Getting Kids Interested In Exercise Feel Hard?
Getting our kids interested in movement and exercise may feel harder now than in the past. It makes sense, though! It wasn't long ago that words were read from pages instead of tablets, writing was done with paper and pencil, and play time after school was a thing kids looked forward to.
The movement toward more screen based learning, added to the availability of screen time entertainment at home, is fundamentally changing the way kid's brains develop. It is also altering the type of stimulation they crave. Add to this a pandemic where we are balancing various hats familiar to us – but now, we have to balance them all at once – all day, every day. To offer a screen for a moment of reprieve is a much needed mental health tactic. What's more, various foods that our kids have access to is also heavily influencing development, energy, and motivation (different topic, different day). To read more about kids and healthy food choices, check out my prior article here. Compounded, we notice that play looks very different today than it did when many of us were kids.
To Be Clear
Now, to be clear, this post is not to bash screen time or dietary choices! I am grateful for technology, and food variability! My point is, technology and changes in what is considered food, impacts our kid's preference for activities they may want, and choose, to engage in. As parents, it might feel like pulling teeth when encouraging them to move their bodies, play, or engage in exercise.
But yay for practical tactics! Just like tweaking our own diet and exercise patterns for the better, it is important to know that we can influence our kid's to crave physical activity again! With consistency, patience, and a will to demonstrate a LIFESTYLE each day, you'll see who's the playground boss before you know it. I will offer what works for us, and I hope you share which tactics you try!
Create a Consistent Routine
Creating a consistent routine is one of my top recommendations for getting kids interested in movement and exercise. To make days as predictable as possible allows our children to play an active role in family routine while gaining independence in a low stress environment. Consider this example;
- Wake up, get dressed, brush hair & teeth
- Have Breakfast
- Pack backpack with lunch, snack, bottled water, homework (whatever is needed for their day)
- Load belongings and themselves into the car (or get to bus stop)
- Go to school (where they have structure also)
- Homework & chores
- Play and/or leave for sports
- Wind down time
Set a Stage of Expectation
Routine is important because it sets a stage of expectation. Including set times in your family's schedule that prioritizes movement and exercise, makes it “just something we do”.
As parents, it is our job to create the structure in our days, even if each day has different demands and different schedules. Do our kids always want to play? Most of the time, yes! Are there times they are bummed they can't sit and watch TV? Sometimes! Do we ever make exceptions? Absolutely! But in general, they understand the routine and have embraced their part in it.
It Will Take Work
Enforcing structure, in full transparency, can be difficult! In my house, my husband handles transportation for the kid's sports and appointments. I handle getting dinner on the table and starting our evening routine at home with whatever kids are there with me. If I let the kids watch TV or play on tablets, I probably wouldn't have to break up fights, encourage them to be kind to each other, or refine communication skills all while trying to cook, clean, or work. It is hard work, but it's the work that we see as worth the effort. The routines may change as our schedules do a bit, but having a foundation will create an environment where including activity is made easier.
Be a Role Model
Kids' are curious and observant. One of the best things we can do to encourage them to be active is to be active ourselves!
Whether or not you choose to include them in your activity doesn't really matter. For example, I workout every day. My kids know that my workout is my time. They can be in the space with me, try some of the moves, but they are not to ask me to do anything for them during this time. They see that I value my workout, prioritize it, and show up daily for it.
Acting as a role model has opened doors for amazing conversations, too. Our kids ask why we exercise, if we like it, make observations (that looks hard, you're sweaty, you look strong, and that looks fun) and usually want to try a little bit of what we're engaged in. It is the sweetest thing to watch the mind/body connection develop and all because we decide to do something good for ourselves. Engaging in many types of activity exposes what may pique their interest. Do the activity you love, show your kids the benefit you're getting from engaging in it, and allow them to observe the goodness it adds to your life.
Explore Different Activities
Just like snowflakes, kids are wildly unique. Despite being raised in the same house, each of our kids is so different from the other! So, to that point, each child is likely to have their own preference when it comes to what type of activity they'll enjoy.
Being flexible, trying different sports (team and individual), and activities (hopscotch, jump rope, trampolines, rollerblading) can feel daunting. We're in the thick of this ourselves! The opportunity afforded to you and your kid to learn more about their interests and motivations is a gift. Understanding what motivates them will gives insight about their wiring and informs how you might influence their behavior in other areas of life.
Let Them Be The Creative
My husband and I have pulled out some games from our childhoods and have had fun schooling our kids in the art of hopscotch, four-square, relay races, hoola-hoops, and more. We realize that when taught the rules from our day, the games lose a sense of cool to the kids (obviously we've already lost cool parent status in our 8 short years of parenting), and they wanted to make their own rules.
I totally believe that learning and following rules is SO important, but I also see the value in letting them be creative. They have so much fun creating rules and having us all follow them. If our goal was to simply have them moving – then BOOM, make all the rules, kid!
Here are some easy ideas for the driveway or yard;
- create fun patterns where they have to spin, crawl, add a push-up to include all the squares.
- make the squares big
- add more than one ball
- add a squat before passing the ball to another square.
- Relay races – sky's the limit here, friends – Timing them always seems to add a little fire under them.
- Family challenges
- who can do the most
- who can hold the longest
- play PIG with basketball
Depending on your specific goals with your kid's activity, rewards may be the motivation that will have them sticking to a movement and exercise routine. I love a new pair of running shoes after completing a half marathon I poured 10 weeks of training in to!
In real time, we are struggling to find an activity that our middle kid loves. She has danced a few dance seasons, was always very good and excited to show us what she learned. We were surprised when she told us she no longer wanted to dance one night. Instead, she wanted to try gymnastics. She went to one class, had the best time, and that same night, told us she didn't want to go back. Bless and release.
Here is where the incentive comes in. She will finish the “season”. If she chooses to show up in a positive way while putting in the work, we will consider a reward. We've also signed her up for a week of soccer camp. We are willing to do the work to see what sticks. If we find that this child is one for theatre, piano, singing, or whatever, then so be it! But without exposing her to new things, I'm not sure how we'd find out!
Rewards, in my opinion, allow for a light at the end of the tunnel that affords an opportunity for a child to try something a few times before really deciding whether or not it's for them. Just like learning to eat vegetables, it takes at least 19 times of trying something before our taste for it changes. I'm just going to go ahead and apply this principle to getting kids interested in movement and exercise.
I hope these tips have helped you see that getting kids interested in movement and exercise again is possible. I would love your feedback on these tips. Interested in working one on one with me? It would be my honor to teach you that through simple nutrition, movement, mindset work, and community, you'll be surprised at how much more joyful, resilient, and energized life can feel. For a free consultation, please email me at [email protected]
Hi! As a fitness and nutrition strategist, I work to help people take small steps toward lasting health change. These steps will be positively disruptive to your life and health! And the best part?! They won't require you to completely shake up and change your day-to-day routine. Together, we will navigate your lifestyle, current health status, environment, and health/fitness goals to create steps to uniquely fit who you are. For a free, initial consultation, email me at [email protected] I look forward to connecting with you!
Amanda Haile is a Nutrition & Fitness strategist with 8 years experience. She coaches others on building health from the inside out and uses her own experience battling hidden disease to teach people that their environment (mental, physical & emotional) has greater influence on their health than they may understand. Her signature style is to teach people how to take baby steps toward health, so that changes stay exciting, are manageable and sustainable. Feel healthier and more confident so that you’re living a life of health, joy, and happiness that will bleed into your success and relationships. You can follow her on Instagram at @amanda.m.haile
Interested in eating more healthy for life?
Listen to our friends over at Wellness Force Radio to learn about the “5 Must Have Nutrition Fundamentals”