Campus: CSU Northridge -- June 28, 2001


CSUN Professors Offer Tips on How to Keep Your Child from Turning into a Couch Potato This Summer

School's out and the summer offers endless possibilities for fun. But many parents are worried that with the lure of computers, video games and television, their kids many end up turning into couch potatoes.

A couple of Cal State Northridge professors offer getting kids to put down the Nintendo and remote and do something a little more physical.

"There's a lot of really exciting stuff for kids," said Veda Ward, chair of CSUN's Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies. "You just have to look for it, or rather make them look for it. They need to be more personally involved in choosing a healthy and fit lifestyle that's appropriate for them."

As the mother of two grown boys, Alyce Blackmon, chair of CSUN's Family Environmental Sciences Department, understands how computers and video games can tempt a youngster to spend the glorious days of summer inside.

"My kids liked that stuff too," Blackmon said. "But kids don't have the attention span to spend all their time doing one thing. They want to get physically active. You just have to come up with some alternatives."

She suggested parents check out the offerings at local city and county parks. Many parks offer half-day or full-day summer camps that provide kids with a variety of activities - from basketball games and golf lessons to field trips to the beach.

"What's nice about the camps at the local park is that they are relatively inexpensive, as opposed to the cost of a private summer camp, and the kids have a lot of fun," Blackmon said.

For just getting the kids off the couch, Ward suggested having your child set a simple goal for each day, such as just taking a walk.

When Ward's son's second grade class prepared for the summer break, she devised a calendar of activities to ensure the kids didn't spend the whole summer sitting on the couch playing video games or watching television. Each week had a simple theme, such as "Getting Organized," "You Are What You Eat," or "Community Service." And each day had at least one simple activity that can be easily accomplished without too much effort.

For example, the first week - Getting Organized - she suggested a walk on Sunday; locating the nearest library on Monday; signing up for a library card on Tuesday; checking out the summer programs at the local park on Wednesday; building your own work-out equipment on Thursday; starting a fitness diary on Friday; and starting your own fitness club on Saturday.

On other days, she suggested such activities as building a bird house, making up a workout to a favorite song, helping an adult with their house or yard work or grocery shopping, and dressing up as a clown and making people laugh.

Ward said parents should review all activities, plans and diaries kept by their children. More importantly, they should get involved.

"The themes make it easy and give the kids something to look forward to," Ward said. "You want to modify the plan to fit your child. And it's something the entire family can do."

Ward said one of the best resources available is the local library. She said families should recommend their library set up a summer activity resource area if it does not have one already.

"There are a lot of books on crafts, games and summer activities families can use," she said. "And you can encourage them to read throughout the summer, and it's fun."


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