7 Tips for Getting Active With Kids
by Kyla Steinkraus
Get Your Game Face On
Kids love games. Create a family fitness challenge in which family members work to win a prize. Do what works for your family, whether it’s tallying minutes of exercise, logging miles biked, or using kid-friendly fitness trackers or pedometers. Keep track of your family’s progress to show kids how they’ve improved over time.
Try turning your family walk into a game by creating a scavenger hunt. Train helps her kids come up with a list that includes anything from pink flowers, dogs and squirrels to cardinals, pinecones or a blue car. Prizes can include cheers and high fives, a piece of gum, or 15 minutes of screen time.
Some board games encourage activity as well. My kids love Fitivities, which combines the fun of a board game with the bonus of a workout. It gets us moving, laughing, and enjoying time together.
Plan a group game with other families. Marlen Marlow and her husband bring their kids, ages 5 and 3, with them to a twice a month soccer game with several friends and their kids. “Each adult has to pass the ball to a child and a child to an adult,” says the Roswell mom. “It’s always more fun when kids have their friends.”
Chop It Up
Several short spurts of activity are just as effective as one long one. “It’s OK to break it up throughout the day,” Walsh says. The Train family incorporates short blocks of physical activity into the daily routine, whether it’s racing to the bathroom during potty training or running two laps around the house before dinner.
You can also squeeze in quick, five-minute games after school or as a break in the middle of homework. Take turns playing Follow the Leader. One person does any exercise they want within a minute, and the whole family has to mimic the actions. Or, play Simon Says with different exercises. Instead of sitting out, the loser does 25 jumping jacks.
Good Health is Rewarding
It’s important to recognize and reward the value of pursuing health and making good choices daily. Find something that will motivate your child, like a fun family outing (a trapeze class, anyone?) or give gifts that encourage more activity. Scooters, jump ropes, hula hoops and kites are great options.
Look for a program that gives kids as much actual playing time as possible and focuses on fun verses competition. “Make sure the environment is a positive one that builds up their self-esteem and prioritizes having fun,” says Craig Magram, a Suwanee father of two boys and owner of i9 Sports in Gwinnett and Hall counties. i9 Sports is committed to an “everyone plays” philosophy. Teams meet only once a week with practices before the games to make it easier for busy parents.
Motivating the Reluctant Kid
“Most kids who seem to dislike activity usually haven’t found something they enjoy,” Ettinger says. “They lack the confidence to participate, or have been turned off from sports because of a bad experience.” Your child may resist sports because he is self-conscious and may fear failure or embarrassment. Avoid nagging or negative comments. Instead, give her your support and encouragement.
Many kids just aren’t as interested in group sports. They can try other activities such as dancing, swimming, martial arts, or fencing. It may take some trial and error before your kid discovers a perfect fit.
One Step at a Time
Like most other things in life, fitness is a journey. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t get in those 60 minutes – or even 30 – right away. Even small steps count.