It can be a shock, to both kids and parents, in making the switch from long summer days spent adventuring in the mountains, swimming in the river, and climbing at the playground, to full days sitting in classrooms. But being active doesn’t have to slow down once September rolls around. It may just take a bit more planning to fit activity into the more structured school year.
Here are some suggestions to help you and your family stay active once the back to school routine begins.
1. Leave the car at home
Many elementary schools are within walking distance and walking can be done in all weather if you wear the right clothes.
If you have to pick a direction, aim for an active morning commute so that you can check it off your list, plus starting the day active has been shown to help improve school metrics.
2. Make the most of before and after school play
Get to school early so that your kids can burn off some steam at the playground before they head into school.
3. Go for a family walk
Head out for a family walk before or after dinner at a nearby park, even if it is just for 20 minutes — you might end up engaging in a fun game of tag or hide-and-go-seek.
Or, meet neighbourhood families at a park for an old-fashioned game of pick-up soccer or basketball. Bring a skipping rope or get your kids to set up a game of hopscotch with sidewalk chalk.
4. Find a multi-sport program for younger kids
Consider signing your child up for organized activities for one or two nights per week. For younger kids, see if you can find a program that introduces them to multiple sports and activities. If these programs do not already exist where you live, advocate for one with your local community centre. Being introduced to multiple sports and activities is a great way to give your kids more opportunities to develop physical literacy and to find out what they enjoy.
Try to find activities close to home so that you can actively transport yourself there with your kids.
5. Help kids develop active habits
Try walking for small errands with a member of your family next time you need to pick up some milk, for example. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. And, choose the farthest parking spot from your destination to get some extra steps in. These are simple ideas that can really be a positive way to model active living for your children, ingraining healthy habits from the start.
6. Plan active weekend outings
Weekends provide many families with the time required to go further afield. Consider using this time to explore a new area to make movement more fun and interesting. Go for a hike in a park that is a bit farther away, go for a longer bike ride, or try skiing. Use this unstructured part of your week to rekindle the feeling of summer, spending longer days outside, and as a good time to tire out every member of your family so that you can start the school and work week off fresh.
7. Advocate for more activity at school
If your children eat lunch inside at their school, consider advocating for year round outside lunch. This way your children can move their bodies even more and enjoy the fresh air.
Although there is a transition from the unstructured days of summer to the more structured school year, it’s still possible to find ways to be active as a family.
Active transportation, before/after school play, and weekend outings work well for our family. What has worked for you?