Rugged and (ahem) rather handsome television presenter Bear Grylls is back in the papers this month, arguing that youngsters need to be more involved with outdoor activities and community service.
"Having outdoor adventures builds a pride and confidence that you wouldn't get in the classroom" he told the Radio Times. "Outdoor classes should be part of the curriculum."
Mr Grylls (swoon) may well be right - it's easy for our children to spend more time attached to iPads and watching the television these days, and many schools see more value in IT lessons than getting them out and about. If this sounds like a familiar story, you can at least make sure your children have plenty of opportunity to get outdoors at home. It should be easy enough to get them out and about if you have the right tools - as Mr Grylls says, "Young people dig the outdoors".
Adapting your garden
First of all, it's essential that you make best use of your garden space by adapting it so that the kids can wear themselves out whenever they like. Having an adventure playground they can enjoy at any point is an excellent way of encouraging them to love the great outdoors, and it doesn't need to be done expensively. Climbing frames, slides, trampolines and swings can all be set up and designs these days can be quite compact if you're limited on space. Giving your child access to the great outdoors is an absolutely essential step in encouraging them to exercise more.
As every child knows, running around on your own isn't half as fun as having other people to do it with. Try not to limit their social interactions with other classmates to school - invite them over and encourage everyone to get into the garden. Indeed, if you've followed the above suggestions and transformed it into an adventure playground that even Mr Grylls would be proud of, then you're going to be the most popular parents outside the playground every day. Encouraging your child to exercise socially will give them not only the obvious health benefits but the whole process will help their confidence and allow them to make friends more easily in the future. Combine the activity with some healthy snacks for everyone!
Make it a family activity
But getting active isn't just something that the kids can benefit from. You'll feel stronger as a family unit if you join in, at least with a few of these activities. As well as making sure Mum and Dad and any aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents feel better from doing a bit of exercise, everyone will benefit from spending time together as a family and bonding. It's not difficult to get active together, but it's a good idea to ensure the kids don't get bored. If you like the idea of a family walk every Sunday, why not buy the kids scooters so that they can scoot about? Or you could even take inspiration from Mr Grylls himself and take the family on a cross-country hike - make sure you take plenty of snacks and have breaks at regular intervals. Other fun activities to do with the family include rock climbing, canoeing, windsurfing and even dry-slope skiing. The possibilities are limitless.
From the above suggestions, you should have enough inspiration to help you show the kids exactly how much fun the great outdoors can be. Remember that the key is to keep things fun and don't overload them with exercise, else you'll kill their enthusiasm. If they're in any doubt, perhaps you could should them how cool and exciting it can be with an episode of one of Bear Grylls's documentaries? If all else fails, that will definitely have them out on the climbing frame, practising getting to the top as though it was a sheer cliff on a remote island. Because, you know - for kids, it doesn't have to be just a climbing frame.