parenting, healthy living, zumba, family, indoors, happy kids, quarentine, ketchupmoms

No Soccer? Never Mind!

The other day I had gone down to pick up my groceries. I live on the 6th floor of a high-rise complex in Gurugram and ever since the lockdown was announced, all groceries are being delivered to the tower guard’s station on the ground floor. Mask on, sanitizer in one hand and the bag of groceries in the other, I was just beginning to turn back toward the lift when I happened to glance in the direction of the children’s park. Usually bustling with happy, running kids and resonating with their excited, eager shrieks, it now lay bare, forlorn and forgotten. For a minute, I did see a single swing swaying gently back and forth but then realized that it was just a stray gust of wind. I’m not usually one to give in to tears easily but for once, I couldn’t help myself.

The Challenge of Keeping Children Fit and Active During the LockdownAs the mother of a young child, I have been distressed at the way children have been wrenched away from their lives, their schools, and their friends. Young children are happiest running free but we have had to lock them up in their homes, restrict them like never before. During a difficult time like this, we must focus on their health, safety, and well-being. While I have always believed that children’s activities should be in the great outdoors as much as possible, we have to make the most of the current situation. So even though I would ideally like to see them playing soccer or tennis or going cycling or swimming with their friends, that may not be possible for a while. Does that mean we leave them to their own devices, playing on their laptops and iPads all day? Certainly not!

Did you know that other than the obvious physical health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, obesity during childhood can have serious psychological implications as well? Sometimes there are no early symptoms at all other than a higher-than-normal weight. The importance of an active lifestyle and healthy eating habits in young children cannot be stressed enough. Particularly these days when making sure that our children lead active, healthy lifestyles is more challenging than ever. As the parents of young, energetic children, we need to be innovative and find novel ways to re-direct all that energy to activities they can enjoy in the safety of their homes. It’s not that hard, it just requires a bit of perseverance, planning and thought. So here goes-

The Challenge of Keeping Children Fit and Active During the LockdownFocus on their emotional well-being. As Julie Andrews said in The Sound of Music, let’s start at the very beginning. It’s a very good place to start. A child’s emotional well-being is the bedrock on which everything else depends. And a child's emotional well-being will be greatly affected by the well-being of the parents, particularly these days when children are spending all their time at home. Maintain a happy atmosphere at home, read together, cook together, watch that Disney movie together and yes, let’s praise and hug our children a bit more than usual. Just like us, they too need that extra boost.

Involve them in simple household chores. This one’s a winner all the way. It’s not even a double-edged sword, it’s a triple-edged sword. Household chores like light dusting, folding laundry, no-fire cooking, making beds, and keeping their rooms clean and tidy will keep our children active and make them capable and independent as well. And needless to say, we’ll get a spot of much-needed help to boot!!

The Challenge of Keeping Children Fit and Active During the LockdownExplore the wonderful world of Zumba Kids. Not only is dancing a fantastic exercise, it's a happy one as well. Upbeat music, buoyant moves, smiling faces, and there we go! We have a happy child! There are hundreds of certified, guided videos out there just waiting to be explored. Many of them are perfect for a parent-child workout which we can do together. Not only does this give our children some fabulous exercise, it makes for excellent bonding time and keeps “us" fit too! Another triple-edged sword!

Why only Zumba? Ninja Kids, Balloon Volleyball, Hallway Soccer, Yoga Jenga, Bookworm Workouts, Broom Hockey, Animal Walks are wonderfully innovative ways to keep the little ones engaged. And the bonus is that all these are indoor workouts and many of them do not require too much space. We just need to avoid being over-enthusiastic because the last thing we want is a twisted ankle or broken nose.

Enrol your child in an online self-defence class. My son has been learning Taekwondo since the age of 4. Not only is it a wonderful exercise, but it's also a priceless life skill. It was only recently that I discovered, however, that it has yet another advantage. Unlike soccer and tennis and other sports, self-defence is something that can easily adapt to an online format. It doesn’t require an enormous amount of space, it’s an individual sport and it’s easy to teach in an online form.

The Challenge of Keeping Children Fit and Active During the LockdownWe are what we eat. And so are our children. Take advantage of this time when we’re all home-bound. No birthday parties, no restaurant outings, no play-dates. Translation? No fried chicken nuggets, no fondant- loaded cakes, no calorie-ridden chole bhature!! With our focus understandably shifting toward healthy albeit innovative home-cooked fare, half the job is already done. Let us do the rest and not make that bowl of maida noodles or caramel-coated popcorn. Let us give that whole-wheat banana bread or homemade hummus a try instead. After all, a healthy outside starts from the inside.

And finally, set an example. Picture this. I’m sitting on the couch with a bag of potato wafers, watching a sitcom. My child wanders into the room. ‘Eat your carrot sticks and then go do Zumba!’ I command. Absurd isn’t it? After all, haven’t we heard that famous quote? Practice what you preach. This is even more relevant when we’re talking about fitness. So even though our gym is closed and we cannot go for that Yoga class, what stops us from doing a few sit-ups or squats every day? No doubt that housework is good exercise (and we’re all doing a lot of that these days) but a regular, structured regime, however short, will go a long way in making fitness into a lifestyle and setting an example for our kids, as we are the role models for them anyways.

So, let’s put on some music and dance with our kids, do an online fitness class, eat wholesome, clean food, and remember to keep that smile on. This too shall pass soon.

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Rrashima Swaarup Verma

Rrashima Swaarup Verma is a corporate business analyst with a leading US-based, business research organization. A passionate fitness enthusiast and co-owner with an award-winning fitness club as well

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