SUNDAY, Dec. 10, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- This Christmas, experts are advising that Santa skip the video games and bring kids toys that exercise more than just their thumbs.
"With obesity on the rise across the country, toys that get kids moving are some of the best gifts you can give," University of Indianapolis physical therapy professor Anne Mejia Downs said in a prepared statement. "Regular exercise can improve concentration, decrease anxiety, prevent and treat depression, and even help kids sleep better."
Downs offered a list of toys and games that encourage kids to be active. Many of the items she recommended can be played indoors.
"Kids can play them after school if they're home alone and can't leave the house, and they're also great for bad weather days," she said.
The games and toys recommended by Downs include:
- Cranium Hullabaloo. It prompts children to jump, dance, and run around. It also encourages following directions, color and shape recognition, and coordination.
- Twister Moves. Each player gets an individual mat that they use while they follow directions from a CD. This game emphasizes balance, coordination, flexibility, timing, reaction time and motor control.
- Dance Dance Revolution. This item, based on a popular arcade game, gives children directions on how to move their feet while they listen to popular songs. It offers cardio/aerobic exercise and helps hone coordination, balance, rhythm, reaction time and motor control.
And a pedometer makes a great stocking stuffer for both kids and adults, Downs said.
"You can first use it to see how many steps you take in an average day (which is usually less than people think), and it can help you to increase the number of steps per day," she said.
Good athletic shoes or a sporting goods store gift certificate are other examples of presents that encourage physical activity.
The American Heart Association has more about exercise and children.