I used to hate anything related to sports. Why exercise when I could stay inside and watch TV, read, or play video games? I used to always be the shortest, smallest kid on the block (until I hit some major growth spurts). I had no interest in sports or “going out to play” with the bigger kids. They would always be able to dribble better, throw farther, and swim faster. But now, my friends find this fact hard to believe because I’ve turned into such a sport and exercise nut; exercise is now a part of my daily routine, and I can’t imagine living without it.
What changed? Well, since I didn’t like playing sports with other kids my age, my parents spent a lot of time exercising with me. I remember our basketball hoop by the side of the driveway. Since the only thing I was remotely interested in was shooting the ball, they would spend hours playing Around the World with me. Later, they taught me how to ride a bike (an important rite of passage for all parents), and we’d spend afternoons riding around the neighborhood and the big lake that was nearby. They knew I liked feeding bread to the ducks, so they dangled that as a carrot to get me to go riding with them. If we were lucky, we’d see some geese or find some duck eggs. Those days were pretty exciting.
Here are three tips for getting kids off the couch.
1. Set a good example: be active, and exercise with your kids.
When your kids see you active, they will naturally become more curious and interested in being active! Suggestion: Get the whole family involved in some fun aerobic activity. Throw in a little competition too if that works. Try a family game of tag, Simon says, or red light / green light. See who can jump rope or hula hoop the longest. Play catch, shoot hoops, or throw a Frisbee.
2. Get creative: combine your kid’s interests with exercise.
Some kids just don’t like traditional sports or exercise. You’ll need to be creative. Suggestion: Tailor activities to your kids interests, and don’t give up if your first idea doesn’t work. It may take a few tries before finding the right combination of activities. For kids who like art or science, take them on a nature hike to collect leaves, soil, and rocks. If your kid is more studious, suggest you walk or bike together to the library (scooter or rollerblade if that’s what they like). For the heavy gamers, buy them games that require movement, such as dancing or other motion games. And don’t be afraid to put them in charge and let them plan a fitness activity.
3. Set goals, establish routines, and offer prizes that involve exercise
We all need that little extra push. Exercising itself is great, but setting goals and offering prizes can be a great motivator! Sometimes, kids just need a bit of structure to help them maintain a good routine. Suggestion: Establish a weekly routine by starting small and working your way up. Track everyone’s activities and progress. Offer exercise-related prizes to whoever can jump rope the longest or wins the most games of tag. Exercise should be seen as a reward, not as punishment. Instead of offering them traditional rewards such as candy or money, give them prizes such as a new scooter or a hiking adventure trip. That way, they’re doing it because they like exercise and see it as a fun activity.
Remember that encouragement and positive feedback works best. In the beginning, effort matters more so than results. Now go create some wonderful family memories with some exercise!