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Keep kids active

Published 9:35pm Friday, February 7, 2014

Anyone who’s seen kids on a playground knows that most toddlers are naturally physically active and love to move around. In fact, it is even more of a challenge for them to sit still than it is for them to move. When you, as the parent, are exhausted by the day’s end, it may be difficult to think about shifting gears to exercise. But, your persistent efforts are worth it. In fact, did you know that if your child is involved in activity at an early age it can actually help them lead a lifetime of being active?

When kids get a little older and settle down a bit more, you then have the challenge of motivating them to get enough daily activity. As kids mature, like adults, they have increased demands made on them. Some challenges may include: lots of homework, peer pressure, busy parents, or they may not feel athletically inclined. Furthermore, this day and age, parents are more reluctant to let children roam the neighborhood in search of play time. Opportunities might seem limited, but when parents set the example, children feel more encouraged to be active too. In fact, when parents seek to establish healthy patterns in their children, these can last into adulthood; and healthy, physically active kids have been shown to be more likely to be academically motivated, alert and successful.

Choose an age appropriate activity. Chances are your pre-teen will not enjoy going to a toddler park. Activities need to be based on skill and age. If an activity is too easy or even too difficult, the child may become either bored or frustrated and resent physical activity. Some kids may be naturally drawn to non-contact sports like swimming, tennis, or running. Encourage them to follow an activity that fits their nature or personality.

Kids need parents to make activity easy by providing equipment (balls, bikes, weights). Also, parents need to make it a point to schedule time to take toddlers to playgrounds or older kids to sporting activities or gyms. The best way for kids to get physical activity is by incorporating physical activity into their daily routine.

  • As a family, take a walk or ride bikes each evening before dinner.
  • When planning “play” dates for young kids, focus on the “play” by planning an outdoor fun activity for them.
  • Encourage tweens and older kids to explore sports until they find one they truly enjoy.
  • Focus on fun: Kids will not stick with something that feels like work.

If they enjoy the activity, they will want to do more of it. If kids are involved in competitive sports, encourage them to have fun too. Certain caution is needed so that parents do not pressure kids into becoming overly competitive. The most important thing is not the number of points they score but that they are physically moving and improving their health.

General guidelines are children 6 to 17 years should perform 60 minutes or more physical activity each and every day. Is your child getting at least that? If not, it begins with you.

Encourage your child to move by making movement fun and by taking the lead in doing so.

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