With all the electronic gifts available today – smartphones, video games, televisions sets, computers – it is easy to forget that one of the old-fashioned benefits of Christmas was that it is an opportunity to encourage your children to go outside and play games that keep their young bodies active.
There are many ways to encourage your children to go outside and participate in physical activities, but few of them speak louder than unwrapping a football, a bat and ball, a baseball glove or a basketball.
But there are other ways to encourage your children to get some exercise that are available beyond the standard sporting options of football, soccer, baseball, basketball, bowling, skiing, tennis, golf or ice hockey, which, perhaps, represent the major sports in most of the modern world. Even just an outing at the park helps people stay in shape.
And there are a few basic reasons why you might want to think outside of the box when it comes to gift-giving on Christmas. First, if your child is already into any one of the major sports just mentioned, the chances are they have the basic equipment to play those games, anyway. Secondly, of course all great athletes, one can assume, play more than just one sport. First, it's fun to do that. Second, what do active bodies do during the off-season?
So, here are some ideas for non-sports-based gifts this Christmas that also encourage active physical exertion all through the year.
On the go
There are many items dedicated to the idea of locomotion – the act of getting from here to there. These gifts include the standard tricycle or bicycle, skateboards, cruiser skates, and the like.
Yes, you can watch someone on a skateboard on a half-pipe who does not seem to be doing much physically, but remember snowboarding, the equivalent sport on snow, is an Olympic event. It takes great physical skill and energy to skateboard well or even to make it across town on a small board on wheels.
You can play catch with hundreds (or thousands) of items that have nothing to do with an established sport. There are footballs in various new configurations, including fins that whistle when you throw them. There's the tried and true Frisbee and the many variations thereof, including glowing Frisbees that mean your children don't have to stop playing when the sun goes down.
How can you keep up? There are new games invented all the time and some of them become enormous hits. In the old days – and they still make 'em – there was the hoola-hoop craze. In my neighborhood, there's a new sensation among middle and high school kids called Spike Ball. (It's a kind of inverse variation on volleyball.) At the beach, who hasn't seen kids (and grownups) slapping a small rubber ball back and forth with what look like oversized ping-pong paddles? That's one way to get your kids on their feet.
Speaking of ping pong (or table tennis), this game is widely popular around the world and certainly burns more calories than playing a video game. Other tried and true winners include the hoola-hoop (mentioned above), roller skates, ice skates, toys that encourage swimming and toys associated with snow.
You may recall, from your days as a child yourself, that sledding requires walking back up the hill, which counts as exercise in my book. Today there are dozens of variations on the standard runner sleds of the old days, including inner tubes, saucers, and the like. If you want to step in up a notch or three, try snowboarding. If you want to have family fun out in the snow, try presenting someone with a toboggan. They still make them, proving some things never go out of fashion.
There are many toys that are not particularly associated with physical exertion, but still get your kids outside, where they have to either walk, run or both, at least a little bit. But the activities get them outside, anyway. And that's a start. In this category are kites, fishing gear, lawn darts and the like.
If you go outdoors then half the battle is won. It's hard to burn off calories in your living room. In the great outdoors, it usually comes with the territory.