Top 10 Ways to Get Kids to Be Active
Excerpted from Keeping Kids Fit: A Family Plan for Raising Active, Healthy Children by Len Saunders. For more information, visit: LenSaunders.com
- Give Kids the Opportunity to Be Active – Take the time to play with your children. Five minutes here, 10 minutes there makes all the difference. Try to plan family walks when you can, and even though it may be sedentary, watch ballgames on television with your children, as it builds interest in a physical activity. During the game, every time a commercial comes on, exercise with your children. Be a physical activity leader, not a physical inactivity leader.
- Get Friends Involved – Try to sign up your child for activities with his or her friends. Make a few phone calls to the parents of your child’s friends to see if there is interest. Once you have them playing together, try to carpool with the other kids, and perhaps take it a step further by taking the kids out for a healthy snack when the activity is over. Strong bonds of friendship mean the world to children, and this little extra effort will be an enormous help in motivating your child to stay with an activity.
- Choose the Right Activities – Sometimes, children are placed in the wrong activity. If your child is shy or timid, aggressive sports like football may not be right for her, or if your child is not particularly fast, track may not be the best activity. Place your child in an activity you know she will be comfortable with, and take into account her personality, skills, size and desires. Select an activity in which she may experience some success. Talk to your child to find out what activity excites her, and try to build on that excitement. As an added benefit, you may find out something new that you never would have known about your child.
- Make Fun the Focus – For many kids, as soon as the focus of an activity becomes “being the best” or winning all the time, much of the fun, and a good deal of the interest, are lost. Find an activity that is enjoyable to your child, one with the right type of leadership from a coach, teacher or mentor. Teach your child to always give his best effort, and to be proud of his accomplishments. Teach him to strive to be the best he can be, and always compliment his efforts.
- Rebalance the Competition-to-Fun Ratio – Competition versus fun: guess which should weigh more on the scale? Winning is fine, but it should never outweigh the joy of simply participating in a physical activity.
- Teach Kids the Health Benefits of Physical Exercise – Whether they are playing sports or doing calisthenics, children should understand that the activity is helping them to stay healthy. Talk to your children about the health benefits of their activities. For example, if your child is on the track team and participates in the mile run, compliment his performance in the race, and mention that running improves his cardiovascular and muscular endurance. Explain how he is making his heart stronger and improving his ability to run further and faster.
- Teach Kids That Physical Activity Improves Cognitive Skills – It is now well established that exercise and physical activity lead to improved brain function. Exercise can, in fact, create a stronger, faster brain. Tell your kids that every form of exercise they do causes more blood to travel to the brain, which in turn helps new brain cells to grow, leading to better cognitive skills.
- Teach Kids How Physical Activity Reduces Stress – A brisk walk, a basketball game, or aerobics can help you relax, divert you from the causes of your stress and improve your mood and temper. If your child gets upset easily because she has a lot on her plate, get her to step back and take the time to “smell the roses” with an exercise break.
- Make Physical Activity a Family Event – Simply put, by making physical activity a family event, you are not only promoting a healthy lifestyle and good fily time, you are being a good role model. Place family physical activity time on your weekly calendar.
- Build Kids’ Self-Esteem with Success – Children with high self-esteem have confidence in their ability to perform daily tasks or face a variety of challenges in life. For some children, it is an innate quality. For others, it is acquired through life experiences. As parents, we want to build up our children’s self-esteem as best we can so they have the confidence to excel in sports as well as life. The key is to be honest, complimenting their best qualities, but at the same time keeping them grounded.