The Beachcomber Holiday Guide

Think Outside the Box: Healthful Gift Options for Kids

By Gina Scala | Nov 08, 2019

Southern Ocean County — Every year, for as long as most people can remember, there has been a list of the most popular Christmas toys or gifts for children of all ages. Back in the day, those lists were delivered by the mailman in the form of a catalog. Now, the hottest gift ideas for Christmas are at the end of a person’s fingertips, 24/7, with early predictions being released at least six months ahead of the actual holiday for early shoppers.

There are gifts, however, that require no catalog and no debate over shipping fees for expedited deliveries. Wait, what? What kind of gift is that? A gift card that can be picked up anywhere for just about anything? Please, that’s for amateurs.

Let’s just cut to the chase because the distance between Thanksgiving and Christmas is so short this year. In a society where families struggle to put down the very technology meant to connect and engage but that sometimes does the opposite, why not give a gift that keeps on giving? The gift of health and tools for a healthful lifestyle is as good a place as any to start.

Done booing? Good, because there is something to be said for giving children (teenagers, too) something that can grow with them. It’s done all the time with Baby Einstein and Leap Frog toys, but it’s rarely thought of as good idea when it comes to health. Maybe this holiday season should be the one that changes that.

“Like food, it’s about proportion,” Mark Targett of Clamtown Crossfit said of introducing kids to healthy habits, such as exercise and nutrition. “I grew up in a generation where mothers smoked in the car and we ate sugar cereal for breakfast.”

The world has changed since then, and educating children about what a healthful lifestyle is and how to sustain it is important. It’s one of the reasons Clamtown Crossfit offers free classes for children ages 5 to 10 living in Tuckerton and Little Egg Harbor.

“We teach them about the fundamentals” of exercise,” Targett said, noting classes at that age last only 30 minutes and are offered twice a week. “They get bored quickly at that age, but we teach them it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you’re doing something.”

The key to fitness is to find what you like and keep doing it until you stop liking it and then find something else, he said.

“It’s like ice cream,” he said, explaining he doesn’t like vanilla ice cream. “It’s not that I don’t like ice cream, it’s that I like chocolate, not vanilla. It’s the same thing with exercise.”

Blair Hayden of Tilton Fitness in Manahawkin agrees.

“You have to appeal to them to get them the active,” Hayden said of encouraging children and teenagers to embrace a healthier lifestyle. “The trend is to see what keeps them motivated and engaged. The key is making sure you’re tapping into what they like.”

Tilton Fitness offers kids programs during the summer and at Christmas break, too, along with swimming lessons. Any teenager 14 or older can work with a personal trainer or must be accompanied by a parent, he said.

“We focus on relay and team stuff. There are no winners or losers,” Hayden said. “It’s different, fun. There’s no one size fits all” in fitness.

The fitness center’s six-week summer program consistently registers between 15 and 20 participants. It’s held in the morning so as to not interfere with the rest of the day, he said.

“It’s important to have a ritual or a mantra” before working out, Targett said. “It can be a song or an outfit. And it’s important to have a reward” afterward.

Having those things makes being active seem less like a chore, allowing the individual to develop skills to make healthier choices later in life, he said.

“We try to do (classes) when kids are active,” such as after school, Hayden added, “as opposed to doing something later in the day.”

Still not convinced a gym membership of sorts will go over well with the recipient? Try a yoga class instead. Yoga Hive on East Bay Avenue in Manahawkin offers classes aimed specifically for kids. The classes are only about a month old, but were added to the schedule after a successful series introduction earlier this fall.

Jaime Conklin, desk manager at the Yoga Hive, said the number of students per class does change depending on what other activities are happening. The drop-in cost for a kid’s yoga class, which runs 45 minutes, is $10, she said.

Yoga classes can help kids improve not just their balance, but concentration and strength, too, Conklin said.

For more information, call Clamtown Crossit at 609-812-2145; Tilton Fitness at 609-978-2244, and Yoga Hive at 609-622-8360.

Remember, some of the best gifts in life are those that transcend the present.

— Gina G. Scala

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