Many parents and caregivers want to instill in their children a lifetime love of movement and physical exercise. Unfortunately, fewer than a quarter of American children aged 6 to 17 obtain the necessary 60 minutes of physical exercise every day (1Trusted Source).
What’s the good news? When children discover an early interest in anything, such as movement, it generally remains with them for life. To guarantee your kid receives adequate exercise as they get older, you must lay the groundwork for a lifetime love of movement in their early years.
Continue reading to understand how a love of movement begins at home, how to inspire young children to get moving and enjoy it, and why physically active children grow up to be active people.
The desire to migrate begins at home.
The foundation you provide for your children while they are young is essential to their general health.
According to Denise Woodall-Ruff, MD, Pediatrician and Director of the Healthy Weight & Wellness Center at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, children copy their parents’ and other important role models’ activities in a variety of lifestyle behaviors, including physical activity and fitness habits.
“A youngster who witnesses a parent or role model engaging in appropriate levels of physical exercise is more likely to embrace similar habits for themselves,” she adds. “Similarly, a youngster who watches their caregiver sitting on the sofa for extended periods of time and engaging in sedentary activities is more likely to embrace these behaviors as their norm,” Woodall-Ruff says.
Natasha Trentacosta, MD, a pediatric and adult sports medicine specialist and orthopedist at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, concurs. “Parents, carers, and educators serve as role models for early children because they offer an example of how to negotiate life,” she explains.
“Children who witness their parents participating in sports and fitness activities are more inclined to do it themselves – this is particularly true today as screen time among young children is growing and physical activity is declining,” Trentacosta adds. Healthy habits established early in life will stick with them as they mature.
How to Inspire a Passion for Movement
The key to instilling a love of exercise in children from an early age is to maintain the emphasis on having fun. Kids, like adults, are less likely to feel enthused about something they dislike. Furthermore, if they’re having fun, they’ll want more of it, giving them more time to practice skills and enhance their talents.
“Every kid is unique, and some children gravitate toward exercise and physical activity more than others,” explains JAG-ONE Physical Therapy CEO John Gallucci Jr., DPT, ATC.
That is why it is important to identify activities that your kid loves and adapt them to encourage them to exercise more. “Children, particularly young children, should not feel like exercise is a duty,” Gallucci explains.
As your child becomes older and more active in organized sports, keep in mind that although some children like structured sports and competition, many others do not. Maintain a wider definition of mobility that includes family walks, dancing in the living room, tree climbing, yoga, and any other activities they like.
Getting children interested in movement and physical activity from an early age improves the possibility that they will receive all of the advantages sooner, and their enthusiasm in exercise will most likely develop as they grow.
Getting Started Suggestions
It is vital for your child’s physical, mental, and emotional development to provide chances for activity every day. It also helps to provide the groundwork for adult engagement in fitness activities.
Here are 12 ideas to help you instill a passion of exercise in your children from an early age.
Make certain that the activity is suitable for the child’s age.
Inviting a three-year-old to join a family game of badminton may not be the ideal strategy to increase activity. Lowering the net and providing children with a preschool-size racket and a huge ball, on the other hand, promotes success and increases the pleasure aspect.
Concentrate on motor skills.
Gross motor skills development is crucial for children, particularly preschoolers. These abilities aid children with their balance, strength, coordination, and response time (2Trusted Source).
Keep activities for toddlers and preschoolers focused on kicking or tossing a ball, jumping, climbing, obstacle courses, or riding a tricycle or bike with training wheels.
Make sure kids are wearing helmets and other safety gear while riding bikes, and that they are sufficiently supervised when climbing or using moving toys or equipment.
Make accessible active toys.
Include objects that need vigorous play, such as balls for young children and bikes and scooters for older children, when selecting indoor and outdoor toys. Climbing toys are a fantastic option for toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children; however, they must be age-appropriate.
At home, aim for more active toys than passive ones. When your kid requests a new toy, have them trade a passive toy for a new active one. This tips the balances in their favor and teaches them that little is more.
Encourage unstructured play.
Free play is how children learn about themselves and their surroundings. It’s also a great opportunity to do some exercise.
Include plenty of free-play chances throughout the day. Encourage your kid to go outside for 30 minutes and use their creativity to build an obstacle course or treasure hunt, ride a bike or scooter, or play with balls and other outdoor toys to keep the play lively.
Participate in physical activities with your children.
It is not always effective to tell children of any age to “get some exercise.” However, if you become active with your children, they will be more inclined to engage. Furthermore, this might be a time saver for working parents who want to exercise but find it difficult to be away from their children after work.
Make a timetable of your activities.
Woodall-Ruff suggests setting weekly physical activity objectives. This is something you should do collectively and share somewhere public. Decide on a nonfood incentive with your kid when they reach their objective.
If you want to motivate your children to enjoy movement, you must first educate them what it entails. Look for ways to foster a healthy exercise culture at home. Discuss the importance of your exercises, sports, and hobbies in your life. Discuss food and how it drives activity at the dinner table.
Make housework become a workout.
Combining chores with active contests achieves two goals: your youngster completes a home duty while also getting some exercise. If you have more than one kid, make housework into an exercise competition.
Toddlers and preschoolers, for example, may compete to see who can put their clothes into the basket the quickest. Make a game of tidying up the yard or tending the garden outside. Each youngster (and adult) should tidy up their own portion of the yard. The first person to complete wins.
Allow them to choose the activity.
Even young children know what they enjoy, and they appreciate it when you ask them. Allow your youngster to choose a few hobbies or sports that he or she enjoys and engage in them as a family.
Read a tale about a movement.
Books that stimulate movement in young children may be found in bookstores and libraries. Collect a few of them and let your youngster select two or three to take home. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Sarah Jane Hinder’s “Yoga Bug”
- Helen Purperhart’s “The Yoga Zoo Adventure”
- Nancy Carlson’s “Get Up and Go”
Enroll in an activity-based preschool.
If you require daycare or want to send your kid to preschool, seek for programs that emphasize mobility and health throughout the day.
Consider participating in a team sport.
When your children reach the appropriate age, you should consider enrolling them in an organized sport. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most children are ready for basic, structured sports by the age of six (3).
Age brackets in group sports such as soccer and tee-ball customize the game to a child’s age and ability, enabling them to develop new abilities while learning about competition.
Guidelines for Children’s Physical Activity
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that children engage in 60 minutes or more of physical exercise every day (4Trusted Source).
The Physical Activity Requirements for Americans, in particular, establish a framework of exercise guidelines for parents and carers to follow depending on age groups (5Trusted Source).
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Children of preschool age
Young children aged 3 to 5 should be physically active throughout the day. At this age, the purpose of movement is to promote growth and development. Children of preschool age should be exposed to a range of activities including vigorous play. When children are young, variety is essential.
Children, adolescents, and teenagers aged 6 to 17 should exercise for at least 60 minutes each day at a moderate to strenuous level. This does not have to happen all at once. Encourage children to divide the 60 minutes into parts.
For instance, 20 minutes of soccer practice, 20 minutes of biking, and 20 minutes of physical exercise at school. Remember that any amount of moderate to strenuous exercise and movement counts toward your daily physical activity goals.
School-age children should ideally participate in aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening exercises. The majority of the 60 minutes each day, however, should be aerobic or cardiovascular exercise. On three days a week, they might incorporate muscle and bone-strengthening activities such as resistance training.
Tag, follow the leader, playground play, bike riding, strolling, skipping, dancing, swimming, tossing and catching sports, and tumbling are all examples of cardiovascular exercise for preschool-age children.
Running, biking, athletics, martial arts, dancing, catching and throwing games, hiking, swimming, tag, and flat football are some aerobic activities for school-age children and teenagers.
The relationship between childhood mobility and adult physical health
Children who establish good physical exercise habits are more likely to keep such practices as adults.
Physical exercise boosts heart health, bone and muscular strength, and helps you maintain a healthy weight, according to research (6Trusted Source).
According to Woodall-Ruff, these fitness gains in children may lead to improved adult results.
A major observational research including over 48,000 postmenopausal women discovered that greater levels of self-reported childhood physical activity levels were connected with higher levels of adult physical activity.
Women who were active as children had greater levels of physical activity as adults, with most average 2.8 metabolic equivalent (MET) hours per week more than women who were sedentary as children (7Trusted Source).
Another research discovered that engagement in sports at the age of ten was linked to greater physical activity at the age of 42. However, this research also looked at outdoor play at age 10 as a predictor of adult physical activity and found that, unlike sports involvement, outdoor play at age 10 was not connected with physical activity participation at age 42. (8Trusted Source).
Physically active youngsters are more likely to become active adults who live healthier lives as they grow older.
“Research has shown that when exercise and physical activity are introduced at a young age, confidence in the person’s skills and a desire in a healthier, more fit lifestyle are formed early on and then carried through for the rest of their life,” Gallucci adds.
Getting your children active from a young age is one of the finest things you can do for their health.
This will not only help children excel in school and remain healthy throughout their school years, but it will also help them develop a love of exercise throughout their lives.