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How to Leverage Electronics to Keep Your Kids Active and Healthy

by Sarah Muntel, RD

Winter 2018

Childhood obesity continues to be a growing concern nationwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the prevalence of obesity in children is around 17 percent and affects about 12.7 million children and adolescents. The prevalence of obesity is 8.9 percent among two to five year olds compared with 17.5 percent of 6 to 11-year-olds and 20.5 percent of 12 to 19-year-olds. These are staggering statistics. Children affected by obesity can also struggle socially, emotionally and with overall wellbeing.

Many blame screen time for today’s inactive kids. Varying reports show some children and teens spending between six to nine hours per day of screen time. Video games, phones, TVs and other electronics can lead to increased inactivity and are a part of our daily life. Instead of fighting it, let’s change our thinking to how electronics can help kids today by keeping them active and healthy.

Fitness Tracking:

Wearable fitness tracking can make moving fun. Kids, just like adults, can be motivated to count their steps each day, meet specific fitness goals and get moving. Experts recommend 60 minutes of activity each day for today’s kids. Get your kids involved in meeting this goal by exploring fitness tracking devices.

Below are a few varieties of wearable fitness tracking:

  1. Garmin Vìvofit JR: This fun fitness tracker for kids is a great way to get kids moving! This device is powered by a battery, is water resistant and has cute kid designs. Vìvofit rewards kids when they do physical activities. They earn virtual coins when they complete assigned chores. You can set your own rewards for coins earned.
  2. LeapFrog LeapBand: This is a fun tracker for kids. The LeapBands measures activity and also has challenges that tell your kid to wiggle, dance and hop. Mini-games and other built-in rewards will get your child to take part in healthy physical activities, move and have fun. Kids also have the ability to customize their own pet for an active playmate with many customization options available.
  3. nabi Compete™: This is a competitive band for kids that allows them to compete in contests and other fun tasks. These bands can get kids moving by encouraging them to run and walk to distances that are equal to famous landmarks in the US. The app displays activities completed and calories expended for activities. Kids can also learn about calories from the foods they eat.
Staying Active with Games and Videos

Several video games have moved beyond the game controller. Active video games such as Xbox Kinect and Wii will get your kid to dance, snowboard or run track instead of sitting on the couch. This is a great way to start moving while playing your favorite game. You may need to invest in a few extra pieces of gaming equipment, but seeing your kids jump off the couch will make it worth it!

Several fitness videos can be found on your tablet or phone. On YouTube, you can find a variety of free workouts for kids such as Kids Dance, Kids Training and Body Circuit workouts. The best part is, if you don’t like a video, there are hundreds more to try! Additionally, you can use your tablet or phone to play fun music to get kids inspired to move. Make it a family event and get the whole gang involved.

There are also several videos and resources online to build your nutrition knowledge. If you are looking for a rainy day activity, browse healthy recipes online. Do your research to find the benefits of foods or even how to plant a vegetable garden. The opportunities are endless!

The Value of Apps

We have our phones throughout the day. Download a few to keep your kids busy in the car or in the grocery store. Better yet, download a few on your kid’s device. Check out the few below to focus on fitness and fun.

  1. AwesomeEats:
    Learn about vegetables and fruits by sorting in this game.
  2. Cooking Fun for Kids:
    Healthy Playful Recipes, Food Games: Find new recipes, food games, videos and fun.
  3. Eat & Move-O-Matic:
    Learn about the foods you eat and how
    they fuel your body for activities.
  4. Pokèmon Go: 
    This fun game sends kids all around trying to catch different monsters. What a great way to get steps in!
Find a Way to Make Video Games Fit…

Sometimes, kids just want some good old fashioned video game or TV time. There is nothing wrong with a little sedentary activity within limits. Make sure you don’t let hours go by with your kids glued to their device.

Set a timer for an hour and let your kids play. When the timer is up, they can move on to other activities.

Have them earn their time. One hour of playing outside is good for 30 minutes of screen time. A family walk might give them an extra 15 minutes on their device. This can be a great way to motivate kids for some extra movement.

…But Remember to Set Limits

No electronics in the bedroom or at the dinner table. Tablets, TVs and laptops can be used in the main living space. This makes it easier to monitor how much kids are using and what kids are watching. Make the dinner table a device-free zone. Use this time to connect as a family.

Lead by Example. 

How much time do you spend looking at your phone? Be sure to take some time away from your phone and your kids will follow.

Put Limitations on Screen Time. 

Limit screen time to ideally no more than one hour per day. The more our children use electronics, the less physical activity they do. Fight the boredom by making a list of things to do to keep the kids occupied.

Use Electronics with Your Children. 

There are times when screens are OK, but if you’re going to use electronics, use them together as a family in an interactive way. Find some great online games to play, look at photos or download a book to read.

And Just Remember…

You know your kids best, so get creative and use electronics for fun, learning and motivation! You never know – a funny video may be a great way to start your toddler’s day, and a family video game may bring your family together for an evening. Perhaps a funny emoji texted to your teenage daughter may make her day. Adapting to current technology can bring fitness and fun to your family.

About the Author:
Sarah Muntel, RD, is a Registered Dietitian and Bariatric Coordinator at Community Bariatric Surgeons in Indianapolis, IN. She has worked with bariatric surgery patients for 17 years and especially enjoys leading support groups. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and three children. 

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