Actively engaging in physical activity is crucial to a kid’s development. Studies find that those who participated in high levels of physical activity showed positive effects on brain circuits in regions vital for cognitive functions.
Moreover, physical activity in students is associated with improved memory, concentration, and classroom behavior. However, low levels of physical activity are a common problem among children.
Nowadays, kids spend most of their time in prolonged sitting and sedentary behaviors. Based on cross-sectional data, children spent an average of approximately 8 to 10 hours daily in sedentary activities.
Various factors contribute to significant physical inactivity levels in children. Increasing demands on their time, excessive screen time, and parental support behaviors are among them.
Regardless of the reason, hope is not all lost. Children can be motivated to engage in physical activities in the right environment. This article highlights a few tips to help parents encourage children to stay active.
1. Consider Your Kid’s Personality and Interests
Kids have diverse personalities and interests. Some may lack athletic skills, an interest in physical activity, or both. Others may also be fascinated by being active but want to avoid being in a competitive athletic setting.
By considering your kid’s personality and interests, you can provide them with activities they will likely enjoy. Children maintain their interest in staying active if they find pleasure in what they’re doing.
Based on the athletic and fitness personality types, find which one most accurately characterizes your child below and plan their activities accordingly.
Does your kid have limited enthusiasm or complete disinterest when participating in sports or athletic activities? Do they need help with coordination or acquiring the necessary physical skills for sports?
If that describes your child, chances are they are non-athletic. But it doesn’t mean they cannot engage in fitness activities. They will likely need your assistance to get and stay physically active. To start, discover what motivates your kid.
Does your child show interest in staying active but not inclined to participate in competitive sports? Some children find enjoyment in engaging in physical activities and sports. However, they may get disheartened in athletic competitions where the primary goal is to win.
If that resonates with your kid, they are likely casual athletes. They generally view sports as enjoyable regardless of the outcome. Instead of competing and joining teams, your child may prefer to thrive in friendly game matches with family and friends.
Is your kid showing exceptional hand-eye coordination skills at an early age? Are they usually active, grasping for things instead of passively sitting still? Do they exhibit enthusiasm for sports, eagerly anticipating playing basketball or going swimming?
If your child demonstrates these signs and interests, there’s a chance that they’re naturally athletic. It’s not until about age six or seven that kids may acquire the physical skills and ability to understand rules in organized sports. But you can start supporting their interests to help them stay active.
Once you clearly understand your kid’s temperament, physical strengths, and fitness preferences, you’ll find it easier to plan activities that suit them comfortably.
2. Incorporate Age-Appropriate Physical Activities
The suggested amount of physical activity for kids varies depending on their age, so it’s essential to consider incorporating age-appropriate activities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), kids between three and five should stay active throughout the day. They must engage in active play through a variety of physical activities, like running, kicking, throwing, jumping, or playing ball games.
On the other hand, children aged six and older may need 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity each day. Encouraging these kids to participate in team sports like soccer and basketball is a good idea. Other activities suitable for children at these ages include swimming lessons, dance classes, martial arts, hiking, and more, depending on their interests and abilities.
3. Use Different Forms of Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is crucial when a child is learning a new behavior or working on a particular skill. It involves rewarding your kid’s positive behavior to encourage them to repeat the same behavior in the future.
The principle also applies to encouraging your child’s participation in physical activities. Here are sample forms of positive reinforcement you can use when inspiring kids to lead an active lifestyle:
- Clap and cheer them as they participate in physical activities
- Give enthusiastic verbal encouragement like “Great job” or “You’re doing amazing.”
- Offer tangible rewards, such as extra playtime, reading time, favorite snacks, or anything else they find enjoyable
4. Allow Free Time for Self-Directed Physical Activities
Letting your child choose their activities may help reduce resistance. They will enjoy staying active when doing activities they’re interested in.
Self-directed and unstructured activities can help foster children’s creativity. They can also explore their unique ideas as they learn to make decisions independently. Hence, allow some free time for these activities to get your child physically active.
To begin, ask your kid which activities they enjoy the most. Mix it daily and incorporate options like walking, dancing, and playing outdoor games.
5. Associate Physical Activities With Having Fun
Integrating play into physical activities can be an excellent source of motivation for kids. Make the activities so fun that they won’t consider it a chore. This can be an opportunity to assist your child in discovering a sport or physical activity they genuinely enjoy.
For instance, you can set up obstacle courses at home to challenge your kids to crawl, run, jump, and climb. You may also organize a math scavenger hunt that requires running or walking to search for hidden objects.
Going to nature trails, parks, or beaches is also a great way to foster physical exploration and adventure. Remember that kids are more inclined to remain active when they associate movement with fun and excitement.
Parents undeniably have a significant influence on kids’ physical activity motivation. One of the most effective ways to encourage them is by setting a strong example.
Besides exposing them to physical activities that align with their interests, consider staying active together as a family. Taking family walks or exercising together is a great start.
Each child needs different levels and types of physical activity. Getting advice from a professional is also essential, especially if your kid is struggling with disabilities or a chronic illness. Consult with their doctor first before starting any physical activity.