It’s a common misconception that kids can’t be active because they have to go to school, eat breakfast and get ready for bed. But while there are plenty of reasons why it’s hard to be physically active as a kid, studies show that kids who play sports or other team-based activities tend to enjoy them more.
If you want your child to be active, start with these easy tips. You may even find that your little athlete is already on his way to becoming an exercise fanatic!
What’s age appropriate?
First, let’s talk about how much physical activity your child should be getting. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every day. That means that in order to stay healthy, your child needs to engage in some type of physical activity throughout the day—whether it’s during recess, after lunch or before bedtime. If they don’t spend time being active, their bones will become weaker, which could lead to health problems later in life.
You can also look at this from a different angle. What kind of activities will make your child feel good and help them learn self-control and self-confidence?
For instance, if you love playing soccer, they can join a youth league or even just play pickup games with friends. Or maybe they would like to try swimming lessons. They might also benefit from running around the neighborhood or taking part in a park run. There are so many possibilities!
As long as your child is enjoying themselves and feeling good, they will likely be more motivated to participate in physical activities regularly.
Encourage your child to take up new hobbies
Let’s say your child loves playing basketball but isn’t very coordinated yet. Perhaps he’d rather play another sport like football or baseball. In either case, encourage him to sign up for different kinds of recreational activities. Your local community center offers tons of fun opportunities, including dance classes, rock climbing, and even karate. And remember, it doesn’t matter if you think your child will eventually choose one particular sport.
In fact, research suggests that once young people get into any type of exercise routine, they tend to stick with it longer than others. This is especially true when the activity is enjoyable. So, by offering your child lots of options, you’ll probably end up with an exercise enthusiast for life!
Make sure your child gets enough sleep
While being physically active is important, it only works best when our brains are fully functional. When we’re tired, we can’t concentrate well, and we’re less able to focus on what’s going on around us. As a result, our bodies aren’t able to perform certain tasks as efficiently, and we end up burning fewer calories.
So it’s critical to make sure your child gets enough sleep each night. Studies suggest that if a child sleeps eight hours or more per night, they’re more likely to be physically active throughout the day.
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And while it’s not always possible to follow the CDC guidelines, you can still ensure your child gets a decent amount of rest each night. For example, your child might need to turn in early or get up earlier to allow for more down time. Or perhaps you can set aside a few nights a week where they can sleep in late (or vice versa). Or maybe you can put together a schedule of activities and meals that leave them plenty of time for naps. Whatever you decide to do, make sure your child has adequate sleep so they can enjoy their favorite activity without worrying about being tired the next morning.
Get your child involved in extracurricular activities
Your child won’t have to worry about finding something to do during the summer months if you enroll them in a camp or other organized program where they can work out alongside other kids their own age. Not only will this provide them with valuable social interaction and help them burn extra calories, but it will also give you peace of mind knowing that they’ll be safe and supervised while doing the activities.
This is particularly great advice if you want to ensure your child becomes an active person for life. After all, a lot of kids quit exercising as soon as they hit adolescence, and unfortunately, the risk of obesity increases dramatically after puberty. So, encouraging your child to participate in any types of activities is beneficial now and will pay off later in life.
Remember, though, you shouldn’t force your child to join a class unless they really want to. Sometimes they might just prefer hanging out with friends instead. Or if you’ve been trying to convince them to try a sport or activity, sometimes it helps to switch tactics and show them how they’ll feel better afterward.
For instance, you can suggest that they wear comfortable clothes to the gym and then watch a movie afterwards. Or you can ask them how they felt while they were out running errands and if they enjoyed it. These questions can help them figure out what activities they want to try next.
Teach your child the importance of eating right
Kids can certainly get away with skipping snacks, but studies show that they’re more likely to gain weight if they don’t eat properly. It’s important to teach your child the importance of making smart food choices, such as choosing foods low in sugar and fat. But it’s also important to understand that there’s no perfect diet plan, and everyone has to eat according to their personal preferences. So don’t stress too much if your child decides to eat pizza or ice cream on occasion.
However, if you notice that your child is gaining weight despite following a healthy diet, it’s a good idea to visit a doctor and discuss the issue further. Weight issues are often symptoms of other underlying health conditions that require medical intervention.
Expose your child to new experiences
When was the last time you took your child to see a Broadway musical? Or rode a roller coaster? Or went zip lining through the woods?
These types of experiences can be fun and exciting, plus they usually include physical movement! By exposing your child to new things, you’ll help them overcome any fears and increase their self-esteem. Plus, you’ll have a whole bunch of photos to remind you of all the fun times you had together.