I can't blame my kids for having access to more entertainment than I did as a child. Part of growing up in their generation is rooted in technology and having multiple distractions at their fingertips. Still, at times I find myself falling into the age-old cadence of, back in my day...

But the fact is, it's not my day anymore. It's today and today's children are going to have a different experience than those of "my day." My struggle is striking a balance for my family. Accepting that tablets and smart phones and screens, screens, screens! are a valuable part of current culture while still cultivating a desire for an active mind and body. 

To me, raising active kids means a love of curiosity and creativity that engage with the natural world and imaginative play. Things like spending an hour exploring a creek or gathering friends for a game of kickball or creating masterpieces for a backyard art show. Children are full of great ideas and it is so important for them to see an idea through from conception to completion. It creates a great deal of satisfaction and leaves them hungry for more opportunities to flex their active muscles (brain or body). 

In my quest to foster a love of activeness in my kids, I have found three simple guidelines that do the trick over and over. 

1. Self-Monitoring

My boys love a good round of video games as much as any kid, but I don't have strict time tables in place for how long they can play. Instead, I ask them to acknowledge when enough is enough. Some days they need a little nudge from mom, but most days they are able to self-monitor an appropriate amount of playing time. It gives them a sense of responsibility and helps them draw some boundaries for themselves. 

2. Keep Supplies on Hand

Something as simple as string and tape can become inspiration for an elaborate booby-trap. There are numerous game possibilities with a tennis ball and some buckets. Keep sports equipment, outdoor items, and craft supplies around the house as wonderful catalysts for imagination. 

3. The Power of New

Introducing your kids to something they haven't tried before can spark their interest and keep them occupied for hours. I once gave my guys an old hand-held video camera and told them to go wild with "movie making." After shooting 30-40 minutes worth of dinosaur impersonations and breakdance backspins, we all had a blast watching what they had created. With help from me, we picked a few clips to edit and put to music. Since it was something new, it was exciting and fun! The same thing happened when I taught them how to play hopsotch. 

I am constantly looking for effective ways to encourage my kids to use their minds and bodies. Watching a movie, playing video games and exploring new apps are fine; and I welcome those activities into our free time. But nothing can replace creating something new, being in nature and moving your body in a positive way. With summer right around the corner, now is the perfect time to start preparing to fill the longer stretches of free time with something your child finds meaningful.