Between tablets, cell phones, and never-ending streaming services, there's no shortage of pursuits that plant kiddos on the couch. With so many tantalizing distractions within arm's reach, it can be tough to ensure they get enough exercise.
But they need exercise. The CDC recommends school-aged children get at least an hour of daily dynamic exercise. And not just any movement will do — they need a healthy mix of aerobics and muscle and bone-strengthening activities.
That may sound like a lot to a busy parent, but thankfully, children are bursting with enough energy to easily hit those targets. With the proper guidance, they can make healthy, active choices — often without even realizing it.
Here are ten simple ways to raise fit kids who kick butt.
Prioritize praise over results.
Who doesn't love a good compliment? Kids adore being praised, so don't be stingy with those high-fives. By creating a positive environment that's free of judgment, parents give kids the self-esteem boost they need to get out there and keep trying.
Rather than focusing on results, which can be demoralizing, concentrate on improvement and motivation. Maybe they set a goal of doing 25 jumping jacks but only got to ten. Give them an A for effort and rally them to see if they can beat their record next time.
Let them choose.
It can be tempting to try and corral a little one into doing something they didn't choose. After all, they may end up liking it! But while trying new things is always encouraged, parents should also hone in on pursuits their kids already enjoy doing.
Allowing a child some autonomy and ownership over their activities makes for a positive experience — one that will likely keep them engaged over the long term. Even making a decision during an activity they didn't pick can help a child enjoy it more.
Keep things fresh.
Kids are fickle creatures, and parents know this. So why not leverage their penchant for bouncing between projects? Channel their insatiable curiosity by allowing them to try different things enthusiastically.
A little unstructured exploratory playtime outside can help them get their recommended dose of exercise while providing mental stimulation, too. And if they're ready for something organized, let them dive into dance classes, swimming, or a few martial arts lessons.
Make it fun.
This is where parents have to tap into their creative side. Instead of trying — and failing — to get a little one to do traditional workout routines, make it a game.
That could be as simple as challenging them to a timed race or playing an active round of Simon Says in the yard. So long as there's an element of play involved, most kids will usually be up to the task.
Another way to keep exercise fun is to avoid making it a punishment. Instead, make it a reward. This will reinforce its positive aspects and keep kids engaged.
Lead by example.
Whether they like it or not, adults are the role models in the room. When they visibly dislike being active, kids pick up on it. Conversely, a child might see mom or dad having a great session on their exercise bike or home elliptical and want in on the action.
Naturally, they shouldn't mess around with home gym equipment. But just seeing the grown-ups in their lives enjoying physical activity is often enough to pique a child's interest. Your example helps to normalize exercise and show them that physical activity is a good thing.
Take advantage of tech.
While too much screen time can be harmful to kids, adults can still take advantage of technology. Fitness apps and video games as well as step counters can all help kids get on their feet.
There are tons of entertaining physical activity-based programs out there, with many that are compatible with popular gaming consoles or accessible on a mobile phone. See? Tech isn't all bad.
Get the right gear.
There's also something to be said about tried and true toys that promote physical activity. Think jump ropes, rollerblades, mini trampolines, balls, sports gear, and more.
Even something simple like a yoga mat can provide endless opportunities for playtime. Whether it's practicing somersaults or trying out a yoga pose, kids are experts at finding fun things to do. They'll only benefit from having access to active toys.
Get kids in the kitchen.
Healthy eating is crucial to a little one's wellbeing, but getting them to enjoy their leafy greens can be a trial. So here's a pro tip: involve them in the cooking process.
Allow them to do things like pick out the veggies for a homemade pizza, peel and wash fruit, or season a side dish. If they helped create it, they'll be more inclined to actually eat it — fingers crossed it ends up edible.
Involve their friends.
The only thing crazier than one energetic kid is a bunch of them, and that's when group activities come to the rescue.
Kill two birds with one stone by organizing something fun that taps into their competitive side. Think water gun fights, obstacle courses, or a dodgeball game — anything that gets them moving and zaps their energy is a winner.
Keep activities age-appropriate.
One of the quickest ways to discourage a child is to set an activity that's way too hard or much too easy for them. Every kid has different strengths and weaknesses, so it might take a bit of experimenting to find what they're really great at.
Just be sure to pay attention to the difficulty level to find that sweet spot.
A Healthy Kid Is a Happy Kid
It's not always easy to find the time and energy to make sure kids get their exercise fix. But by instilling healthy habits and striking a balance between on and offline fun, parents support their children in leading fulfilling, active lives.
Raising a fit kid is a rewarding and challenging process that should evolve as the child grows. It doesn't just help the young ones in the family, either — everyone benefits from healthy living. And who knows? They may be the ones keeping their parents active down the road.