As a parent, Amid an imposed lockdown, we find ourselves without the usual options of school, sports, and other activities we're used to sending the kids off to. It's forced us to spend more time with the family, inevitably re-evaluate our priorities, assess our interactions with our children, and what their daily motivations are.
One of the most prominent thoughts has been when I was a kid growing up, I used to get the old line "when I was your age I was far more active," and in some respects, I feel that way about my kids especially when it comes to moving and being active.
The love of moving needs to be taught and encouraged in the pursuit of raising active children, the same way we teach and encourage our children to love to read. There isn’t just one way to do this. If you are someone who already loves moving and is very active, then a lot of the following is going to be second nature for you. Even so, there might be a surprise or two. But if you want your child to lead an active and healthy life and aren’t sure how to get them on the right path, then these nine can't-fail ways to encourage them are for you.
1. Help your child move early.
It's never too late to start, but it's also never too early. With infant massage and exercises, you can make moving a natural part of your child's day right from the beginning.
2. Build physical activity into your family’s daily routine.
Ideally, every night after dinner, your family should get up and do some form of physical activity together. It could be taking a walk, playing basketball, or riding bikes. It doesn't matter what you do as long as you are moving together. If this doesn't work with your lifestyle, see if you can find another time of day to be active together. Try starting with 15 minutes every day.
3. Show your kids how you are physically active in your own life.
What’s your physical outlet? Do you run, box, practice yoga, play tennis, walk the dog, or workout at the gym? Being an active role model for your kids is one of the best things you can do to encourage them to be active. Get them involved with the things that interest you; it doesn't have to be all about what they want to do. It will expose them to different activities and different experiences. Modifying your workout to include your children will not only keep your workout exciting, but you can all use them as a benchmark of performance. If you aren’t very active, it’s never too late for you to start, either.
4. Choose to walk or bike instead of drive.
Whenever possible, get kids moving instead of sitting in a car. If there is a safe route, have them walk or bike to school daily (if they're too young to go on their walk or bike with them). This is a great habit to get into at an early age. Don't forget to leave lots of time to get where you are going so you don't have to rush.
5. Expose your kids to a wide variety of activities and sports.
Kids who specialize early in a specific sport can get burned out and injured. It’s important to let them try lots of different things so that they can develop a wide range of skills and find out what they enjoy. With a few exceptions, most sports do not require specialization until kids are in their early teens.
6. Praise, but don't push.
Notice when your child is enjoying an activity and cheer them on. Always keep things positive from the sidelines, so they understand that you value what they are doing but that you aren't so invested in it that they feel the pressure.
7. Focus on fun.
Most kids aren’t ready for competition until they are ten and up. For kids under ten, fun activities and non-competitive games keep things stress-free and allow them to have success no matter what their skill level.
8. Spend time outdoors.
It used to be that going outside was the default move for any bored child. And going out almost guarantees some form of physical activity. These days there are a lot of distractions that can keep kids inside and occupied for hours. It's up to us as parents to create lots of opportunities for them to play outside.
9. Show them "You Use to Be."
Nows your chance to dust off you're your old form and show them you know a thing or two. No longer residing on the sidelines, you can share some of your locked away knowledge. Take your opportunity to be a big kid, and tap into those memories, have fun as they will be drawn to your enthusiasm. Make sure you’re not playing the coach card, high five, and acknowledge the best of them, you'd be surprised at what they can do.
The most important thing to remember is that you can’t do this wrong. Use this time to be unencumbered but the usual time restraints and rules that define when, where, and how. Just move with your family every day, and if that's all you can do at the beginning, then you are still well on your way.