We’re learning a lot through building our community. One of the questions we ask parents is “when it comes to your kids fitness and sports, what do you struggle with most?” The number one struggle we hear is around “motivation.” Parents struggle with motivating their child to get off the couch, off the video games and youtube, and outside to play. With the pandemic, the struggle has increased as for many communities there are fewer opportunities for kids to socialize and play.
So what can we do to motivate our young kids? Here are some practical tips.
1. Play with your kids and make it fun!
Being a role model is the best way we can motivate our kids. There’s no need to outsource play! But remember not to nag them to get up and come outside to play. Phrase it as a challenge “I bet I can run around the house faster than you can”
2. Let Kids Lead
When kids come up with games and rules, they are more likely to have fun and want to stick with it! Sure their rules may make no sense, but follow along (as best as you can!). Ask them to come up with a new game and give them some parameters (for example, must be outside, must get sweaty, whatever you fee! worksl)
3. Ask them how they feel after exercise
As adults, we all know the long-term importance of exercise, not just in weight-control, but around decreasing health risks including diseases and cancer. But kids don’t yet have the mental capacity to tie current actions to future outcomes. It’s difficult for a child to “find exercise you enjoy now or you’ll struggle with your health as an adult.” Research shows that kids’ participation, motivation and adherence to exercise improves when they understand why they are doing what they are doing. When your kids have played a lot outside and are done “exercising” – ask them how they feel. Are they energized, more alert, and even more focused? Establishing a broader understanding of the importance of exercise and health increases the likelihood children will identify with something relevant to them, making it a lifelong habit.
4. Increase competency
The way our culture has evolved, participating in sports has become the primary way kids get exercise. If a child does not excel in the handful of sports they may be exposed to, a negative attitude toward their own physical competency can be formed. Children are more likely to do what they feel they do well. Help them build their competency (and confidence) by teaching them motor and ball control skills in a fun way at home. Our Pickup Sports boxes and curriculum help you do just that! But there are simple things you can do too – for example, see if they can learn to juggle. Sure juggling isn’t really burning calories but it improves their hand-eye coordination and rhythm and can lead to them being successful with catching a ball and playing baseball.
5. Reward kids with your time
The time you spend playing or exercising together is worth every second to them. Rather than saying “if we do this hike we’ll all go for ice cream” … reward them with “if we do finish this whole hike, I’ll plan a special mommy-son date.” For kids, time with you is incredibly precious.
6. Channel their competitive spirit with family challenges
Whether it's creating obstacle courses in your backyard, seeing how many laps each family member can run or a family game of basketball, getting competitive (and adding a prize to sweeten the deal) can be a wonderful motivator. Make yourself a summer challenge over 2 months to make it last even longer!
Teaching kids that health and exercise is a priority in your life is easiest done by showing them. When it’s incorporated in your daily life (even if only in small bursts) it’s seen as something normal and not something “I HAVE to go do.” What are some ways you’ve been able to motivate your kids? Tell us in the comments!