- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 27, 2003

While family games and activities are intended to increase physical fitness, the emphasis should be on having fun, says Rose Kennedy, co-author of “The Family Fitness Fun Book: Good, Healthy Fun for the Whole Family,” (edited by Lori Baird and co-authored by Myrsini Stephanides).

“Don’t pursue these games by saying, ‘We’re going to lose weight,’” Ms. Kennedy says. “If you do, your kid is going to hate the games.”

Her other activity and game guidelines:

* Parents should learn several games to suit the different tastes and skill levels of other family members and friends. Some games favor tactical thinking, while others are geared toward hand-eye coordination.

* Relays (which can measure anything from running prowess to the ability to pass an orange squeezed under the chin from one person to the next) can be great equalizers for family members of different sizes and skill levels.

* Adopt a gradual approach, starting with a 10- or 20-minute game and then building on that.

* It’s important that parents get involved and play each game because children often need a leader or they will lose interest and go back to their video games or television.

* Don’t spend a lot of money on equipment. Many games require just small equipment purchases, if any. Some games, such as tag, which can be a very strenuous activity, don’t require any gear.

* Some games even can be confidence boosters for small children because they tend to do better than adults. A Hula Hoop contest (presented in the book) that entails climbing through Hula Hoop rings usually favors small children.

* Don’t let the snow or cold weather keep you from playing outside. Just dress warmly. Hiding colored ice cubes in the snow is a winter version of the Easter egg hunt that gets the children out of the house and away from the television.

* Don’t set unrealistic goals. The emphasis should be on family fun and creating good, healthy, lifelong habits.

* Don’t wait until some magic date, such as Jan. 1, to get started. Start now, even if it means being active for a mere 10 minutes a day.

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