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Bob Carroll
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Christmas Presents Can Encourage Physical Activity

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If you haven’t already spent your entire Christmas present budget on a Play Station or similar video device here is what a health-conscious parent should consider for a child.

Buy Children Holiday Gifts That Encourage Physical Activity

As the holiday season draws near, the hunt is on for parents to find the perfect Christmas present for their child. While a multitude of toys and games are available, Anne Mejia Downs, assistant professor of physical therapy at the University of Indianapolis, urges parents to look specifically for toys and games that encourage physical activity.

“With obesity on the rise across the country, toys that get kids moving are some of the best gifts you can give,” Downs says. “Regular exercise can improve concentration, decrease stress and anxiety, prevent and treat depression, and even help kids sleep better.”

Professor Downs helps with some specific suggestions:

Cranium Hullabaloo – This game prompts kids to jump, dance and run around and encourages following directions, color and shape recognition and coordination.

Twister Moves – Unlike original Twister, this game features individual mats for each player and CDs that call out the directions. The game emphasizes balance, coordination, flexibility, timing, reaction time and motor control.

Dance Dance Revolution – Based on a popular arcade game, Dance Dance Revolution is available for most video game consoles, home computers and as a stand alone that plugs directly into the TV. The game prompts players to follow directions as they move their feet to popular songs. It provides cardio/aerobic exercise and works on coordination, balance, rhythm, reaction time and motor control.

In addition to these specific games, Downs lists a number of “classic” toys and games that also promote activity, such as hoola hoops, jump ropes, Hoppity Hops, pogo sticks, pogo balls, Skip It, hop scotch, four square and laser tag (home version). These toys and games help kids get physically active while working on coordination, balance, timing, rhythm and endurance.