Our traditional image of children on a playground is an image of natural physical play where children just love to run around. Combined with stressors of the modern day, we need to remember that climbing to the top of the slide and swinging from the monkey bars are natural stress relievers which help lead kids to a lifetime of being active!
As they get older, it can be a challenge for kids to get enough daily activity. Contributing factors are often:
Regular exercise provides the following benefits:
Physically active kids also are more likely to be motivated, focused, and successful in school. And mastering physical skills builds confidence at every age!
Choose the right activities for a child’s age. A child may become bored if an activity is too easy or become frustrated if it is too difficult. Most recreational sports are age based to assist parents.
Give kids plenty of opportunity to be active. Kids need parents to make activity easier by providing equipment, signing them up for classes or sports teams, and taking them to playgrounds and other active spots. As a parent it can be daunting to add another activity to the calendar, but carpooling can be a great option! Check out your local park recreation calendar for budget and calendar friendly activities. Test the water and see if any one sport sparks a fire!
Keep the focus on fun. Kids will not do something they do not enjoy.
When kids enjoy an activity, they want to do more of it. Practicing a skill — whether it’s swimming or riding a bike, running or horseback riding — improves their abilities and helps them feel accomplished, especially when the effort is noticed and praised. These good feelings often make kids want to continue the activity and even try other things.
Lastly, recognize that children have different fitness personalities: non-athlete, casual athlete, and athletes! Personality traits, genetics, and athletic ability combine to influence kids’ attitudes toward participation in sports and other physical activities, particularly as they get older. But it’s important to remember, without an opportunity to experience different sports, you may never find out! Ultimately, whatever their fitness personality, all kids can be physically fit. A parent’s positive attitude will always prevail!
Be active yourself and support your kids’ interests. If you start this early in life, they will come to regard activity as a normal — and fun — part of your family’s everyday routine. •