With technology constantly improving, and smart phones/tablets always within reach of our fingertips, it is harder than ever before to discourage screen time and encourage our children to get outside and be active.
It is important that we persist when trying to encourage our children to be active, as childhood is such a critical time in shaping attitudes and beliefs about physical activity. If we don't encourage our children to be active now, once they are old enough to make their own decisions about health and exercise they could be without the knowledge, healthy routines and skills that they require to choose an active lifestyle for themselves. I think we can all relate to how difficult it is to learn new skills or habits as an adult, so why not give your children the gift of living an active lifestyle now so that by the time they are teenagers or adults, it comes naturally for them?
To help you do this, I have put together 5 tips for raising fit, active children:
1. Be a role model
Children learn by observing how we behave, how we live our lives. To be a positive role model in the area of physical activity, you don't need to be a professional athlete, you don't even need to be super fit. You simply need to be participating in some kind of exercise or physical activity on a regular basis, whether that is jogging, playing a team sport, walking your dog, or going on a family hike. Your attitude towards physical activity will affect your children's beliefs about it. If you are sending the message that physical activity is beneficial and enjoyable, your children will be much more likely to want to participate to.
2. Create the opportunity
As parents, it is important that we allow time in our day for children to be physically active. Sometimes this can be as simple as having the children go outside in their yard to play, but when this isn't an option, due to weather or lack of a safe place for them to play, scheduling an activity like a trip to a park, bike track or nature walk is a great way for the kids to burn off some steam and get the exercise that they need.
3. Make it a family event
Regularly getting together as a family and engaging in physical activity or outdoor recreation is a great way for children to create positive associations towards exercise and physical activity. Children love spending time doing new activities with their parents and by choosing to spend leisure time being active, the whole family will enjoy the benefits.
Keep things interesting by enjoying a wide variety of different activities. Not only will this help reduce boredom, but it will allow your children to gain skills across a variety of activities, and perhaps find something that they have a talent for, or really love. If you are looking for some suggestions, you could try: family bike rides, beach walks, backyard cricket, bush/nature walks or hikes, ice skating, indoor rock climbing, indoor trampoline centres, beach touch football/cricket, ultimate frisbee, canoeing, family swims at your local pool, and many more.
5. Organised sport
Being a member of a sporting team or club is a great way for children to meet people, gain social skills and make friends. Organised sport not only allows children to learn and improve sporting skills, but sport can also improve children's social skills and teach them valuable life lessons. Even though I highly recommend enrolling your child in some form of organised sport, be careful not to overcommit yourself or your child. These days, parents can feel pressured to enrol their young children in many different activities all at once (for instance, swimming lessons, kindy-gym, mini-soccer / mini-rugby, dance and the list goes on). If you have the time and enjoy all those obligations then fantastic, but if you are feeling a little frazzled, do know that it is okay to take things one at a time, your child has many sporting years ahead so there will be plenty of time/opportunities to try each of those things until you find one or two that your child really enjoys.
If you have found these tips helpful, or have some more of your own you would like to add, I'd love to hear from you over at our facebook group.