With the summer holidays coming round quickly (far too quickly for my liking!) are you worried about how to encourage your child to stay active and away from computers and TV screens?
It can be hard work for parents to think of enough activities for kids to do to get them outside and burn off some energy, especially if you’re working and relying on childcare for a lot of the time.
When your kids are small it’s easy to take them to the park or for a walk in the woods. But as they get older, many children need some encouragement to stay or become active. It’s our job as parents to encourage activity to ensure our kids maintain a healthy weight by eating healthily, taking in the all-important 5-a-day, as well as discouraging inactivity.
Physical activity benefits all ages
Children who are physically active from an early age are more likely to be active in adulthood and be healthier and happier. The sooner a child begins to adopt an active lifestyle, the better their overall health and development will be.
Being physically active helps to promote strong bones and muscles, and also can improve sleep – something all parents want! In addition, it can help reduce the susceptibility of serious health problems in later life, such as diabetes and heart disease – even cancer. Therefore, it’s crucial for parents to ensure their child is taking part in enough physical activity for their age.
Even if your child is usually active with after school clubs it can be hard to keep up the same level of exercise during the school holidays when they’re on a break from any extra-curricular clubs. Little H does swimming and gymnastics but both of these only run in term time.
Here are four ways to encourage your child to get active during the school holidays…
Set a good example
It’s important to set a good example by leading a healthy lifestyle yourself. If your children see you making exercise a priority, it’s likely they’ll follow in your footsteps.
In fact, in a 2013 study in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health, children were found to be more physically fit when at least one of their parents were exercising regularly and deemed ‘physically active’.
A great way to get the kids moving is to involve your children in your exercise routine. You could take a walk as a family after dinner, or take your children walking or cycling at the weekend. You could even have a family game of tennis, badminton or football in the garden. Even a walk or game of catch on the beach is a good way to get some exercise.
Focus on ‘fun’
It’s important to encourage activities your child will find fun. In an age where many children are spending more than 30 hours a week watching TV programmes or playing on a games console, it’s more important than ever to make the idea of exercise more ‘fun’ than sitting in front of a screen for hours on end.
Sit down with your child and find out what sport they’d like to try. Are there any extra-curricular activities in the holidays, or weekend classes, they could attend? What do clubs do their friends go to? By doing this, it gives them a chance to try a sport they like the sound of, which makes it much more enjoyable for them than being forced to play something they have no interest in.
Try a range of activities
From a young age, it’s a good idea to expose your child to a variety of different sports. This helps give them a taste of what’s on offer and the chance to develop a wide range of skills.
Sports such as football, gymnastics and tennis are often hard to get into as they’re so popular and can have a bit of a waiting list. You could try a more ‘out-of-the-box’ sport, such as dancing, swimming, golf or even martial arts. It’s important to have patience – it may take some time before your child finds where their passion lies.
Provide the necessary equipment and opportunity to be active
Most sports and activities, even the simplest of ones, typically require equipment of some kind. Having a range of equipment that’s readily available can make it easy for children to take part in physical activity.
The type of equipment needed varies from sport to sport; for example, to play football all you need is a ball, however, to play golf you will need a Mizuno iron collection, a golf ball and a tee.
Simpler pieces of equipment, such as balls, frisbees and skipping ropes are all helpful to have to hand so they can be taken to the park with friends, or pulled out of the shed for a quick burst of exercise when the weather’s nice.
Even though exercise is essential to a healthy life, it’s key to not overdo it. Make sure your child knows it’s important to listen to their body, exercise and physical activity shouldn’t hurt. If this happens, tell your child to slow down or try a less vigorous activity.
What do you do to encourage your child to stay active? What classes or clubs do they attend?