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Active Kids, Active Parents!

Think back to when you were a kid. Do you have fond memories of spending hours outdoors playing chasing, climbing trees, riding your bike or perhaps hitting a six in an impromptu game of cricket in the street?

Unfortunately many of today's children never experience these things that we took for granted. No, this isn't a description of the world's most disadvantaged communities - but rather our so-called "well-off" Australian children. And they are well off - most Aussie kids have just about everything they need; good shelter, plenty of food, tons of toys, computers and games, and a loving home. But unfortunately, all of this wealth doesn't necessarily provide one of the most important things that they need - physical activity! A chance to play and run and jump and climb and discover.

Children and teenagers need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. This doesn't mean putting them on a treadmill for an hour, but rather giving them the opportunity to play actively or participate in sport. In this era of computers, televisions and game consoles, it's all too easy for children to swap the active leisure time that we enjoyed as children for passive indoor activities.

So what can you do to help your kids be more active? Read on for some creative tips and ideas.

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1. Be a good role model

If your children see you regularly enjoying physical activities, they're much more likely to follow your example. It's never too early to introduce children to the joys of exercise - start taking regular walks with your baby in a stroller and they'll continue to expect it to be a part of everyday life as they grow older.

2. Make opportunities for exercise

Take every opportunity you can to step up the pace of your everyday activities. This is called incidental exercise, and every little bit helps. Research has shown that exercise doesn't need to be done all at once, it can add up over the day - 10 mins here, 20 minutes there and so on.

  • Try walking or cycling with the children for short trips, instead of automatically driving the car
  • Park further away from the entrance when you go shopping
  • If you go on a bus ride, jump off a stop early and walk the rest of the way
  • Make a game out of household tasks - for example, first one to race out and bring in the most clothes from the clothes line gets to choose the next game to play
  • Surprise your children by doing unexpected things, like racing to the car instead of walking, or pretending to walk like a dinosaur instead of just strolling
  • Keep a tennis ball, football or bocce set in the car - you never know when you might have a chance to use them

3. Play actively

When you can, involve your children in active play (such as chasey, football or riding bikes) rather than passive activities (like drawing or computer games).

There are tons of active games that children love to play, try some of these ideas:

  • Totem-tennis, table tennis or flying discs
  • Swimming, water volleyball or duck diving for coloured pegs
  • Throw, catch or kick a ball
  • Build a cubby house or sculpture out of boxes
  • Throw water balloons
  • Make up imaginary characters and act out a play
  • Shoot some basketball hoops
  • Have piggy back races or one legged races
  • Go for a bike ride
  • Climb trees
  • Play fetch with the dog
  • Put on some music and dance

Sometimes children are reluctant to play actively on their own - you can encourage them by joining in. A game of catch is much more fun when Mum or Dad play too!

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