Friday, 17 February 2017

Weekly Column: Growing Healthy Families

Growing healthy families

Most parents will admit that it can be a struggle to have their kids in extra-curricular activities. Even when money isn’t an issue, fitting everything in is a challenge. Between practices, games or recitals, travel time and any volunteer commitments that come with the chosen sport or activity, there is little time left in a week to complete homework and have some relaxing downtime with family. Many of us are left wondering, how do they do it all?

There was a time in the local area where many families didn’t have to consider the cost of sports and activities for their kids—it was a given that they would sign up for any and all programs that the kids were interested in. But that wasn’t the case for everyone. Even in the best of times there were local families that had difficulty paying for high rent, the increasing cost of food, not to mention extra-curricular. Nowadays, more and more families fall into this category. The question is, then, how do you find the right balance of afterschool activities if you are finding it hard to pay for everything?

What do the professionals say?

Participaction.com tells us that kids aged 1-4 should have 180 minutes of physical activity spread out through every day. Kids of all ages need a variety of activities that include inside and outside time, exploring, discovering and interacting with people of all ages.

Likewise, kids aged 5-17 need an accumulated 60 minutes/day of moderate-vigorous exercise as well as several hours every day of light activity that is both structured (guided) and unstructured. For school-aged kids one might expect that those objectives are being met in gym class and on the playground, but that doesn’t give parents the go ahead to park their kids in front of the TV or computer after school. Experts recommend that kids get no more than 2 hours of screen time/day, along with regular, uninterrupted hours of sleep. Ages 5-13 should be sleeping 9-11 hours every night and 14-17-year-olds should get 8-10 hours and everyone should stick to consistent bedtime/waketimes.

No pressure, parents, if you feel like there’s no way to manage it all. Focus on the fact that none of these essential activities need be organized or expensive. Playing dress up, building forts and trips to the park are as desirable as an organized sport. Family walks, playing catch, shinny or soccer together keeps you in touch with your kids at any age.

Follow their lead

This is not to dispute the fact that organized sports are good for kids. They inspire teamwork, build friendships and confidence and can be favorite childhood experiences. In fact, having kids on a team helps your whole family feel part of a larger community. Sit down with your kids and discuss what they are most interested in. If your child wishes to give a sport a try but you worry you can’t afford to make it happen, look up kidsportcanada.ca. In 2015, Kidsport gave over $65,000 to help 327 kids in the Lloydminster area afford to play sports.

For Saskatchewan kids that might have a more creative side, parents don’t despair. They still need the outdoor and active time, but there are many ways to engage the little artist without stressing the family budget. Take part in library activities, check out camps at the Barr Colony Heritage Cultural Centre, and google crafts and science experiments. Engage them with some sensory development doing finger paints, dancing to music and writing and illustrating their own stories. If they are interested in a more structured, organized class, check out www.creativekidssask.ca to see if you are eligible for funding to help pay the fees.

It's up to you

Staying engaged with our kids, knowing what they are interested in and doing activities with them, will build their confidence and keep them communicating with you as they get older. Whether an activity costs money or not doesn’t determine the quality of the experience for your child. Do you talk it over with them? Do you show up to watch? Do you help them practice? In other words, do you take an active interest in what your kid is up to?


Midwest Family Connections has an array of activities for little people. The Lloydminster Library has stories and crafts, and visiting the library and reading together is one of the best things you can do with your kids at any age. The Lloydminster Community Youth Centre welcomes kids between ages 12 and 18, offering recreational activities, community supports and a safe place to make new friends. Your income may have taken a beating over the last few years, but that’s no reason why your kids can’t maintain healthy activities and be part of a larger community of like-minded people.   

3 comments:

  1. I think the ideas and services you bring attention to in your community are fantastic, Jill. I also really like how you focus on things that would be accessible to everyone in the community, including those getting by on a lower income (or willfully living on less!)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Another good column! And it is so important to speak with children. Often times parents feel they need to have their kids do a ton of extracurricular activities. But the kids may only want to do one. Communication - so important even when money isn't a concern.

    ReplyDelete