Did you know that the top three concerns Australian parents have about their kids are:

  • Excessive screen time
  • Obesity
  • Not enough physical activity?

We should not blame kids though, as us, adults are having exactly the same issues, and children are only copying our behaviour.

Many of us are also convinced that changing the situation is an extremely difficult task. It is not, if you take one step at a time, and if you take “swap it, don’t stop it” approach.

We would like to suggest you very simple steps which you and your family can take during these school holidays and beyond, for better health and happiness.

To reduce the screen time and to make healthier choices, we suggest the following swaps:

  1. When watching TV / sitting with your tablet, swap sitting in the chair to sitting on the floor.
  1. For computer games, videos and films, swap small devices (tablets, smartphones) to bigger screens (laptop / desktop, TV + game consoles).

Sitting in front of a bigger screen helps keeping slightly better posture than hunching over a small device, bending the neck and straining the eyes. It is also easier to limit the time in front of a bigger screen, as you, as a parent, will have higher chance of seeing / hearing that it is still on.

  1. Swap TV time for your children to family movie time. Invite kids to join you cooking dinner or cleaning the house so that afterwards you could watch a movie together. It is simply fairer to all of you, isn’t it?
  1. Swap movie popcorn to healthier alternatives or occupy your hands with knitting, or any kind of crafts for your children.
  1. Swap movies and TV at home to movies outdoors or family movie night out.

Does your neighbourhood offer summer sessions of movies in the park? This would be your best choice, especially if you could walk together with your kids to this park, rather than driving there. Come early, as there are different activities before the movies, from face painting to jumping castles. With friends and neighbours around, chances are that your child will be more interested in communicating and running around rather than watching a movie.

If there are no free or affordable cinema options around, consider investing in the outdoor home theatre. It takes just ten minutes to set it up (that’s your ten minutes of moderate physical activity!), and it is an event that can be used as a reward at the end of a summer day. Inflatable cinema screen will keep your family longer outdoors, while watching a movie together will be more memorable than your standard TV time.

  1. Swap computer games to active computer games. For better health, choose active games with Xbox-Kinect or Wii remotes. Your choices could be “Kinect Adventures River Rush”, “Shape Up”, “Just Dance”, “Wii Fit U”, and “Dance Central Spotlight”. Some studies suggest that active computer games give your child a good source of physical activity.

All of the above are very small steps, easy to perform. And very soon you’ll see the benefits and will be able to move further.

You should aim at reducing the screen time for your children to 2 hours per day. This is one good movie and 30 minutes computer game. Children under 17 years old should have at least 1 hour of physical activity per day. It is one hour in the park, or walking to school and back and playing in your backyard, or one hour of structured sports.

Small changes in how you go about your daily routines can make a big difference for improving your family’s healthy habits, and outdoor movie screen can help you make more active choices easier.