Getting your kids to “Leave the Couch”

Kelly van der Toorn

Getting your kids to “Leave the Couch”

Hi LTCers! We are fortunate to have pro-athlete, triathlon superstar and one of my favourite storytellers, Kelly van der Toorn, share her thoughts on family and finding that balance between a healthy and active lifestyle.


‘Leave the couch’ says my mate Fareed. It’s not always the easiest thing to do though, or especially, to make your kids do.


I’m still a northern hemisphere girl at heart, and for me, Christmas = winter = hibernation.  It involves fireplaces and family, and forcing yourself out the door to get some bracing fresh air and exercise.  The Christmas message from the shops and tv seems muddled.  Christmas is of course a Christian celebration (which I am side stepping in this post).  I have plenty of friends who are not Christian and feel increasingly awkward embracing the Hollywood version of all things Christmassy. And then, many of us live in the Southern Hemisphere – so a fat, overdressed Santa and his woolly reindeer look way out of place here.


My kids are fatigued from a long school year. They are over tired from trying to get to sleep on hot evenings with neighbours socialising noisily outside.  They wake late, finding one parent or other out training already. Blankets are tumbled down the stairs and they snuggle, chatter, watch tv until their tummies persuade them to ‘leave the couch and eat’.


That doesn’t count.


TV displays of Christmas excess make me feel sick.  I have deeply engrained issues with sloth and gluttony, and frankly, our bank balance isn’t healthy enough to go all out with a crazy materialistic Christmas of gift giving. So my wish for the Christmas holiday was simply:

  1. Family meals cooked and eaten together,
  2. Read more with and without the kids,
  3. Be more active. All of us.


There is always a bit of compromise when planning with kids. Especially strong willed ones like ours. Instead of outright bribery, we tried some different negotiations this year. We even introduced a ‘bonus present’ for the child who ‘looked most delighted with the lamest gift’.


Kelly van der Toorn

Kelly and her little van der Toorn’s


So, we wanted to get the kids off the couch. They wanted to see the new Star Wars movie. We promised to wake them early and go on a mystery outing before breakfast. With a movie in the afternoon ‘if nobody complained in the morning’.


The car was loaded at 6am, and by 7am we were parked at my favourite Cape Town beach, Llandudno, in a downpour. Fortunately the rain passed and we had an awesome time running, splashing and climbing boulders. We worked up a great appetite, stopping at the artisan bakery in Camps Bay for a coffee/hot choc/croissant breakfast. There were no iPads. I can’t tell you there were no fights, because I’m too honest. But we had FUN.


On Christmas Day the children woke at dawn, brimming with anticipation. They remembered my bonus prize, and even thanked me for the ‘really cool essential stationery and clothing items’ that I’d gift wrapped. Yes, I’m having a laugh. But my pièce de resistance was surely re-wrapping some things that I found in their cupboards, still in their original packaging, that they were given LAST YEAR. And getting away with it.


I scooted out on my bike – relieved to see the final gift unwrapped, happy to move on to the best bit about having the Christmas holidays in summer. I still welcome a return in 2016 to normal food, regular routines and less of excess, but for now I’ll embrace excess people in the house, excess chatter and excess chaos.


Kelly van der Toorn


Kelly van der Toorn
About the author:

Kelly is a renowned Age Group triathlete and frequently finishes as the fastest female athlete in some of the biggest distance events in South Africa. While excelling at her chosen sport she still manages to balance life and her family (which includes 3 kids!). Read more stories from Kelly on her blog

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