Making a habit of being active

By kate on April 15th, 2008

I recently had two related epiphanies that, in retrospect, seem kind of obvious. However, they hadn’t occurred to me clearly before, so I figured it was worth writing about them. Both have to do with raising active (and therefore healthy) kids.

1. Strollers discourage walking: I think most people would agree that it’s healthy to have a walking mindset, where you’re not hesitant to walk to get somewhere (whether that’s to the bus stop, grocery store, hiking trail, etc.). But how is a kid supposed to get in this habit when he or she is plunked in a stroller and pushed everywhere for their first few years? At that point, walking feels like a burden, a chore, something to wheedle your way out of at all costs.

I’ve always kind of hated strollers for their bulk and inconvenience, so I rarely bring one out with me. When Ruby was smaller, I used a baby carrier most of the time. Now that she’s bigger, a carrier is just not a realistic option because of her weight and my back issues. If we’re going to a place where walking around is the point (such as the zoo), I’ll use a stroller. But usually it’s just her and me. And with the aforementioned back issues, on some days I’m simply not able to carry her very far. This makes it more final to say “no” to requests for carrying, and so she walks. By now she is used to walking and rarely complains. I’m hoping that by making her walk now I will raise someone who won’t drive two blocks to the grocery store (as I have been known to do from time to time).

2. Making entertainment equal activity: Ruby doesn’t watch any TV. Her only screen time comes from the occasional YouTube video and our digital pictures. In addition, we have given her lots of time to play in our playroom by herself (without a parent directing things). I realized recently that this approach added up to something interesting: In order to be entertained, Ruby has to be moving. Sitting still in the playroom is boring, so she must make her own entertainment by jumping, pretending, building, drawing, dumping, climbing, reading, etc.

Kids raised on TV and video games, as well as us lazy adults, know that a lot of entertainment can come from sitting still on a couch (or computer chair). Eventually that’s what we start to crave when we’re bored. Optimistically, I’d like to believe that this early association between activity and entertainment can be wired into Ruby’s body so that it drives her for the rest of her life. I’m sure it’s not that easy, especially as she is introduced to more passive forms of entertainment. But maybe she’s at least getting a healthy head start.

Filed under: active, life, parenting
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