How to encourage movement in children.
The pandemic has thrown your life off kilter and you have found that you now have unlimited time at home with your family. Doing what exactly? Sure, academics have transitioned to remote learning, as schools navigate blocks of time throughout the day to keep your kids engaged. Extra-curricular activities, however, have come to a screeching halt. No practices, games, recitals or tournaments. In fact, my husband and I noticed that the concept of relaxing on Memorial Day is foreign to us as we usually spend it shuffling between fields for our daughters’ soccer and lacrosse tournaments.
What replaces that time that they would have been with their peers engaging in physical activity? If you guessed technology, then you are right! What I have been hearing a lot recently and especially during quarantine is, “I can’t get my kids off their devices.” Maybe your child doesn’t play sports and this is a constant struggle in your home. As a fitness professional and a mom to 3 preteen/teen daughters being active is important to me. Movement helps keep a healthy body and mind. It also provides an outlet to balance the adolescent rollercoaster of emotions. It is proven that exercise releases endorphins that help reduce anxiety and build a healthy immune system. So now more than ever it seems vital that we get our kids off that couch. Don’t worry, this isn’t about structuring every minute of the day or creating a competitive environment. This is about fostering healthy habits that they can maintain throughout their lives. Most importantly it is about nurturing that connection with our children and having fun!
Lead by Example
Let your children see you being active and enjoying it. Anywhere from gardening, to going out for walks, riding your bike, or practicing yoga. Find what type of movement brings you joy and they will notice! By doing so you are setting a healthy example and planting the seed that movement makes you feel better.
Set a time for Family Games
We recently purchased a badminton set. It was very inexpensive and we have been going out into our backyard after dinner and playing together. Other times we take turns jumping rope (who can get to 100 first) or playing catch. If it is around the same time every day then they learn to expect it and (dare I say) look forward to it. You start to create a habit by sticking to a schedule. Games also offer an opportunity for bonding and being playful together.
Discover a New Destination
Whether it be a new hiking trail or a new bike path, a change of scenery may be exciting enough to get them moving. I know if I give my kids a choice between going on a bike ride in the neighborhood or trying a new place, they always choose the new location. Possibly so they are not spotted by their friends hanging with Mom and Dad!
Create a Bingo chart. This is something they can have fun creating themselves. Each square contains various forms of activities. It can be simple things like do 10 pushups, or dance to your favorite song. It could also include drills for their favorite sport. For example, practice for 10 minutes and see how many times you can juggle the soccer ball, or how many ballet pliés you can do. After they get bingo they would get some type of predetermined reward.
Help them Create their Own Space
If you help them create a space, they are more likely to follow through. Make sure any equipment needed is ready, organized and clean. All you need is a small corner of a room. You can give your child their own yoga mat and a set of small weights. They can even bring in something from nature that helps keep the space calm and special like a rock or sea shell. They can draw a picture on how they feel after they exercise to hang up. Use motivational quotes for older kids. The point is that the space should feel inviting and positive.
Get on their Level
Find what they like to do. If they are watching TikTok videos, ask them to get up and teach you the dances. I bet you both will have fun. If they enjoy puzzles and games make an obstacle course and time each other on how long it takes to complete. If your child prefers video games, try joining in on the more active ones like the Wii U. I challenge you to work up a sweat with Just Dance or Wii Tennis.
Hopefully you try some of these suggestions and have fun. Maybe you will even create healthy habits that continue beyond the pandemic. I know once sports start again my girls will be busy and active in a structured environment. However, there is something to be said for bringing the “play” back to our movement. When I train clients one on one I try to find things they enjoy doing. Exercise should be fun! I know I will appreciate any opportunity to share quality time with my girls and just have fun, and I hope you can too!