As the nation's obesity epidemic continues to wreak havoc on our health, getting the kids to stay active is incredibly important. The trouble? Healthy kids need plenty of physical activity, but often exercise just isn't all that much fun -- especially for those accustomed to a leisure-time diet of TV, video games, and other sedentary pastimes.
Fear not -- these five toys and games will get them off the couch and moving their bodies. And best of all, they'll have fun doing it.
Pedometers are so 2005. These days, discerning health-conscious adults are sporting high-tech devices like the Fitbit or Bodymedia Link, both of which promise to measure your physical activity over the course of a whole day, delivering aggregate, up-to-the-minute stats on your exact calorie burn rate.
Think of Geopalz as a Fitbit for the five-and-up crowd: they clip onto a waist or shoe, come in a variety of cheerful, kid-friendly designs, and cost just a fraction of the grown-up devices' equally grown-up price tags. Points the kids earn with physical activity can be redeemed for toys like frisbees and footballs, or used to buy chunks of time playing Geopalz's range of games. Motivational? It might be enough to make you ditch your Fitbit and get one for yourself...
Though all three home video game consoles sport their own motion detection systems, Microsoft's Kinect is the most flexible, and Once Upon a Monster is among the platform's best active movement games for younger kids.
Developed by Double Fine Productions (seasoned gamers will know them from hits like Brutal Legend and Psychonauts), it brings Sesame Street pals like Elmo and Cookie Monster right into your front room -- and neither you or the kids are going to be able to resist jumping off the couch and joining in the fun.
There's nothing that'll get you moving like being shot at. Hasbro's popular paintball-without-the-mess Nerf range broadens this year to include these nifty Lazer Tag blasters, which in addition to working like traditional lightguns can also mount an iPhone or iPod Touch and use it like a viewfinder.
If you're playing on your own it'll use the display to give you a slew of alien invaders to shoot down -- play it with a friend and it'll instead use it to keep score and track your stats. Whichever you choose, you'll need to be on your toes.
You've seen those battery-operated kids' cars, right? Forget about them. Kids don't need batteries when they've got legs.
The pedal car has been around for decades, though this classic-styled hot-rod is significantly sweeter than the old models. If the style doesn't make your eyes light up (what's wrong with you?) there are ample other choices in shades and designs all across the spectrum, from John Deere green to Barbie hot pink. If you can stretch to a pair, a session spent racing round the back yard or neighborhood park is a recipe for a healthy, happy afternoon.
We're guessing you've probably heard of this celebrated series. One of the few non-Nintendo franchises to really hit it big on the Wii, it owes much of its success to its uncanny ability to get kids of any age (and adults too, for that matter) up off the couch and bobbing about to its sizable selection of pop tunes.
Most of the Just Dance series of games are better for older kids, though the 'Kids' line is good for the younger ones. Just Dance 4 is due out in October.