Motivating kids to abandon high-paced, fun video games or action-packed TV shows is hard. Get them moving with some of these ideas.
1. Join the YMCA.
The Y offers fun programs for kids of all ages. Many experts suggest starting 3-year-olds on a regular exercise program. The bonus is that many classes involve parents, giving you a fun workout, too. Visit The Y for more information, including local branches.
2. Check out city or school programs.
Many cities run sports programs, especially during the summer. Schools are a good source of after-school sports activities. For example, the Albuquerque Public Schools works with the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County as well as other organizations to provide before and after school activities.
3. Motivate your child.
Acknowledging your child’s milestones can help keep him or her on the fitness track. Make rewards healthy treats, such as fruits, or give awards, such as small gifts or trinkets or personalized certificates.
If it is safe for your child to walk to school, encourage him or her to do it. My children walked about a mile to school, whereas my neighbors drove their children. Walking to and from school is healthy exercise. Make it a family activity and walk all year.
5. Watch the snacks!
Just as you don’t feel like exercising after a trip through the buffet line, kids don’t want to exercise after high-fat snacks. Keep snacks light — fruit, yogurt, low fat granola bars, etc.
6. Don’t push.
High-pressure, competitive sports aren’t for all kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns that high-pressure sports might be more stressful than helpful. Sports and exercise should be fun. Encourage your child; don’t push him or her.
7. Good coaches play everyone.
Your child won’t enjoy and participate in sports or group activities if he or she sits on the sidelines. Go to your child’s events and make sure the coach lets everyone play.
9. It’s more than just game day.
Game day alone won’t get your child off the couch. Sports pros like Aaron Rodgers work out all week, not just on game day. Encourage daily exercise, even if it is just horsing around or playing with friends. You can watch Aaron train with his brother, Jordan, and hear what their trainer says about exercising with friends or family.
9. Mix it up!
Just as a chicken-only diet becomes boring, so does concentrating on one sport. Mix in family hikes, a swimming night, water skiing, or some other activity. Don’t ignore the winter sports like ice skating, cross country skiing, tobogganing, etc.
10. Get a Nintendo brand WII system or other interactive gaming system.
Yes, electronic games can create a couch potato lifestyle, but some game systems require physical activity. Encourage your whole family to get involved. Players from 3 to 103 can get exercise using interactive gaming systems.
11. Set goals.
Make sure your child understands what the goals or mini goals are. It will be more effective if everyone participates in the goal-setting sessions. Having a goal — and celebrating when goals are met — is very motivating for a child. Create mini goals that will build up to the ultimate goal.
12. Make it a family activity.
Children will be more likely to substitute physical activity for a couch-potato activity if it is a family activity. Go hiking, play tennis, throw Frisbees — get active together!
All experts, including the AAP experts, agree that children today are fatter than they were 50 years ago. Most kids cannot meet the minimal fitness challenges, such as the one from the President’s Council on Physical Fitness. You can help your child by limiting your child’s couch potato lifestyle and increasing his or her physical activities.
Education Week “After-School Programs”