MONTVILLE, NJ – As the days of moms telling their kids, “Go outside and play!” have gone the way of the little red wagon, American kids are becoming more screen-oriented and less health-oriented. Two Valley View teachers wanted to help families make healthy choices and instill a love for being active, and to that end they worked together to co-write Generation Exercise: How to Raise Active, Healthy Children.

Valley View physical education teacher Len Saunders and Montville Township School District occupational therapist Suzanne Schneiderman worked on what is Saunders’ eighth book, released at the end of August. It is a re-release of his 2010 Keeping Kids Fit but with updated information, and Saunders said he wanted to work with Schneiderman in order to include information for differently-abled kids. The pair has more than 50 years of experience in education.

“We both have a wealth of experience working with children to achieve the best that they can achieve,” Saunders told TAPinto Montville.

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The book is separated into three parts: getting kids healthy and active, which discusses motivating kids, starting healthy/active habits, and reducing technology; and an action plan for keeping kids fit, which discusses warm-ups and an example schedule for keeping active, such as, Mondays are for walking, Tuesdays are for active chores, and Wednesdays are for sports. It also discusses how to spread the word on group fitness, such as the ACES program that Saunders pioneered in schools. An acronym for All Children Exercise Simultaneously, the activity is held on the first Wednesday in May and is an international program designed to motivate kids to exercise. (Read more here)

Part three of the pair’s book is about nutrition, hydration and sleep, and includes some simple snack recipes and menu ideas. The focus was on making a book that is organized and simple to take in.

“We wanted to make it easy reading because a lot of health and fitness books are very scientific in their writing,” said Saunders. “We wanted to make sure that everything was easy to understand so people could follow through with it.”

Schneiderman said she was excited to work with Saunders and reach a wider audience than in her daily work.

“My role is so specific a lot of times,” she said. “To have parents and other people read it and try to incorporate fitness in their lives is very exciting to me, because fitness is very important.”

As the pair states in chapter one of their book, childhood obesity and diabetes are on the rise, and the nation is facing a childhood health crisis. Saunders blames the problem on technology and the changing times.

“Technology is the new play,” he said. “Twenty years ago, play meant ‘Go outside and do something with your buddies, and when the streetlights come on, it’s time to come home.’ Kids don’t do that anymore. There’s so much technology at their fingertips. Plus, we’re so often in a rush and people are looking for an easy way out – they want to heat up something in the microwave, and joining a recreation team is not as prevalent as it was 20 years ago. Cereals now take up both sides of the supermarket aisle with sugary offerings. Now there are hundreds of kids’ channels on TV. Things are changing and we need to educate kids on being more physically fit. That’s why this book is important – we need to help out the parents as well as the kids.”

Schneiderman stressed that the book focuses on not only educating parents, but doing things together as a family.

“As an example, you want your child to drink more water, but if you’re not doing it too, it becomes harder,” she said. “Doing these things together will improve everybody’s lifestyle.”

An important lesson in the book, Saunders said, is the “bank method,” because kids always take health for granted, but they need to develop a healthy lifestyle now as an investment towards later. Schneiderman said that kids with disabilities may not even have fitness on their radar at any time.

“If a child has a disability, I don’t know how much focus is on living a healthy lifestyle,” Schneiderman said. “For the differently-abled it may be even more important to stay healthy because of the challenges they face.”

But investing in the future doesn’t mean hitting all the categories of sleep, exercise and nutrition perfectly, with 100% precision and robotic efficiency, Saunders said.

“We stress that each child should achieve goals to the best of their ability,” Saunders said. “Not every kid can do everything perfectly.”

The pair achieved an easy camaraderie and bounced ideas off of each other while working on the book, Saunders said. He respected Suzanne’s knowledge and experience, he said.

“It was pretty easy to work with Suzanne,” he said.

“There were some areas that needed to be addressed so I did that, but most things worked with differently-abled kids,” she said. “We updated some of the nutrition. Len had some well established programs, as well.”

The desire for this book is that it is an overall health and fitness guide that is timeless and helpful for families with differently-abled kids.

“Suzanne and I went old-school to a very generic level, to things that won’t change,” Saunders said. “Kids should be drinking water every day, and eating vegetables. The book will last a long time – it’s a general handbook, and it’s easy reading.”

“It’s not just a straight how-to, if you do a-b-c, x-y-z will happen, but more ‘these are the things to really think about when you want to live a healthy lifestyle; here are some approaches you can try, and then you can change it to whatever fits you,’ and that’s the underlying message in the whole book,” Schneiderman said. “We covered as many aspects of a healthy lifestyle as we could cover.”

“There’s no magical formula that works for every child,” Saunders said. “Everything in life has to be modified.”

The pair says the book applies to every age up to college, but it is probably best for parents of elementary school kids.

“A lot of the content can be applied to parents, too,” Saunders said. “We’re hoping it benefits every age group.”

Generation Exercise: How to Raise Active, Healthy Children can be found on Amazon.

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