September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. In this era of video games, ipads, social media, and more “sit on the couch” activities, it is difficult to get kids to go outside and play. According to the Center for Disease Control, about 1 out of every 5 (17%) children in the United States is obese. This is why being more intentional about keeping children active, is very important.
Children on the autism spectrum may have gross motor imbalances that affect gait, posture, and the ability to correctly perform big movements like running and climbing, which can make it challenging to stay active. Exercise and an active lifestyle can still happen by engaging in fun outdoor activities, playing as a family, and consulting with a professional. Here are some tips to get up and go!
1. Take advantage of nice weather
Outdoor activities like playing catch in the park, frisbee, or even flying a kite are still fun for the entire family. They are a way to play together, while getting some fresh air. When you head out to your local playground, it is a great place to work on balance, social skills and confidence. You can always incorporate toys like jump ropes and hula hoops. Items like these can be used in many ways and promote imagination. Another fun game that you can play is Hide N’ Seek. This game is great for practicing counting and taking turns, while exploring fun places in the neighborhood.
2. Find something the entire family can enjoy together
It’s not only important for your child to stay active to avoid the increasing obesity epidemic, but it's also healthy for the entire family. The more everyone enjoys exercise and activities together, the more likely they are to keep it up. Ask for the kids input in planning and choosing the activities and games you play. It will be easier to peel your kids away from their cell phones and iPads if they’ve helped plan and choose the activities. In addition, if the children see parents and siblings enjoying activities outside of screen time, it serves as a great example for the them.
3. Speak with your Occupational Therapist to get exercise guidance for your child
If your child sees an Occupational Therapist, they are an excellent resource for ideas. They are qualified to work with special needs children and help them stay active and get exercise. At BY YOUR SIDE, much of the Occupational Therapists’ work is done at our indoor gym, equipped with everything children need to have a great time! The professionals you work with for your child's therapy can always give helpful ideas on some great physical activities for your child.
4. Make regular household chores more fun!
Are chores a bore? Do the kids, and you dread them? One way to make everyday chores fun, and keep in shape at the same time, is to make a game out of your chores. For example, turn household clean up into a scavenger hunt by picking up misplaced items like newspapers, clothes and socks. Try making a race out of straightening up the house! Not only will this make everyone move faster and get lots of steps in, but your housework will get done in no time! Afterwards, how about making a meal together, and getting the kids involved? Next time you are at the grocery store, have the kids help to choose healthy ingredients from a list. This can be fun, and it’s an activity that goes beyond the cell phone and television.
5. Look into special needs fitness programs
Special Recreation programs associated with park districts offer many programs locally for children on the spectrum and others with special needs. Basketball teams, dancing, softball and many more sports are often available to participate in. These are organized sports teams that cater to special needs children. Plus, it is a great way for kids to make friends in the area. Many of these programs have discounts for residents in the park district. Check out the BY YOUR SIDE web resource list. Here, you will find an extensive list of Special Recreation Associations in the greater Chicago area. There are also other helpful resources as well to encourage fitness.
Staying active will help your children and entire family stay healthy, and create lasting memories of fun!