Posted by: coachingparents | March 31, 2008

Coaching Your Kids to Get Moving

by:  Michelle LaRowe 

It’s no secret that the rate of US childhood obesity is at an all time high. In fact, the rate of obesity in preschool children, aged two to five, has doubled over the past thirty years. And the rate is continuing to rise. The Institute of Medicine recently issued a report that warned by 2010 one in five children will be classified as obese.

While it’s also no secret that physically active children are less likely to struggle with childhood obesity, parents often struggle when trying to find ways to get their kids moving. So how can a parent successfully coach their preschooler to actively engage in physical activity and foster a family attitude of activeness?

  • Remember that active parents breed active children. First, it’s vital to realize that as a parent, you are your child’s first role model and coach for physical activity. Your child will watch, learn and develop his internal physical activity meter and attitude of activeness from you. A child who watches their parent head out for a morning run (or accompanies her via jogger stroller), or take the family dog for a nightly walk becomes accustomed to the normalcy of the role physical activity plays in their parents day.
  • Communicate your views on physical activity to your children. Let your child know how you feel about physical activity. Communicate your feelings about being active and let your child know that you value taking care of your body and exercise and activity is one way that you do that. Explain to your child why you’ve chosen to walk to the corner store, rather than take the car, or why you parked so far away from the grocery store door. Sharing the physical benefits of regular exercise that you have experienced with your child like maintaining a healthy weight, having an increased level of energy and lowering your risk for health issues can help to foster an attitude of activeness within your family.
  • Make a family pledge to be active. Get the family involved and make a pledge to be an active family. Commit to taking part in thirty minutes of structured physical activity three times per week as a family. Going for an evening stroll, heading to the local park together and even heading to the local indoor pool for a family swim are great family friendly physical activities. If your child’s daycare or preschool or your family church is within walking distance, pledge to walk once per week.
  • Physical activity can be family fun. Kids love to feel like they belong. When children can easily identify with their family unit it fosters a sense of security. And when children feel like they “fit in” their self esteem gets a boost. So when physical activity becomes a family activity kids are eager to participate and take part. A daily walk, time outside playing ball and even an indoor dance-a-thon are all family friendly activities that can easily increase your child’s level of physical activity. Having a daily time set aside for family activity can boost the activity and self esteem of young children
  • Encourage active play. While it’s true that children benefit when they exercise their brains through play, they also benefit from exercising their bodies. Teaching your children that food is composed of calories and movement helps to burn those calories is a great way to share the important role that physical activity plays in our day.  Encouraging kids to spend time outside in the backyard, climbing play structures and engaging in physical activity may give your child a gentle nudge of encouragement to get him moving. Preschool children should be encouraged to take part in thirty to sixty minutes of physical activity over the course of the day. And this time doesn’t have to be traditional gym time. Actually, kids will be more eager to take part in backyard races and soccer games rather than an extensive time of calisthenics.
  • Hone in on activities your child enjoys. Observe your child at play and figure out what types of physical activities he enjoys and excels at. If he likes kicking the ball around, set up a small net in the backyard. If he’s a natural climber, take him to different local parks to explore the play structures.  If your child isn’t keen on getting moving, look for other things that he enjoys and incorporate them into physical play. For example, if you child loves problem solving design a make shift obstacle course in the backyard. If she has a strong interest in math, play a basketball shoot out game that requires keeping score. 
  • Look for natural moments to activate activeness. You may be surprised at how easy it is to up your child’s physical activity level throughout the day. Parking the minivan further away from the grocery store, allowing your child to walk, rather than stroll through the mall, and using the stairs rather than the elevator can help boost your child’s daily physical activity level.
  • Praise your child for getting physical. Give your child positive, purposeful, praise when she’s being active. Praise her for suggesting that you use the stairs, rather than the elevator or for asking to play outdoors.

Remember when coaching your child to be physically active that gentle encouragement, positive feedback and practical physical activities sprinkled throughout the day go along way in fostering an attitude of activeness in your young child.

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