I have a guilty secret to share. It’s been creeping up on me over the last few months. I’ve been worrying about my parenting skills. Am I letting down my son? Or simply indulging him?
It all started when we got him a cheap smartphone for his 5th birthday. Ever since then, he has become obsessed with it. Takes it everywhere. Bleeping away, gaming each other night and day. He uses it responsibly – no unexpected bills, not too many complaints when it’s time to turn off and hit the hay. But now the kids don’t want to go anywhere or do anything else. I know it’s probably a phase and the novelty will wear off. But it’s been going on a little too long, now.
Only last week I read some articles describing how many of our kids are overweight for their age. Somewhere around a third of kids, according to some accounts. So I’ve been worrying about how to nudge him along, give him something active to do during the day, how to encourage him to get out, about and active. How to make fun seem like fun and not a chore! How times have changed since I was growing up! When I was a girl, we couldn’t wait to get out of the house and loon around. Now, the twins need to be pushed and cajoled out through the back door.
But I have a dilemma. I’ll tell you later. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been working through. Maybe you are part ways along this journey as well.
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Why Do You Want Your Kids Active?
I know young George around the corner is one of those hyper-active kids. If his mom could get him to sit still for an hour each day, she’d be happy, but most kids are not like that.
Experts tell us if our children are able to walk unaided they should take part in at least 3 hours of light exercise per day. Not staring-at-the-gym-wall type of exercise! Just walking, moving around, a little run, a game of tag or chase or football. Even walking to school – it’s not that far for our twins. It should be possible to get him to move around for 10-20 minutes each hour or so when they are at home. The challenge will be how to make exercise “fun” and not seem like a chore.
When you look at the benefits from exercise, there’s no doubt we should encourage kids. Heck, I may even join in! They say exercise strengthens bones and muscles, increases self-esteem, keeps their minds active as well, reduces weight, helps them make new friends, improves motor skills, and encourages participation in group activities…. They are all positive outcomes. And our two are so competitive, this should be easy!
So here’s what I’ve been thinking about. Fitness trackers. My kid sister is raving about her Fitbit and how she’s always beating her husband’s step count – she’s become obsessed. But that’s just the way she’s wired!
I don’t feel the need to keep tabs on him every hour of the day so I know where they are and where they’ve been. We live in a nice area! But I could settle on one of those GPS trackers that clip to their belt or bag or look like a watch. But I don’t think I need that – this is more about helping kids move out of a sedentary life style. I want to give him incentives to move around.
So that’s why I’m looking at fitness trackers for kids. There are plenty to choose from: made by Garmin or Fitbit, like kid versions of grown up tools – I may have to get one myself to encourage him along. There are also gadgets from reliable brand names like Vtech and from newcomers like Letscom and Megadream. They all do things a little differently.
What is it that I really want, then? I’m not too worried about nutrition and calories – that’s my job, to make sure they eat healthily. I just want to encourage him to move around more. I’m interested in step counts as an easy way to measure that. There are different options I’ve considered that I am sharing with you.
Garmin vivofit jr. is probably the top end of the price range – the Rolls Royce of kids fitness trackers. Loads of style options – they can each choose their own from the styles on offer. It’s linked to a smartphone app to track progress against goals. I can even set him chores to do from the comfort of my own kitchen. But will they take any notice?
The Leapfrog LeapBand is probably a little too childish-looking for our 6-year-old sophisticates but has some nice ideas built into the rewards mechanism. It pulls in the concept of using exercise to improve the life of a virtual pet.
iBitz is a simpler-looking affair with a similar offer for grown-ups to make exercise a family affair. The unit clips on to clothing or bags and works with an iOS app. No good for us. We’re an Android house!
Something tech and sporty is available in the Adidas “Zone”. This looks like something an athlete would wear. It just tracks heart rate and changes color to show how hard they are working. This is available only on a limited basis, so it’s probably no good for us.
Omate has a Wherecom K3 “next gen” smart watch available. This is a clever little thing: watch, GPS, step counter, touch screen and you can turn it into a simple comms device with a 3G SIM slot. Most high-tech!
Fitbit has a few options available which track data into their connected app. There is a Fitbit Zip and a Fitbit Alpha that might fit the bill. They each have small screens to show progress towards daily goals.
But here’s my big dilemma I talked about at the beginning! Do I ask around and wait to find out what the other kids mums buy? Or do I blaze a trail and choose the one I think will work best for our family! Parenting is full of difficult decisions.
Have you given your kids wearable fitness trackers?
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