Grandparents Teach, too

Exercise and fresh air for kids

Sabin, Davis, Hetrick, Anderegg, Macalady, Waker, Darling and Katers

The days might be shorter and weather chillier but physicians hope families still meet the challenge of requiring 10-13 hours of sleep for preschool children and one hour per day of vigorous exercise critical for good health. Children who run around and climb build strong muscles, maintain a healthy weight, have a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and sleep better. Physically active children are more likely to be motivated, focused, successful in school and more confident.

Kids on a playground are usually naturally physically active and love to move. Even as school demands increase and families get busier, we still need to cross these barriers and get physical activity into daily life.

One in five 4 year olds in the U.S. is clinically obese. Parents can help by setting a good example and by arranging for active daily playtime indoors and outside. Those children who have many opportunities to explore and play outside are more likely to enjoy outdoor activities later in life. In the struggle against obesity, active outdoor activity is a powerful strategy.

There is another good reason. Ohio State University researchers found that bright outdoor light rather than light from screens helps children’s developing eyes grow properly for clear focusing. It is thought that the decrease in time spent outdoors over the past decades is contributing to an increase in the incidence of nearsightedness in the American population.


What motivates kids? Give them plenty of varied opportunities to find the ones they like best. Parents can make activity easy by providing equipment, signing them up for classes and sport teams to try, and taking them to a park, hiking trails, school playground, community gym, the Y, and a dog park to walk the dog.

Keep the focus on fun. Kids won’t do something they don’t enjoy. When kids enjoy an activity, they want to do more of it. Practicing a skill improves their abilities and helps them feel accomplished, especially when their progress is noticed and praised.

Age-Based Advice

Preschool kids like backyard-type activities that are later involved in organized sports like kicking or throwing a ball, playing tag, follow the leader, hopping on one foot, riding a trike and running an obstacle course. Preschoolers often don’t understand complex rules of organized sports yet. Instead ask yourself what skills will be needed? Practice those together.

For parents of school-age children, limiting screen time and increasing activity can be a challenge. Keep searching for physical activities they enjoy and feel successful doing. Try the traditional sports like baseball and basketball, but also take a look at martial arts, biking, hiking, tennis and playing outside. Communities and the Y often provide a variety of noncompetitive vigorous activities. For more, see grandparentsteachtoo.blogspot.com and wnmufm.org/ Learning Through the Seasons.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Grandparents Teach, Too is a non-profit organization of elementary and preschool teachers from Marquette, Michigan. The writers include: Jan Sabin, Mary Davis, Jean Hetrick, Cheryl Anderegg, Esther Macalady, Colleen Walker, Fran Darling, and Iris Katers. Their mission since 2009 is to help parents, grandparents, and other caregivers of young children provide fun activities to help prepare young children for school and a life long love of learning. They are supported by Great Start, Parent Awareness of Michigan, the U.P. Association for the Education of Young Children, Northern Michigan School of Education, the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum and the Northern Michigan University Center for Economic Education.