Getting children to be physically active
The keys to getting children to be active are:
- making sure they have everyday opportunities to be active
- helping them find activities that they like.
Dancing around the house, skipping and running around the backyard, playing with balls or flying a kite – it doesn’t matter how children move, as long as they have space and time to move in ways they enjoy.
Physical activity is vital for children’s health and wellbeing, now and in the future. As children grow and develop, they need different types and amounts of physical activity.
Physical activity: time, space and variety
One of the easiest ways to encourage your child to be active is to give her time and space for free play. Whatever space you have is fine, so long as your child can move around and have fun. And plenty of time for play lets your child explore and use the space in her own way.
You can also help your child try different activities to find something he enjoys. For example, children who like balancing might enjoy climbing, cycling, playgrounds, dance or gymnastics. Others who like hand-eye coordination tasks might enjoy ball games in the park, ten-pin bowling, Frisbee or sports like cricket or tennis.
Plenty of variety in your child’s mix of play, sports, games and activities will keep her excited about moving. And when your child tries out different activities, she can pick up new skills, stay interested and challenged, and get enough physical activity into her day.
Role-modelling a positive attitude to physical activity
You can help your child be active by being a good role model and sending positive messages about being physically active.
Ways to do this include:
- being active yourself – your child will notice and be more likely to follow your lead
- giving your child praise and encouragement for participating in activity
- making time to have fun playing actively with your child – it’s great to find something you both enjoy doing
- supporting but not coaching your child when he’s learning something new – just try saying, ‘I enjoy watching you play’
- going along to watch and support your child when he tries an organised sport or group lesson for the first time.
Planning physical activities for your child
Creating time and space for unplanned physical activity is great. But sometimes you might want to organise some physical activity for your child. You can still keep the focus on fun:
- Set up playdates that involve activity – it could be as simple as meeting friends at the park or playground.
- Go camping or bushwalking as a family.
- Have an activities box at home and in the car with balls, bats, kites, beach buckets and spades so that you’re always prepared for outdoor games.
- Consider gifts that encourage activity, like kites, skipping ropes, balls, sporting equipment or bikes and scooters.
Tip: You can use screen time to encourage your child to get up and move. For example, choose games or apps that encourage your child to move, like dancing games or virtual sports simulators. Plan a bushwalk using a digital map. Or video your child learning a new physical skill.
Walking: how to get more physical activity into the day
One of the easiest ways to incorporate activity into your child’s routine is to take regular walks together.
You can walk to school, child care or kindergarten. Look for parks along the way. ‘Active transport’ like walking, cycling or using a scooter also encourages your child to learn how to get around safely in your neighbourhood. You can start when your child is a baby with outings in a sling, carrier or pram.
Walking to school most days has many benefits for you, your child and your community. These benefits include:
- keeping you and your child feeling happy and well
- giving your child opportunities to learn and practise road rules and road safety
- making your child aware of her neighbourhood
- giving you and your child the chance to talk and spend time together
- meeting neighbours along the route, and chatting with other parents at the school gate
- helping your child feel good about where she lives.
You can increase the range of your walks by following nature trails in parks and by taking trips to interesting locations. Parking your car or getting off the bus a little distance from the playground or park can also add more activity to the day.
This article was published with permission from raisingchildren.net.au