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Healthy Living

Physical Activity and Your Child's Safety

Do you live in a neighborhood where you aren’t comfortable having your child play outdoors unsupervised? These days, millions of parents feel this way. They’re convinced that it simply isn’t safe for their youngsters to be active outdoors, particularly on their own. And if parents are working during the day, it’s not surprising that they don’t want their youngsters spending time outside when they’re not home.

One of the best options for you to explore is whether there’s a formal after-school program in your neighborhood in which your child can participate that involves physical activity. For example, call the YMCA in your community, or the Boys & Girls Club. Enroll your child in a dance class to learn jazz or tap. Support your child in joining a youth bowling league. Be on the lookout for activities that are available in your community that include boys and girls.

Remember that participation is the key. Your child will be supervised while staying active, and you can pick him up on the way home from work. Keeping him busy after school is the key to making sure he stays away from the television set.

If your youngster is old enough to stay home by himself in the afternoons until you return from work, help him plan that time in advance. He doesn’t have to watch TV, play video games, or eat. In fact, there are many ways in which your child can stay active indoors.

Sit down with him and let him choose some after-school activities such as

  • Dancing to his favorite music on the CD player or tape deck
  • Jumping rope
  • Spending a few minutes with an exercise bike or treadmill (if you have either)
  • Doing some chores that you assign him—from cleaning up his room to emptying the dishwasher
  • Turning on a children’s exercise video and working out for 30 minutes

Many children are more likely to put an exercise video into the VCR or DVD player if siblings or parents can work out with them. They may simply find it more fun to participate in physical activity with someone else. So if your child has brothers or sisters, get them involved as much as possible.

What Does Your Child’s School Offer?

When you were in school, was physical education (PE)—or recess—your favorite "class"?

In many US schools, things have changed. Primarily because of budget cuts, PE programs have been sacrificed. Most states no longer mandate that their public schools offer PE. In some schools, PE classes are limited to once or twice a week, or they’ve been eliminated completely. Children are paying the price.

Physical activity is crucial to your child’s health and the management of his weight. If your youngster’s school district has reduced or eliminated PE programs, you need to let the district know that you want these classes back. Tell your child’s school principal. Write a letter to the members of the local school board. If you and other parents raise your voices, it might make a difference.

Last Updated
A Parent's Guide to Childhood Obesity: A Road Map to Health (Copyright © 2006 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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