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9 Easy Ways to Get Active with Your Kids
Parenting is not easy. And, these days, the number of challenges we have to overcome to help keep our kids physically active and healthy seem to grow by the minute. But as childhood obesity continues to rise, we must get more intentional about encouraging, teaching, and supporting an active lifestyle for our children.
Why Kids Need to Start Young
As children get older, their physical activity typically starts to decline (1). Which is unfortunate, because physical activity is essential for developing minds and bodies.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), kids involved in physical activity typically:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Have higher cognitive performance (memory, focus, concentration)
- Develop strong muscles and bones
- Tend to be less stressed
- Have increased self-esteem
- Are more likely to stay physically active throughout adulthood
- May be less at risk for disease later in life
How Much Activity Do Kids Need?
Kids need to move! Structured and unstructured play is important for their growth and development. And, keep in mind that the recommended daily guidelines don’t necessarily need to be all in once, they can spread across intervals throughout the day (2). Here are the recommendations for each age group:
Ages 3-5: According to Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, preschool-aged children should be active about three hours per day. And, it is recommended that this age group is encouraged to take part in a variety of different types of activities.
Ages 6-17: The US Department of Health and Human Services, via the same Physical Activity Guidelines, recommends that children ages 6-17 should have at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day.
Easy Ways to Get Active with Your Kids
Sure, it’s one thing to know your kids need to be more active, but it’s a whole other thing to actually get them moving. So, here are nine ways to make getting active with your kids a bit easier.
1. Make Exercise Fun
Typically, the number one reason why kids take part in physical activity is because it is fun. Generally, at a young age, they are not motivated by the same things adults are motivated by when we engage in exercise (weight loss, achieving a certain physical aesthetic, etc.). It should be play for kids. Encourage them to find activities they love to do and take part in them. And remember, don’t be too hard on them. Pushing them too hard or criticizing too much may take the fun out it.
2. Make Sure They Have the Right Clothing
For children involved in team sports, proper attire is a must. Having the right shoes and clothing helps them move better and stay comfortable. This can ensure the sport is more enjoyable, which typically leads to more participation. Encourage use of the new gear by taking them out for a test run—practice soccer with them to test new cleats or a few rounds of hockey passes to get the hang of a new stick.
3. Plan a Weekly Family Activity
Not only will creating time for physical activity help improve your family’s health but it can improve family bonding and your family’s connection with nature. Both of which have a variety of positive benefits. Here are a few ways you can apply it to your own family:
- Go camping, hiking, or exploring together
- Create an obstacle course and go through it together
- Walk to the park and have a picnic
- In the winter, go sledding or snowshoeing together
- Go on a family bike ride
- Go to a roller- or ice-skating rink together
4. Incorporate Physical Activity into Daily Activities
Like we mentioned earlier, small bursts of physical activity throughout the day can be just as effective as a consistent 60 minutes of play. Here are a few ways to sneak activity into their day:
- Invite them to walk the dog with you
- Take them on an outdoor hike
- Bike to the park
- Walk to the mailbox together
- Park a little further away and enjoy the walk together
- Have a dance party in the middle of cleaning
- Have them help you with age-appropriate chores
5. Limit Screen Time
Many experts believe that some media is okay. When used appropriately, media and technology can be a great thing. However, for many families, kids are using media too often. One study found that kids ages 8-18 use electronics almost eight hours a day (3). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 3-18 should have a total maximum of two hours per day on all electronics. Here are a few tips to help reduce screen time:
- Put limits on the amount of screen time each day
- Don’t allow electronics during meals
- Remove TVs from kids’ rooms
6. Give Gifts that Encourage Play
Instead of more toys, consider rewarding or gifting your kids with items that require them to be physically active to use. Here are some examples:
- Jump ropes
- Sports equipment
- Gift cards to trampoline parks, skateboard parks, or play-places in your area
- Interactive video games (active Wii games, Just Dance, etc.)
- Lessons (dance, gymnastics, indoor rock climbing, etc.)
7. Be a Role Model
Little eyes are always watching! If you’re a parent, you already know that kids typically follow what you do and don’t always listen to what you say. So, be a good example for them! Let them see you being active. Let them see you do it consistently. And, let them hear you speak positively about physical activity.
8. Help Them Find Age-appropriate Activities
Activities that are too advanced or complex may be discouraging to a child. As you are helping guide them through their choices, choose activities that are right for their age and skill level. Keep in mind that some children of the same age may be more or less advanced than others.
Activities for ages 3-5-year-olds:
- Playground/free play
- Playing catch
- Playing tag
Activities for 6-17-year-olds:
- Organized sports (basketball, baseball, volleyball, etc.)
- Martial arts
- Roller skating
- Indoor rock climbing
9. Healthy Nutrition
Kids need proper nutrition to feel good and have the energy required to meet their recommended amount of play each day. While good nutrition isn’t an activity in the normal sense, it does support a healthy lifestyle. They should be eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, a mixture of healthy fats, lean proteins, and whole grains, and drinking lots of water. Encourage your kids to take part in meal planning and cooking. The more they can get involved, the more likely they are to support a healthy lifestyle.
For more nutrition information on healthy eating, check out these other ISSA blogs:
- How to Make a Healthy Kitchen
- Nutrition for Active Teens
Remember, it’s good to get active with your kids starting at a young age to build healthy habits. These tips can help you and them maximize the immediate and long-term health benefits of consistent physical activity.
Interested in expanding your knowledge and helping kids improve their health, lives, and love for physical activity? Check out the ISSA's Youth Fitness course.