In a society where childhood obesity is a serious national issue, it's important to raise awareness and teach kids to eat well and be active. Encourage your middle schooler to think of ways he can live healthier and come up with a plan to put into action. Need to eat less sugar? Watch less TV? Run a little more? Whatever his goals, making a few lifestyle changes will help him feel healthier, happier, and more confident.
What You Need:
- Your pediatrician’s consent, especially if your child is overweight or has any medical conditions
What You Do:
- Have your child write a list of 25 things that he can do to have a healthier, more active lifestyle, being as specific as he can. For example, instead of writing "Eat healthier", have your child think of specific ways he can improve his diet, such as "Eat more carrots" or "Snack on apples instead of chips after school."
- Once his list is complete, review it with him and make sure all of his goals are realistic and achievable. When it comes to exercise, the rule of thumb is that every child should engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. These activities should cover three areas: aerobic (running or brisk walking), muscle strengthening (gymnastics, push-ups), and bone strengthening (jump rope, running). Your child may already be doing this if he participates in organized sports.
- Have him make a grid-like chart, 25 rows by 25 columns, to help him keep track of his progress. You can make with a pen and paper or on the computer.
- Along the left side of the chart, ask him to label the rows with his 25 goals. Number the columns from 1-25 along the top of the chart.
- Hang up the chart on the refrigerator so your child can refer to it over the course of the activity.
- Now your child is ready to put his plan into action. At the beginning of each week for the next 25 weeks, ask him to incorporate one new item into his daily routine, going in the same order they're listed on the chart. The goal is to empower your child and help him establish good habits.
- Throughout the activity, remember to offer encouraging words and moral support to your child. This is a two-person effort!
- Each time he completes a week successfully, have him color in or place a sticker in the corresponding box on the chart. Visualizing his progress will help him stay motivated.
- If your child struggles with one of the changes, consider slowing the pace or modifying the goal accordingly. After all, the goal of this activity is for your child to have fun, not be miserable!
- At the end of the activity, sit down together and assess how he feels about all the changes he made over the last few months. Which ones did he like, and which ones were especially hard? How does he feel about his new healthy and active lifestyle? Was it as hard as he expected?