Are we supposed to monitor every minute of our child’s day?

As we learned in the 2016 Report Card, it’s time to sound the alarm on kids’ inactivity.  We are starting to understand that exercise is not just something kids do (or don’t do) for 60 minutes each day—whether or not they move enough is connected to how much they sleep and sit, as well.

Active kids are tired enough to sleep well, and well-rested kids are more likely to be active.  According to the new Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines, a healthy 24 hours includes 60 minutes of heart-pumping activity, several hours of light activity, no more than two hours of screen time and sufficient sleep. 

As the researchers like to put it, it’s time for a “whole-day approach.”

As a parent, that sounds like my to-do list just got a lot longer.  Ack!

So, I’ve decided to delve into the idea that the “whole day matters,” to see what that really means for me in my life with my kids.

The kneejerk reaction as a busy parent is that the new guidelines are asking us to be vigilant at all times—don’t just worry about whether they’re getting  a little exercise, but make sure they’re getting enough light activity, and not too much screen time, and not too much sedentary time, and enough sleep.  All day.  Every day.  My head hurts.

But, what if we looked at the “whole-day approach” from a different angle?  What if we realized that another way to look at it is that you don’t have to plan and organize and check off all these things each day in one big to-do list, but that you could actually do the opposite, and approach everything your kid already does in a day as an opportunity for movement? 

With that approach, your to-do list actually becomes much shorter. 

And your child’s healthy behaviours can become part of their daily lifestyles, rather than items to check off.  For example:

  • Getting to school is an opportunity to walk or scooter or bike or wheel
  • Recess and lunch are chances to play ball or skip rope with friends
  • After-school is a chance to play outside, go to the park or be registered in an after-care program that lets kids run around
  • After-dinner activities are watering the plants or walking the neighbourhood
  • Family activities are bike rides and not just movie nights
  • Birthday parties are tobogganing parties or involve trampolines or playing in the park

I once held a (mid-winter) birthday party for my son that involved booking a local community centre gym for an hour of free play with every ball and piece of equipment the Boys and Girls Club had on hand.  The kids stacked mats, jumped down, kicked soccer balls, threw footballs, swatted balloons and ended up red-faced and sweaty by the time they went home.

At school on Monday, the parents thanked me for how well their kids had slept that night.

Don’t think of getting your kids active as “getting them exercise.”  You don’t need to put them in running shoes and drive them off to T-Ball.  Every part of their day is an opportunity to sit less and move more. 

And, this I know to be true:  on days when my kids sit less and move more, we ALL sleep better.