Getting Kids to Move: Martha Swirzinski

My guest today is Martha Swirzinski, who has written three children’s books focused on movement.

“More and more research is being developed about the rise of obesity in children,” notes Ms. Swirzinski, who teaches movement education in a local pre-school and offers teacher training workshops and customized consultations.  At the same time, numerous studies continue to link increased brain function and movement, she explains.  “Being active grows new brain cells!”

Brrrr….it’s cold outside!

by Martha Swirzinski

But that’s no excuse for your children to be sedentary or inactive. I know it’s hard in the winter to keep your children active: it’s cold, it gets dark earlier and, of course, there’s homework for older children and a long list of things that simply must get accomplished. However, we need to remember that our heart is a muscle and needs daily exercise to stay healthy and strong. Children as young as 3 or 4 years old may show early signs of changes to their arteries that could cause eventual heart attacks. Surprisingly, signs of heart disease can appear as early as ten years old, making regular exercise and health nutrition critical.

So what can a parent do?

Limit television and computer time.

If you do let them have screen time, mix it up with some kind of movement. For instance, if they are watching a show, have them run in place during the commercials. For every ten minutes on the computer, they owe you five minutes of dancing to music or running around the yard.

Park farther from store entrances and walk, run, hop, or skip into the store.

Take the stairs and count the number of stairs. Turn exercise into a learning experience.

Read a book and have them act it out.

Play games that encourage movement, like charades or follow the leader.

Hide items around the house and have your children go find them. For each item, have them move a different way to go find it. For example, you need to hop like a bunny to find the plastic egg or walk on your tiptoes to find your stuffed animal. This is also a great way to encourage them to pick up their rooms.

Get creative, have fun, and most of all, make sure you participate with them. A good role model is very important and will make a lasting impression. I know it can be hard, but in the long run it will create a lifetime of health and happiness for you and your child.

The holder of a Bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation from Clemson University and a master’s from the University of Maryland in Kinesiology, Martha Swirzinski has more than 15 years of experience working in the field of movement with children.  She is also a certified personal fitness trainer.  She currently lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia with her husband and two daughters.

Ms. Swirzinski believes that every child should be afforded structured movement opportunities every day to promote an active, healthy lifestyle and become part of a lifelong regime.

It is along this vein that Ms. Swirzinski has published three children’s books focused on movement.  Using entertaining rhymes and charming pictures, these developmentally based books offer fun and creative ways for children to move while also providing mind stimulating activities on each page. By following the suggested activities, children can engage in 30-60 minutes of their recommended structured daily movement, as well as enhancing other mind/body skills. Designed to be enjoyed again and again, the pages of these books are filled with laughter, learning, movement and more.

Martha’s books are: “Leap… Laugh… Plop,” “Guess… Giggle… Wiggle,” and “Kick… Catch… Buzz”


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14 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Heidi,
    Thanks so much for having me today.
    Martha Swirzinski

  2. Lack of activity for all ages is alarming. I find myself glued to my computer. Between TV and computers, not to mention cell phone texting, especially among kids, we’re going to be a nation of zombies if we don’t do something about it. The suggestions in this blog are excellent.

  3. It’s too bad children can’t just go out in their neighborhoods and play without adult supervision anymore. We got lots of exercise doing that when I was a kid, but in many areas it isn’t safe anymore. Martha does a good job of suggesting alternatives.

  4. Childhood obesity is such a problem. Martha, I applaud you for your part in educating parents and grandparents and giving us great ways to make exercise fun.

  5. Great advice, Martha!

  6. Martha,
    Thank you for sharing this message. I agree with Mary, we ALL could use this advice!

    Janet, yes, when I was growing up, there was no thought about the dangers of letting kids run outside all day. It’s sad.

  7. Getting children to move is so important. Luckily my kids grew up on a farm. You have to move to exist in tha environment!

  8. Really great article. Fabulous suggestions. And an important reminder that activity is oh so important. Thanks, Martha. And thanks Heidi for posting.

  9. These are interesting suggestions, but I think you left out after school sports, which can be for children as young as 4 or 5. I frankly wonder how realistic it is to have kids running in place during commercials and that sort of thing. You’d have to be on top of them all the time, and I know that when my kids were young, it was all I could do to take care of them, never mind adding those types of activities.

    Both kids were involved with sports, biking and camping while they were growing up, and neither one of them has a weight problem. One is in college, works out on the side (along with martial arts), and the other is busy chasing two lively boys.

    • AFter school sports are great. However, during these cold months alot of the sports aren’t going on so these are some other suggestions for the cold weather months.

  10. Great tips, Martha.

  11. We’re having a great interactive conversation on this subject–isn’t it fun?! Now, time for calisthenics! 🙂

  12. Hi, Heidi and Martha,

    Sorry I’m a day late, I had some problems yesterday.

    This is a great post. My daughter doesn’t like my grandsons to watch too much tv so when I’m babysitting we play most of the day. These are great tips to help keep them active.


  13. Great post Heidi!
    Martha,I wouldn’t agree more! In my own class I used to make kids move while learning vocabulary and it was great fun and a superb way to remember words. Kids love moving and for those restless ones it is the best way to keep them busy and happy!

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