control. Still, the fight is far from hopeless, says John Wilson, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of the Foothills. The secret ingredient in both cases: fun.
The club will offer some fun, kid-focused ideas for exercise at the Foothill Fitness Challenge kickoff on Oct. 5. The challenge is a three-month program that creates healthy competition among City of Hope’s neighboring communities, along with the information and resources to help residents improve their overall health and fitness. The goal of the program is to reduce area residents' risk of cancer, diabetes and other diseases by encouraging them to adopt healthy lifestyle changes – and it's never too early to teach healthy habits.
The Boys and Girls Club has three core values: academic success, character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles.
“The Foothill Fitness Challenge matches who we are exactly,” Wilson said. “We share this core value of health with City of Hope. City of Hope has the medicine and science perspective, and we bring in our expertise in engaging kids. It’s a really great partnership.”
Whether you’re preparing your kids to take part in the Foothill Fitness Challenge, or just looking for some new ways to tackle the everyday challenge of helping them be healthier, Wilson offers the following tips:
Grow your own produce. Start a garden at home or get involved in a community garden, like the one maintained by the Boys and Girls Club of the Foothills. Kids will be more enthusiastic about eating vegetables, and trying new ones, if they have a hand in growing them. Wilson says the Boys and Girls Club's community garden sparks conversation about cooking, healthy recipes and how to serve the vegetables in everything from salads to salsa.
Teach your kids how to cook. The more involved kids are in a meal, the more likely they are to want to eat it, Wilson says. Let them help plan the menu by picking out vegetables and fruits that look interesting to them. Let them experiment with new combinations. An easy way to do this is by making smoothies that mix fruits and vegetables in an interesting and delicious way.
Make exercise fun. Physical activity doesn’t have to be limited to jogging around the block, Wilson says. Obstacle courses, scavenger hunts – anything that gets kids moving counts. Even traditional push-ups and sit-ups can be made more fun. One game he likes to play with the soccer team he coaches is to have his players dribble around cones. If the ball hits a cone, it’s like a “mine,” and they have to stop and do 10 toe-touches or five push-ups.
Get involved. Organized sports and clubs like the Boys and Girls Club of the Foothills will keep children moving, and also reinforce solid values: teamwork, sportsmanship, responsibility, integrity and giving back to the community.
Make screen time an "earned" activity. Computers, television, video games, smart phones – there’s a lot of competition for kids’ free time and attention. “It’s one of the hardest things these days for parents to deal with,” Wilson said. He suggests that such activities be scheduled – and limited. One way to balance “screen” time with physical activity is to have a system in which kids earn their time through physical activity. An hour of outdoor fun might equal 15 or 30 minutes of video game time, for example.
To learn more about healthy changes for all ages, join the Foothill Fitness Challenge at www.cityofhope.org/fitnesschallenge.