March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
Physical activity is good for children's bodies. At least 60 minutes of activity a day helps children grow strong, stay well and keep a healthy weight. There's mounting evidence that moderate to vigorous physical activity also helps children's critical thinking skills, grade point averages and standardized test scores.
For healthy lifestyles, children need both free play and specific instruction on physical skills. The ideal place for physical education is as part of the school day — at least 30 minutes every day. In addition to supporting daily physical education in schools, take advantage of classes in your community, such as swimming or dance lessons. The best physical education is age appropriate and fun.
Play helps children mentally, physically, socially and emotionally. All you have to do is turn off the screen, whether it's the television, tablet or phone. Explore your yard, neighborhood, playground or park, and go as a family.
Active play can be organized by adults or kids. There are active indoor games such as Simon Says or Twister, and dozens of games to play outside — hopscotch, jump rope, dodge ball, Frisbee golf, badminton and volleyball. Depending on the season, organize trips to a local bowling alley, swimming pool or skating rink.
Different children excel at and enjoy different types of activities. Experiment with team and individual sports and activities alike – from baseball and soccer to ice skating and martial arts – to see which types of activity interest your child.
Make Fitness Part of Your Child's Day
If your children can walk or bike to and from school, they will get all the physical and mental benefits of being active, while you save on gas fill-ups. Walk or bike with your kids when you can, and organize a neighborhood walking- or bike-pool for days when you are not able to go with them.