The Parents' Jury encourages parents to advocate at a local level for activity friendly communities that readily support active living and family recreation. Active living is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle for children and adults.
In 2011, the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing found that our surroundings can influence our physical health and mental wellbeing through a variety of channels; health and wellbeing may be affected in both positive and negative ways. Humans, through their intervention in the environment, can play a vital role in exacerbating or reducing health risks.
For the 2008 Activity Friendly Communities Campaign, The Parents' Jury prepared some information on how you can create change in your community and steps you can take to support active living.
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There are many ways that parents can get involved at a local level and advocate for a more activity friendly community for their children.
Your child's school and the promotion of active transport is a great place to start as an advocate. Take a hard critical look around the school and its surrounds and ask yourself the following questions:
- Are there footpaths and cycle paths coming from all directions to the school?
- Can children arrive by foot or cycle and enter the school safely away from the car traffic?
- Are there pedestrian crossings positioned on all roads close to the school?
- Do all main crossings have a supervisor in the morning and afternoon?
- Does the school provide plenty of cycle racks?
- Does the school actively encourage children to walk or cycle to school, and deter them from coming by car?
If the school is not doing its best to promote the use of active transport to the children you should consider discussing the points above with the school principal either in person or by writing a letter. Click here to download a sample letter to the school principal (Microsoft Word document).
To assess the activity friendly qualities of your local community you can use The Parents Jury's Active Community Checklist (online version | printable version (PDF 360kB)). By checking the attributes your community does or doesn't have you can gauge how proactive your council is and what still needs to be done to improve the environment and encourage active residents.
Parent advocates can put pressure on their local council to create a more activity friendly community. Write to your mayor and local council about aspects of your neighbourhood that don't meet the Active Community Checklist. Explain the importance of activity friendly communities and demand better infrastructure to support your children's active living lifestyle. Click here to download a sample letter to the council (Microsoft Word document).
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One of the best ways to encourage your children to be active is to get out and be active with them. Most children love to spend time with their family walking, cycling, playing, and generally being out of the house and doing things together. There are health benefits for every member of the family by being more active every day. There are also many emotional and psychological benefits of being active as a family together. You will have plenty of time to talk about what is going on in your lives and it is a great opportunity to have lots of fun.
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There are many different ways for your children to have an active lifestyle. Here are our top suggestions to encourage your children to be more physically active everyday.
- Park the car a little further away from the shops and walk with your children. Alternatively, leave the car at home and walk instead.
- Take regular family weekend walks in the bush, the park or by a local river, and / or set aside time at least once a week to go for a family walk before dinner.
- Play outside on bikes, running around, climbing trees and playing with the dog. Encourage your children to take the dog for a walk every day.
- Have a picnic and take a bat and ball, frisbee, kite or a cricket set with you and play a game with your children. Invite some friends to make it even more fun.
- Enrol your children in a dance class that appeals to them such as hip hop, tango, salsa, or jazz.
- Help your children learn a new active skill such as hula hooping, golf, bowling or badminton.
- Get involved in the school working bee and make sure your children come too.
- Start a veggie patch and get the whole family working in the garden.
- Go camping for your family holiday or a weekend away.
- Set up soccer goals in the garden and let the kids kick a ball around
And some rainy day ideas:
- Set up an obstacle course inside the house. Time the children with a stop-watch for them to better their last time.
- Play musical statues and musical chairs.
- Play hide and seek inside the house.
- Play with soft balls inside the house.
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