Parents influence kids every day with words and actions, and when mom and dad regularly encourage kids to be active, they help kids to appreciate fitness and have fun along the way.
Teaching practical life skills is one of the many roles that parents have. Things like how to brush teeth, how to tell time, how to tie shoes, and research now suggests that another one to add to the list is how to be healthy and active.
It’s never too late to start a healthy habit, especially with kids. Kids like to move, and though it is highly unlikely that a child goes from couch potato to Olympian, there are several ways parents can influence their children to exercise.
While verbal encouragement or logistical support, such as driving kids to soccer practice, is important, parents’ attitudes about health and fitness and their own patterns of physical activity are equally as important, since kids often follow by example.
Being active together has shown to have a significant impact on how kids view exercise, but it often goes down as a child’s age goes up. Younger children are more likely to want to spend time being active with their parents than teenagers, so there may be a window of opportunity to use it before losing it when it comes to co-activity.
And even though the sphere of influence on kids can be far and wide from friends to teachers to Sponge Bob, few are as direct and important as parents .
Children are well known for their contrary nature. Tell them to do something, and quite often they will do the opposite. So trying to force children to exercise may not be the best strategy.
Every parent has his or her way of approaching life lessons, but the idea with fitness is to get children to appreciate being active, and have a little fun along the way. “Because I said so” may work for putting the dishes away, but encouragement, celebrating small victories, and doing things together can be effective ways to motivate kids to get fit and stay active. And no child wants their brain to turn to mush because of too much television.
Whether is it sports, riding bikes, a martial arts class, or walking the dog every night, it is important to consistently present each opportunity in a positive light. It may take a bit of time and patience, but when children find the fun in being active, fitness can become a part of everyday life.
When kids are active at a young age, the habit can last throughout their lifetime, and influencing kids to be active at an early age is no different than teaching them the golden rule or respecting their elders. So it’s time to put fitness right up there with teaching children how to ride a bike and that there’s no hiding a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.