Anyone who has ever spent any amount of time with children knows how much energy they expend – particularly when let loose on the playground. Children are naturally physically active and love to move it, move it. However, did you know that climbing to the top of a slide or swinging on the monkey bars can help kids start a lifetime habit of staying active. Here are a few things to consider when you are encouraging kids to be and stay active.
Gauge their changing interests: As children grow, they may begin to lose interest in previous favorites like soccer or jump rope. The key to encouraging lifelong physical activity is to get them to stay physically active in new ways, if their interests begin to change. Help them find a replacement sport or activity, if old favorites are losing their luster. Doing simple things like kicking a balloon around together or starting a family four-square tournament is one way to establish healthy patterns together.
Show them the benefits of staying active: Kids may not be aware that when they are exercising regularly, there are many benefits. Physical activity helps build strong muscles and bones, controls weight gain, lowers the risk for diabetes, improves your brainpower, and helps you sleep better. Tell them about the benefits and then show them some things they can do to stay physically fit. After all, healthy, physically active kids have higher self-esteem, do better in school, and are more alert and successful.
Have some fun together!: When anyone, adult or child, enjoys something, they will want to do more of it. Making physical activity a regular part of family fun gets everyone doing it more. Whether it is swimming, basketball, or riding a tricycle – kids thrive from the sense of accomplishment they get from doing something physical and they enjoy the sense of fun. When you do physical things for fun together, you are encouraging positive feelings about these activities. That way, they will want to continue it and have more self-confidence and willingness about trying new ones.
Every child has an individual temperament in terms of physical activity. If you understand this and are active yourself, it will be easy to find the right activities for everyone to get enough exercise. Just like adults, there are children who want to pursue excellence in a competitive sport, while others are happy casually participating. Encouraging kids to stay active in any way – whether it is the school team or just playing ball at home for fun – is essential. It is especially important to help kids remain active and find something physical they want to do even if they are not the top performers.
No matter what their fitness personality is, any child can start the habit. A parent’s positive attitude will help with the child who is reluctant to exercise. By being active yourself and supporting your kids interests, they will come to see that being physically active is a normal, fun part of everyday family life.