What if Your Child Gets Fussy in a Restaurant

  • Excuse yourselves from the table. Take a short walk.
  • Talk in a calm, quiet, and positive way. This isn't the place for loud discipline.
  • Avoid forcing your child to eat. Instead, have the meal packed to take home.
  • Ask if the restaurant has a paper place mat to color or draw on. Bring your own crayons—just in case.
  • Bring along a stuffed animal to "share" the fun.

Source: Duyff, R. L. Nibbles for Health (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2002).

Today's children often watch TV during their "prime time" for play. In fact, by first grade, many kids have watched five thousand hours of TV According to health experts, children who watch too much TV may not get enough physical exercise or time for creative activity. Besides spending too much leisure time at the computer, TV, or video games, there's concern about safe outdoor play. Kids often ride instead of walk to school and have less chance at school for noncompetitive play. To prevent your "tater tots" from becoming the next generation of "couch potatoes," make physical activity fun and part of your family's routine.

Active Play: Good Moves for Children

What makes physical activity so important for kids? Good physical health and fitness are obvious. Through active, safe play, children can develop social skills, build a positive self-image, enhance their ability to learn, and even help protect themselves from danger. An active child is also more likely be an active adult!

  • Regular physical activity helps with a child's physical development. It builds muscular strength, including a strong heart muscle. Strong muscles promote good posture, which, in turn, affects a child's health and self-image. Weight-bearing activities such as running and skating help strengthen growing bones. Being active also helps build stamina, a quality that promotes learning and play.
  • Can children quickly run in case of danger? Although each circumstance has different physical demands, strong, physically fit children deal better with many emergencies. Regular physical activity offers better protection from danger!
  • Active kids are more likely to keep their bodies lean and avoid the growing problem of overweight. Health experts recommend increased physical activity as one of the best ways for kids to trim extra body fat.
  • Regular physical activity supports learning. Many activities develop coordination. Playing catch develops eye-hand coordination. Jumping rope or hopscotch helps teach spatial relationships, while soccer helps develop manipulative skills.
  • As children play actively with others, they also develop and practice social skills. With games of all kinds, they can share, cooperate, communicate, support each other, and act as a team.
  • Being on a winning team isn't the only way to build self-esteem. Succeeding at any physical activity— riding a bike, swimming a lap, or catching a ball— helps build self-confidence and a positive self-image.
  • Active play is part of the joy of childhood! Physical activity that's pleasant more likely becomes a lifelong habit. A lifestyle that includes regular physical activity lowers the risk of many chronic diseases.

For good health, children need to move! For children, the Dietary Guidelines advise: Engage in at least sixty minutes of physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week. Kids don't need a structured activity program to meet this goal. And competitive sports may not be appropriate for some kids; they can create unnecessary pressure and take the fun away.

Active play—biking, in-line skating, playing tag, jump-roping, swimming, or tossing a Frisbee, among others—can offer enough exercise for most children. Besides, it can be fun! Hint: Be sure that children have appropriate safety gear such as helmets, knee pads, or life jackets, as well as sunscreen (even in cold weather) and appropriate clothing.

Next time your kids say they don't know what to do, suggest something active. See "Ten Things for Kids to Do Instead of Watching TV" on this page.

To promote an active lifestyle you need to make your moves, too. Be a role model. Join kids in active play—perhaps hike together as a weekend outing, ride bikes after dinner, play a quick game of catch or hopscotch after work, clean up a local nature trail, knead a loaf of bread, or take an active vacation (perhaps with hiking, swimming, or skiing). Plan for family activities, perhaps after dinner or every Saturday morning so that exercise happens! Party time? Make fun activities the main event: backyard "Olympics" with relay races, bowling, or skating. Going to a party? Give gifts that encourage physical activity, such as sporting equipment or physically active games.

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