Get kids active - in five easy steps
There has never been a better time to start to get your children fit and healthy. Starting with a good active life style early on can positively impact the whole life of your child. After all we all want to be good parents and part of being a good parent is to teach our children crucial life skills including how to remain fit and healthy.
With schools providing fewer sports lessons and after school activities it is becoming harder for children to enjoy an active lifestyle. So it is now up to parents to provide these life lessons and keep ourselves fit along with our children, making exercise a fun family experience.
When a child is young and has just started walking, it is hard work for them. Especially for the youngest child, who has to be fitter than the rest of the family just to keep up on any family adventure. Often they will not be interested in walking or running because of this. So it will seem like a real struggle even to get them out of the house.
We all know what it is like to go on our first run in a long time and we know how terrible and heavy we feel and how hard it seems. But we often forget that children also have to get fit. Just because the parents are active does not make the child automatically fit and active. So you as a parent will have to help them slowly get fit so that they can also enjoy outdoor activities.
This can be hard work as they have never been fit and they just want to have fun and not work out. Even adults have a problem with this concept. So, instead you have to make it into a game so they are distracted. You will know how best to distract your own child from the feelings of tiredness and heaviness and here are some of the best ways to help with that and get them active:
1. Children are naturally competitive, but can be easily put off if they do not succeed at any given activity. So any sport you do with them when they are young or just starting out needs to be fun and easy and encouragement is vitally important. Why not go to a local park where they are putting on a special walk or run with treats further apart or a finisher’s medal.
2. We all know that the first time is always the hardest. The next hike should be soon after so they already know that they can do it. Go on a treasure hunt or go to a park with an easy orienteering course or sign up for another fun organized hike or run or make up your own with friends who have children of a similar age who are already walking well. With our own daughter we started in the Autumn with the 2km walk home from school each day, but this was broken up with who could do the silliest walk, dance or run and also with time to stop and investigate nature along the way. By the end of two months we had a fit daughter who wanted to run and walk, rather than the daughter who wanted to be carried everywhere.
3. It is best to mix up as many sports as possible to develop your child’s motor skills. Children are natural cross trainers. The more a child is exposed to different activities (modern dance, martial arts, football, gymnastics, swimming) the more control and awareness they will have of their bodies. This will help their confidence and belief in themselves and will allow them to easily pick up any sporting activity they may want to do in the future. We want to give our children life skills such as being able to swim or ride a bike. Also by trying out many activities they will see which sports they have a natural aptitude for and enjoy. After all we may not all enjoy running but there is usually one sport that we enjoy.
4. As they get older enroll them in good local sports clubs in sports they enjoy. The activity will allow them to unwind after a busy day at school. So you are again teaching them positive ways to manage stress as they get older. Mixing up the activities will keep them enthused and interested.
5. If your child does have an interest or talent in a particular sport it is important not to have them focus on just that one sport until they are older. It is important that your child develops a range of motor skills and abilities and has a good balanced musculature, which will come from doing a range of sports. There is the possibility that your child will get bored, burnt out, or injured from focusing on just one sport. In short a child needs to be nurtured/paced in a sport, so they can build up to a certain level over a long period of time.
Active weekends and holidays as a family allows you to all get and stay active and gives you great family memories. There is nothing better than exploring an area by bike, kayak or on foot and enjoying a picnic by a lake or river and a cooling dip in the water. Staying and keeping fit as a family opens up so many choices for both you and your children and also allows you all to enjoy a long, healthy and happy life.
Fiona completed her BSc Animal Physiology followed by a PhD at the University of Cambridge where she took up triathlon 20 years ago before moving to California and spending seven years as a neuroscientist at TSRI in La Jolla. She then changed tack with her husband Gareth Speechley to both start a family and also set up a hotel and cycling and triathlon training centre in Girona, Spain which they now run all year round. They've both retrained as coaches - Gareth is a cycling and triathlon coach, with Fiona a life coach also taking sports injury and massage courses. "We get so much out of helping adults and children get into sport," she explains. They run small group training camps as well as offering self guided camps where you can just book the training sessions you require - full details at www.MasPelegri.com.
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