Using technology to get kids moving

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Although we would like to think that Kiwi kids are an outdoorsy and active bunch of children, statistics are increasingly beginning to show otherwise. The 2015/2016 New Zealand Health Survey showed that 11% of children (aged 2-14) were obese with a further 21% being overweight. This is partially resulting from inadequate levels of physical activity along with our eating habits; it’s something we should be aware of and need to be making a real effort to turn these statistics around.

Technology can be a blessing and a curse. Extended television hours, video gaming and tablet/phone activities are being blamed for our children spending less time running, jumping and playing. At one end of the scale some parents choose to remove tech from their kids, at the other end some parents choose to embrace it.

However, as our kids are growing up in a world where technology plays a key role in school learning, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to completely separate them from it. There are ways we can actually use technology to get children moving though, so here are some tips to increase their physical activity with the help of it.

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Home movies and photography scavenger hunts

Most people would agree that movies are pretty boring if they’re filmed from one spot. With cheaper mobile phones and digital cameras available (and even some kid’s ones on the market), you might even have a spare one lying around the house that the kids can commandeer and use to make their own videos. You could encourage them to have a plot/storyline or they could just be general home movies; it will help get their creativity flowing, you can have family time going back over their footage and editing it later together with them if you want, and you’ll have something great to keep that they’ve made. Try giving them themes or particular activities they need to include in filming (such as running, pets, trampolining, or people using bikes).

We’ve been giving our 2-year-old a GoPro to hold, and even at that young age she loves running around after the cat and the dog to film them, running around the park with it (helps that GoPros are robust and waterproof!) and finding new things to record. If they’re young or you’re worried about leaving them with your camera, you can help them film it.

You could also try sending them on a photography scavenger hunt; give them a list of items around the house and/or outdoors and tell them to take a photo of each thing on the list – once they’ve completed the list you could give them an active and social reward like taking them to the park or attending a local live sports game.

Get into geocaching

I haven’t done this one myself but I’ve heard a lot about it and I’ve seen it in action… Kind of like modern-day orienteering combined with treasure hunting, geocaching is an outdoor activity where you use GPS coordinates or mobile apps to find containers called geocaches that other participants have hidden (there are thousands all over the world and likely to be some near you!).

I was once training a client outdoors and saw a couple of guys searching around the trees; we thought they looked dodgy and not being ones to leave it be we asked what they were doing; they said they couldn’t find the geocache. Just make sure if you find one, you leave it where it is as other people may be searching for it!

You can simply take a look at the ‘treasure’ when you find it and leave it intact, or you can replace some or all of the contents with similar valued items. They’re typically small but interesting things of pretty low value such as little tools or toys. Perfect for slightly older kids and a great family activity to get into.

Fitness trackers

While trackers such as Fitbits are more aimed at grownups, Milo have developed a kids’ tracker – the Milo Champions Band – which can sync to a mobile app via bluetooth or be used as a standalone band, and is designed to help children keep track of physical exercise in an engaging and modern way.

Milo sent out one of their Champions Bands for me to check out. My toddler is a bit young for it as it’s not recommended for children under 3 years old, however, it is probably more suitable for around 7 years+. The app can be downloaded on your phone and will show a parent portal (so you can see what’s going on, help your kids set challenges and give them virtual rewards) and a children’s portal (for them to view their own progress).

The tracker pops out of the green silicone band and can be recharged by inserting it into a USB frame then plugged into a PC. You can scroll through various screens by tapping it to swipe along, and it tracks steps taken, kilojoules (energy spent), activity time, distance covered, achievement goals, and can also display the date and time.

I think it’s a great idea, my only gripes are that the band isn’t waterproof (it is resistant), and I’m not sure how hardy it is if kids are used to getting outside and playing rough or if they forget to take it off for swimming. Also the app is visually pretty busy when you’re navigating so you’ll probably need to spend some time familiarising yourself with it.

Some good stuff: children can compete in physical activity challenges with their friends, it encourages them to learn sports skills across a variety of sports, plus it can help parents figure out whether your kids are getting the recommended minimum of 1 hour of exercise each day.

Milo Champions Band provided for review, available from Harvey Norman stores nationwide for
RRP $39.99 each.

Images / NZ Real Health

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