I found myself housebound on a rainy Saturday not so long ago. There was no real let up all day, but there was a fun run planned in the local park. On the brink of cabin fever, I jumped at the opportunity to get out of the house, and it called for me to get into the running gear (requiring a last minute dive into the dryer to find something to throw on) and some wet weather gear too.
I didn’t run, but my four-year-old and nine-year-old grandchildren did. My role was to cheer the wet runners on and show my enthusiasm for events like this. I love the fact that getting children active is good for their health and wellbeing. The rain might make it a bit harder, but it also teaches children that fun, family and action can take place no matter what the weather is like.
Getting kids active
It’s become harder to get kids moving. Screens, and concerns for safety when we can’t see them have impacted this, which makes sense. But there are so many gains when children are on the go and the research around getting kids active is compelling. Their confidence grows as they master new skills and this relates to their confidence as learners, with the added bonus of lifting self esteem. Being fit helps with strength and vitality, and being agile adds to feeling good. There’s plenty of opportunity to build independence as well.
Children learn to make decisions about what sport they would like to focus on, which is such an important skill to develop. They get to motivate others and share their expertise. They also learn from their mistakes. As they develop the discipline of trying again when they’ve wobbled off their bike, they’re also on the wonderful road of learning they can do something all by themselves.
Children on-the-go are also learning to plan. Little by little they’re managing to get their clean bike pants out of the washing machine and onto the line, pack snacks for their cycling trip, and fill up a clean water bottle from the dishwasher. Children need opportunities to master these skills, and with time, patience and heaps of support from home, they can.
Some ideas to get your kids active
Get active yourself. Children are pretty good at doing what you do. They’ll say what you say and follow your lead. They also love spending time with you.
Be curious. Let children dabble in a sport or hobby that interests them. It might be outside your experience but if it’s right up their ally, get them to give it a go.
Talk about exercise and sport in a positive way. If it sounds just like a duty or another job you have to do, your kids are going to pick up that sense of drudgery.
Once your child has mastered something, let them teach the whole family at home how to play or how they can join in. Giving a child a lead role in an activity is a great way of encouraging pride and independence.
Invite other families to join you. Children love company and are often carried along by having a shared experience. There’s momentum in numbers.
Make it fun. Throw a slightly competitive element in it from time to time. Tell your children to guess how many steps will it take to get to the next lamppost, play hide and seek on your adventure walks, throw in an ice-cream stop along the way, weave your bikes around some cones, and water fights always get everyone running.
Make it a habit. Children do well with something that’s more like a routine than an exception. Getting outside or on the move can be a daily ritual and an important part of your family culture.
It’s going to take some intentionality to get the family on the go, but the rewards are numerous and entirely positive. It’ll add to your family and be so rewarding once you’ve got some good rhythms in place.