Kids on the move

Ottawa parents share tips on how to help your child get active

By Christa Poirier and Jason Haug

education, free time, technology and internet concept - little sIn an age of video games, computers and TV, it can be pretty hard to pry your kids away from a screen, especially in the winter.

Your child (five to 11 years) should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. Children ages two to four years should have at least 180 minutes of physical activity at any intensity, spread throughout the day.

For many parents, this may seem like a lot. On the Parenting in Ottawa Facebook page (www.facebook. com/ParentinginOttawa), we had a parent ask for some advice on how to get her child to be more active.

“I need help getting my six-year-old into physical activity. He only likes video games. How do you parents get your child interested in going outside and doing something?”

Here are some answers from other parents:

• “Business deal: one hour of outside play for one hour of video games.”

• “My seven-year-old old loves sliding down snow hills at parking lots on his butt! He also loves tobogganing. Get a foam sled with handles and go. If he has a small buddy nearby, offer an outside-inside play date: 30 min outside then 30 min or even one hour on the computer after hot chocolate … You can also look at family skate and swims.”

• “Kids love to talk and bond with you. Kids are very smart and here’s my advice:

~ Have a heart-to-heart talk about how much you love them and how health is a value and how time is precious. Talk to them about the future, your personal experiences as a kid and adult highlighting school milestones, university, goals and the importance of planning for the future and managing time.

~ Ensure that you create regulations for how much video games are allowed and who gets to keep the electronic device. Expect resistance and keep your spirits high (don’t get upset if the child gets angry; keep your mind focused on helping them).

~ Introduce activities such as guitar classes, play dates with friends, swimming classes, skating, visiting the bookstore together.”

• “Going out with the kids helps. In the winter, I make mine come out with me when I shovel the driveway. By the time I’m done they normally have a snow fort built and play long after I’ve gone in.”

• “Do you model the behaviour you want? Do you talk about how good it makes you feel when you work out? I try to be my daughter’s role model by being active and taking part in activities.

I also always give my daughter two options, and they both include being outside or doing something active. I let her pick the activity because it gives her some control. If it was my daughter, I would throw out the video games. My four-year-old is also very aware about the health benefits and how being inactive is not good for your body. I think taking the time to explain why we do things that are good or us is very important.”

Learn more about physical activity and safety for kids at

Do you have more questions?

Speak with an Ottawa Public Health Nurse. Call the Ottawa Public Health Info Line at 613-PARENTS (613-727-3687), (TTY: 613-580-9656) or email

Christa Poirier is Public Health Nurse and Jason Haug is Program and Project Management Officer at Ottawa Public Health.