When it comes to activity, every child has different preferences.
Some kids enjoy activities like bowling, tennis or running which focus on an individual's skill. Other kids gravitate toward sports like soccer, basketball or volleyball where they add their skill to a team. Whether your kids are playing solo or on a team, every child can benefit from physical activity.
Here are 5 areas where you can encourage kids of all skill and activity levels to be active.
1. Enjoy Nature
Activity is not limited to participation in sports. As a family, there are many ways to be active outdoors.
- Go for a walk around the block after dinner and explore your neighborhood.
- Visit Fontenelle Forest, a nature center or one of the many amazing US National Parks and go hiking. Trails can be level and not very difficult or steep and quite a workout.
- It's a rite of passage to learn how to ride a bike. Make sure your kids have helmets and other protective gear and get out on one of the local trails to see how far they can go.
- Visit one of the many neighborhood parks and let them test their skills and imagination on the swings and other equipment.
- If your kids are a little older, try stand up paddle boarding at a local lake. It's a good core workout and a new activity that will give them confidence.
As the temperature dips, be aware of the wind chill. If it's above 32 degrees, you can still go outside. If the wind chill is below 32 and above 20, use caution. Don't forget about sunscreen and bug spray when appropriate.
The way we use technology in our everyday lives doesn't naturally encourage physical activity, but for kids who like video games and using technology there are still ways to incorporate it into an active lifestyle.
- Try geocaching! This incorporates being outside and technology. Geocaching is like a modern day treasure hunt. Create an account online and use a GPS device or your phone to navigate to a hidden cache. Once you find these hidden treasures which are usually little trinkets, take a memento from the cache and leave behind one for the next person to find.
- Turn screen time into a game. For each half hour of video game or iPad time, they have to do something active for half an hour. Play outside or if the weather isn't great, create an obstacle course or a circuit of different exercises inside.
- During commercial breaks, have your kids do as many jumping jacks or pushups as they can before the show starts again. If you're watching a streaming service or playing video games, pause the show every 10-15 minutes. It's even better if you get up and do it with them!
- Using an inexpensive pedometer, the health app on an Apple device or a Fitbit, challenge your kids to see how many steps they can reach in a set amount of time. It's a simple way to use tech to keep track of physical activity.
- Pokemon Go is an augmented reality app that brings familiar characters into the everyday as you're out and about. Download the app and go for a walk with your kids around the neighborhood or mall and catch the Pokemon characters.
- Use YouTube exercise videos or other fitness apps to change time in front of the screen into activity.
- After following along with fitness videos online, challenge your kids to create their own exercise videos and create with technology. Cameras can be found on most electronic devices as well as free video editing apps. It’s a good way to be active, creative and learn new skills.
As with all technology, it's wise to monitor your child's online activities. Technology can be a useful tool, but should be supervised.
3. Enroll them in Sports
Let kids try different sports and activities. If your child is more inclined to solo activities try ice skating, swimming, weight lifting, rock climbing, fencing, yoga or gymnastics. If you know your child enjoys working together with a team, try soccer, baseball, basketball, hockey, volleyball or lacrosse. Local rec centers or the Y will have a variety of activities for your kids to try. Enrolling and ensuring that they're at the practices shows you care about their physical activity. For children that are hesitant, remind them that they don't have to be the best athlete, just get out there and find something they enjoy doing.
4. Support a Non-Profit
Is there a charity or cause that your family is passionate about? More than likely, there's going to be a 5k or other race to support it. Train as a family to participate in the race and support something you care about. If you're not aware of a local cause, do some research online or ask friends about causes they support. You'll learn something new, support a non-profit, and have a chance to get active through walking or running together as a family.
5. The Family Fitness Challenge
Another way to encourage activity is to participate in the ParentSavvy Family Fitness Challenge with ParentSavvy's physical education expert Andrew Mantzaris. It's a six week challenge to motivate your whole family to develop the habit of physical activity. Each week you'll be given a new challenge that will build on the week before. It’s designed to be a good place to start if you’re trying to develop a physical fitness habit. Consider adding a reward tailored to what motivates each of your kids once you all complete the challenge. It could be going to an event, new art supplies, a special toy, new sports equipment or any number of other items. Avoid using food as a reward though. The videos and tracking charts are created so that you can start whenever. Don't worry about being perfect or the most physically fit parent, just start. If your kids see this as something that’s important to you, they'll grow to see it as important too.
Make physical activity fun and let your kids try a variety of different things. An athletic sister may find that her video gamer brother is better at yoga! In a perfect, non-sibling rivalry world, each would learn from the other.