How can I encourage my child to be more physically active?
Real Mom Problem
“My son is almost nine years old, and he is overweight. Does anyone have any suggestions for what I can do to get him in shape?”
- 1. Lead by example. When your kids see you being physically active, it teaches them the importance of exercise
- 2. Join your kids in physical play
- 3. Consider signing your child up for organized sports or lessons
- 4. Limit electronics such as TV, computer, and video games
- 5. Explain the health benefits of physical activity to your children
Real Mom Solutions
Some kids never slow down, while others need a little encouragement to get more active. If you're looking for help getting your kid moving, read these great tips from the moms of CafeMom.
Limit Kids' Use of Electronics
The most important thing I think is limiting electronics. That seems to play a big part in not moving.
Do what our parents did, and say "no TV, no computer, go outside." Once they get out there, they laze around for a while but they find a ball to kick, or a race to run. They do whine, but they find things to do. We don't do this for hours every day, but probably 2-3 hours on an average weekend. They're always happy they went out.
Turn off the TV and kick them out the house. If I don't want them coming back in five minute intervals to ask if they've been outside long enough, I send them out with their bikes. The best, however, is when I offer to play with them. We'll throw around the Frisbee or the football for awhile and then I'm begging to go inside long before they want to.
We only allow 30 minutes of video games on school nights after homework and chores. My kids have to resort to other entertainment after that, so they usually grab their bikes or go play in the back yard.
I have a rule in my house that there is no TV unless chores are done and the only time that they can play video games is on Saturday. When they play video games it is a 30-minute time limit. I do admit that the TV is on quite a bit in the evening, but they honestly never stop running around and playing while it is on. When it's nice outside we go to the park. They even enjoy going down to the indoor basketball court and running laps. I got really lucky having such great active boys.
My girls are usually outside running around, climbing trees, or riding bikes with their friends as soon as they get home from school. They aren't allowed to sit and watch TV or play video games unless it's after dinner or raining outside.
Set an Example for Your Kids
Lead by example. I started working out and my son actually joined me. Next was my husband and then my step-daughter. Now we do it as a family.
I take karate with my boys to encourage them. I also exercise in front of them all the time. I think the best way to encourage kids is to be a good example for them.
We struggle with this, especially with our oldest who is not athletic and therefore doesn't want to "do sports." I took him to the nearby pool, which is open six months of the year. He loves it and goes non-stop. The hardest, but best, I've found is to get his father moving. Mostly neighborhood walks and short hikes. The older two kids adore their dad and if he would move from his chair after he got home, they'd follow him anywhere. I want to get them hiking, because their Dad and I used to love hiking, and I think if they got out and brought a camera and just looked around, they'd fall in love with it, too.
I think being active yourself is the best way - teaching by example. I've noticed that when I'm more into riding my bike, or my daughter sees me doing floor exercises, she seems to want to get up and move more, too. Enrolling her in softball has helped some, too.
Sign Them Up
Enroll kids in recreational sports. My five-year-old is in rec soccer and we are signing him up for basketball after that. Kids will meet active friends through it that will motivate them.
We tell our boys they have to pick one activity a season. We don't care what it is but it must be active in nature (i.e. taekwondo, basketball, baseball, tennis, swimming, etc.). Our boys are always participating in something. This keeps them active, and minimizes TV and video games, plus it helps them meet new kids. In addition to their activity we take them on family bike rides, camping and hiking trips, etc. if the parents model the behavior the child will follow suit. As a Sports Med major with a master's in Health Science, being active is just something we do daily. It is not an option, it is just the way we live. We also eat every meal together (except lunch because they are in school). Family time and activity time are just as important as learning time!
I don't give my son a choice. We just signed him up for soccer and t-ball. But he's also only six, so when he gets older and realizes what he really likes we'll let him focus on the physical activities he's most interested in.
Ask them what type of activities they like. I would have never known my son was into fencing. He loves it.
Make Activity Part of Your Routine
I make sure my kids are active. I don't mind TV, and movie nights, and French fries here and there, but they know that they need to be "healthy." I remind them almost daily, especially when they complain when I park at the back of the parking lot to walk into a store!
We are an outdoor family and always have been. My kids from infancy were always outdoors, playing in the grass, going to the beach, riding bikes, you name it. I never kept my kids in a bubble or glued to the TV so we've never had issues.
Mine aren't into organized sports, but they have bikes, scooters, a couple footballs, a soccer ball, a few bats, tennis balls, and sidewalk chalk. If I feel they are inside too much, I kick them outside. They manage to find something to do. We also go on occasional family bike rides. If it's too cold/rainy/miserable out, when they ask to play on the Wii, I insist they spend some time playing Wii Fit Plus or Wii Sports to get them moving some.
I encourage mine by getting them to go with me on bike rides, walks and by getting out in the yard and playing along side them. I also have a soccer net in the yard for them, and tons of water guns for water wars during the summer months. We also have a ton of Nerf guns for Nerf wars out in the yard. They get a ton of running in with the water and Nerf wars.
We do a lot of things together - whether it's going for a walk or a hike or going to the Y to swim. The kids always look forward to that and if we don't get our walk in, they remind me of it. We limit TV and electronics so they can't just sit and veg all day. I also require that they do at least one physical activity during the school year. This year they all chose to dance. Some years it's soccer, some it has been t-ball or swimming. I leave the choice up to them but they have to do something. We've always done this, so it's never really been an issue.
Not everybody can do this, but we moved to a neighborhood where a good portion of the year, there are kids outside playing. The way the neighbors encourage it is by having stuff outdoors to do: ball hoops and lots of balls, lots of scooters and bikes, sand/water tables for little ones, we have sprinklers out sometimes, even just chalk. When there are a few kids out, more get curious and come to play. When there are a lot of kids out, the parents hang out, and the traffic pretty much stops, and there get to be so many kids that they take over the street and it's like it was for us growing up. A beautiful thing. If you live in a safe place with anywhere outside to play, all it takes is some kids nearby, and one or two families with the resources to get some good outdoor stuff going! They even play football and foursquare on the streets and driveways.
I encourage activity when it is an option. We live in FL and the heat is brutal. They can only stay out for about 30 minutes at a time, even in the morning. I have active games for the WII that they like to play. We have also gotten them into skating. We are going tomorrow morning to an outdoor rink at a local park. We are going to have a blast. Being lazy and sedentary is not an option.