Physical activity in the age of the ipad

Hi guys,

I wrote this for Mamamia as a sponsored blog post for Springfree Trampolines. I hope you like it (and have a great day tomorrow). x:

Fun ways to keep your kids fit (and outdoors) without them even knowing

One day soon, the iPad and other screen-based devices may replace all forms of play previously known to mankind.

Now I am not completely against screen-based devices for children. There are times when I am outsmarted or simply ground-down by my four offspring, and ‘screen-time’ as it is now known in modern parenting parlance, is my only lifeline. I use it as a reward, a threat, an education tool and a distraction*. There are times when that screen is my best friend (God bless you Steve Jobs).

However, in our house, screen-time is also in danger of becoming the default play (and exercise) option for us. The challenge for me is finding fun ways to keep the children entertained, fit and outside, rather than simply playing Wii Sports. Here are some of our attempts:

1. The International Chandran Handball Federation (ICHF)

Every generation has its thing. When I was nine, my girlfriends and I played elastics. I am super-uncoordinated so this game always ended painfully for me.

Handball is The Game of the Moment – it has its own rules, language (“Intoes!!”) and cult of celebrity. Everybody wants to eat lunch with the reigning champion at my kids’ school. It’s so cool it has its own international federation (not to be outdone, I created one of my own). Line disputes require impartial adjudication and rights of appeal – bad line calls are never forgotten. At our local primary school and in our back yard, handball is a very serious sport that masquerades as a really fun game.

2. The Classics

Despite the passing generations, some things never change. When Husband comes home, he puts on his trainers and plays Tips with the kids in the back yard. He looks so darn cute it makes me want to have babies with him all over again. Then one of the children falls over and hurts themselves, wails annoyingly and I get over it. Variations of the game include Hide and Seek Tips and Stuck in the Mud. As the non-athletic member of the family, I get to be “Homey” which involves standing in the middle of the maelstrom, like a static and aerobically-challenged beacon of hope and safety. When you hug Homey, you can’t be tipped “it”.

3. The Trampoline

This fine piece of recreational engineering could fall into the category of The Classics but it’s so much fun it really should have its own, separate category. A few months ago we bought the Springfree Trampoline and the kids are on it constantly. When Husband announced that he wanted to get the children a trampoline, I had my concerns.

“What about falling off?” I asked him – to which he said “Aha – the Springfree Trampoline has a wall of fall-proof mesh around it, and even you can’t fall out of it.”

To which I replied, “I can fall out of anything.”

To which he replied, “No really – it is the World’s Safest Trampoline. I can zip you in. It is Shankari-proof.”

To which I replied, “But what if they pinch themselves on those awful springs?”

To which he replied in a surprisingly unpatronising voice “It’s springfree – it doesn’t have any awful springs.”

To which I replied, “Are you sure, because one time in high school I even got my leg hair stuck in a trampoline spring.” (Puberty wasn’t kind to me people).

To which he replied, “It’s springfree – really, completely springfree and completely safe. Plus, none of our children will ever be as hairy as you.”

Our Springfree Trampoline has been an absolute revelation. The children play on it together, they play on it with their friends and they play on it alone. They even play on it with me – it’s something sporting and fun that I can do with them too. They are building stamina and strength. It uses muscles – all of them (you have no idea how hard I have to clench my pelvic floor when I’m on our trampoline).

It’s a piece of play equipment and a piece of exercise equipment. The children laugh hysterically whilst they give themselves a work out, and they don’t even realise it. When we’ve finished playing on it, we lie on it and look up at the sky together. They like to roll on top of me and I am reminded how much I like our trampoline, and how much I love being Homey.

4.    The Obvious

There is the obvious one which I’ll state anyway because it’s so obvious I completely forgot about it – bike riding. Yes, I forgot to teach the kids how to ride a bike and only remembered when my cousin sent me a clip from England, of him teaching his four-year-old. The next day I took my eight-year-old to the park and conducted a series of parental-guilt-ridden riding drills. Other obvious activities include walking to school and play-dates in the park rather than in the living room.

5.  The Underhanded

My son had a play-date last week and his lovely friend brought over a backpack brimming with Skylanders figurines. It was 26 degrees and sunny outside.

The boys asked for Screen-Time and I negotiated a deal with them – they could have Screen-Time if they had Sun-Time first. They slipped, slopped and slapped appropriately, and once protected from all forms of UV radiation, they went outside to earn their right to come back inside. Despite the self-negating premise for the outdoor play, they had a wonderful time playing many of the above games, and kicking around a football, for hours.

Do your children sometimes prefer Wii Tennis to real tennis? Do you struggle to get them playing (and exercising) outside – how do you help them keep fit without them realising?

* No children were distracted by an iPad during the writing of this post.