Does this sound familiar? You’re exhausted and you have just enough energy to make dinner, give your kids a bath, and respond to your emails. No one would blame you if, instead of a game of tag at the playground, you allowed the kids a little extra tablet-time. But you might catch yourself if you realize what a difference a daily game of tag can make over the course of your child’s life.
It’s all fun and games
Not all physical activity needs to be competitive to be beneficial. Based on years of research, recommendations agree that children two to five years old should be moderately active throughout the day, while those six to 17 years old need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity to meet their daily physical development needs.
Like many parents, you may be at a loss for ways to get your child moving. Jesse Schneider is a kinesiologist and the owner of a noncompetitive sports program that focuses on developing motor skills, social skills, and sports skills, and uses imaginative coaching techniques and stories to keep kids 16 months to 12 years of age engaged and learning.
Building increased movement with imagination
“The most practical way [to help your child build increased movement],” says Schneider, “is to engage kids’ natural imaginations and turn daily tasks into fun games. Kids love being a part of games and stories, and if you can get them to buy into your story, the rest is easy.”
“For example,” Schneider suggests, “instead of just putting dirty clothes in the washer, say you’ve just been told that LeBron James and the Looney Tunes Squad need to defeat the Hamper of Destruction by feeding him stinky socks (get them to run up and slam dunk, or practice their basketball shooting form). Once you turn exercise into something fun, they’ll want to do it again and again.”
Motivating the undecided and disinterested
Solid storytelling skills are a great way to trick them into thinking chores are fun, but what about helping kids who respond with, “I don’t know,” when you ask them what they’re interested in?
Schneider says, “Exposing your child to as many different activities as you can, like gymnastics, skating, swimming, skiing, Sportball, or bike riding, [can] significantly expand their motor skills and physical literacy.” He adds that when your child starts to take more interest in certain ones, you can focus more on those activities.
Being an active role model
My dad used to say, “Do what I say, not what I do.” But do a parent’s actions matter too? Or are kids just as likely to get active regardless of a parent’s physical activity levels? According to Schneider, research has shown that parents who model a physically active lifestyle significantly influence their child to do the same.
“If you can model what an active lifestyle is, your child will be more likely to adopt that [example],” Schneider says. “It doesn’t have to be anything crazy: simply try to do some form of activity a few times a week. Make it a priority for yourself and your family.”
Pro tip to get moving as a family
“The only secret is to just have fun—on purpose,” says Schneider. “Look for things in your life that can be made more fun. Whether it’s your job, grocery shopping, or driving, don’t be afraid to be silly with your kids; this makes mundane tasks something to look forward to.”
Schneider also suggests rewarding physical activities with things your child enjoys. For example, think of a creative game you can play with your child’s favorite characters that gets them moving, or even brainstorm with them to make a game together. This encourages teamwork, creativity—and a stronger bond with your child.
“You only have young kids for a very small fraction of your life,” says Schneider. “Take any moment you have with them as a chance to bring joy to each other’s day, and I promise they will remember it for the rest of their lives.”
Healthy gut to keep them moving
Did you know there’s a link between gut health and your child’s growth and physical activity levels? Poor gut health can create challenges for their bodies to absorb nutrients, robbing them of the energy needed for healthy growth.
Help ensure your little one’s gut is in fine functioning order with children’s probiotics. You can get them in powders to mix in their favorite drink, chewable tabs, or yummy gummies.
Get them involved and be involved yourself!
A study of World War II veterans showed that the single greatest predictor of well-being later in life was participation in high school sports. Watch your kids’ games, practice with them, and show interest, not just in the results of their games, but also in the things they like most about their sport.