Purdue News

December 4, 2006

Expert: Activate healthy children with thoughtful holiday gifts

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Adults giving holiday gifts to promote physical activity for children should be sure to set aside their time as well, says a Purdue University childhood fitness expert.

"If parents are directly involved in the activity — sledding, bicycling or in-line skating — then parents will know if the activity or game is age-appropriate," says Carole DeHaven, a continuing lecturer in the Department of Health and Kinesiology. "This time together also is an opportunity for adults to demonstrate how to use the new toy and address any safety concerns. Safety should always be first when promoting an active lifestyle for children."

Research shows that obese children tend to become obese adults, says DeHaven, who works with physicians to teach children about physical activity. And research also shows that children model adult behavior, so when adults are active, it is more likely the child will be, too, she says.

"When adults give themselves as part of the gift it also encourages the child to participate in the activity," she says. "Don't just give a child in-line skates or a sled, but schedule a specific time when you can skate, sled or walk with the child."

DeHaven has some gift ideas that inspire activity. They include:

• Bicycle, sled, skates or in-line skates. Be sure to provide the necessary safety gear.

• A variety of community resources. For example, give a coupon to meet a child every Tuesday for a walk in the park.

• Money to pay for their participation in organized sports, such as local youth programs for sports, gymnastics or ballet.

• Books that promote physical activity, such as "Angelina's Ballet Class."

• Pedometers for the whole family. Challenge family members to see who can log the most footsteps in a day.

• Jump ropes, tumbling mats, balls, pogo sticks or Hula-Hoops.

• Active board games like Twister, or virtual reality games where children dance or participate in aerobic football.

• Favorite music for a child to dance to.

DeHaven also recommends speaking to the child's pediatricians for any suggestions they may have to encourage physical activity.

"Be realistic. Consider how likely it is that a child will run a treadmill for 35 minutes," she says. "They are more likely to be active if they are interested in the activity. So use your imagination and know their interests."

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, (765) 494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Source: Carole DeHaven, (765) 494-0216, cdehaven@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: Carole DeHaven, a continuing lecturer in the Department of Health and Kinesiology, also works with Lafayette-area physicians on the Power Over Pounds program to help overweight children lose weight.

Related Web site:
Purdue College of Liberal Arts

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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