Move It

kid-hangingEncouraging Active Children

Anyone who’s seen kids on a playground knows that most are naturally physically active and love to move around. But what might not be apparent is that climbing to the top of a slide or swinging from the monkey bars can help lead kids to a lifetime of being active.

As they get older, it can be a challenge for kids to get enough daily activity. Reasons include increasing demands of school, a feeling among some kids that they aren’t good at sports, a lack of active role models, and busy working families. In spite of these barriers, parents can instill a love of activity and help kids fit it into their everyday lives. Doing so can set healthy patterns that will last into adulthood.

Benefits of Being Active

When kids are active, their bodies can do the things they want and need them to do. Why? Because regular exercise provides these benefits:

  • strong muscles and bones
  • weight control
  • decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • better sleep
  • a better outlook on life

Healthy, physically active kids also are more likely to be academically motivated, alert, and successful. And physical competence builds self-esteem at every age.

What Motivates Kids?

So there’s a lot to gain from regular physical activity, and children 6 to 17 years should do 60 minutes or more physical activity daily, but how do you encourage kids to do it? The three keys are:

  1. Choosing the right activities for a child’s age: If you don’t, the child may be bored or frustrated.
  2. Giving kids plenty of opportunity to be active: Kids need parents to make activity easy by providing equipment and taking them to playgrounds and other active spots.
  3. Keeping the focus on fun: Kids won’t do something they don’t enjoy.

When kids enjoy an activity, they want to do more of it. Practicing a skill — whether it’s swimming or riding a tricycle — improves their abilities and helps them feel accomplished, especially when the effort is noticed and praised. These good feelings often make kids want to continue the activity and even try others.

A parent’s positive attitude will help a child who’s reluctant to exercise. Be active yourself and support your kids’ interests. If you start this early enough, they’ll come to regard activity as a normal — and fun — part of your family’s everyday routine.

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