Getting children involved in lots of fun physical activity keeps them active and healthy. It’s easy when you help them find activities that they enjoy - and that you can do as part of everyday family life.
How to get children involved in physical activity
Helping children find activities that they like is one of the keys to keeping them active.
Dancing, skipping, running, playing with a ball, horse riding or flying a kite - it doesn’t matter what the activity is as long as they like it.
Physical activity: variety and fun
You can help your child explore lots of 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, bowling, Frisbee or sports like baseball or tennis.
Plenty of variety in your child’s mix of sports, games and activities will also 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 in her days.
It’s good for your child’s health and development to do physical activity that varies in intensity – including moderate and vigorous activity. You can find out more in our article on how much physical activity children need - and why.
Tips for encouraging active children
- Be active yourself and your child is more likely to follow your lead.
- Give your child praise and encouragement if an activity is proving a bit hard for him.
- Spend active time with your child. Make some time to have fun playing actively. It’s great to find something you both enjoy doing.
- Encourage your child to play outside and praise her when she does.
- Go with your child when he participates in an organized sport or group lesson - for example, swimming or dancing.
- Get the family going - organize family activities such as camping, hiking and outdoor games.
- Involve your child in daily chores around the house, such as gardening, washing the car and cleaning.
- Keep an activities box at home and in the car with balls, bats, kite, beach bucket and shovel so that you’re always prepared.
- Balls, bikes and scooters make great gifts, and encourage physical activity and opportunities to play outdoors.
- Limit screen time. Keep an eye on the amount of time your child spends watching TV, or using computers, tablets, smartphones and other devices with screens. Aim for no more than two hours a day.
Young children are rarely intensely active for long periods, but will often have bursts of activity for a few minutes or less. This is healthy, and your child will be more likely to keep doing it if you encourage her.
There’s no need to run a marathon. One of the easiest ways to incorporate activity into your child’s routine is to take regular walks together.
You can walk to childcare or school. Look for parks along the way. Getting used to ‘active transport’ like walking, cycling or using a scooter encourages children to get around on their own safely in your neighbourhood. You can even start when your child is a baby.
Walking to school every day has many benefits for you, your children and your community.
- keeping you and your children feeling happy and well
- keeping you and your family at a healthy body weight
- giving your children opportunities to learn and practice road rules and road safety
- making your children aware of their neighbourhood
- giving you and your children the chance to talk and spend time together
- meeting neighbours along the route, and chatting with other parents at the school gate
- helping children feel good about where they live
- improved learning outcomes at school.
You can increase the range of your walks by following nature trails in parks, and by taking trips to interesting locations.
If your child really doesn’t like walking, you could even think about getting a dog as an incentive.
© Raising Children Network Limited, reproduced with permission.
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