Tricks to get kids active
News in a hurry
- Kids need to be active for at least 60 minutes a day.
- Limit their couch potato activities to less than 2 hours per day.
- Be a role model – and show them know exercise can be fun!
- Establish a routine.
- Let your children set the pace.
We now know that children and young people should be physically active for at least 60 minutes a day – that’s twice as long as the average adult. But there’s no doubt it can be tough to meet that target when computers, video games, televisions and mobile phones are all competing distractions.
Don’t despair - it’s never too late to get your kids off the sofa and give them a lifelong appreciation for activities that will strengthen their bodies. And, perhaps, the very best thing you can do to encourage your children is be a role model.
Parents as role models
Sport New Zealand research has found young people are more likely to be active if their parents are; 70% of young people who have relatively active parents are active, and the figure rises to 75% for those whose parents are highly active. The reverse is also true - while 32% of all young people are inactive, the figure is 40% for those whose parents are relatively inactive and rises to 43% for those with sedentary parents. Sport New Zealand believes parents are important physical activity role models for their children.
Play with your kids
Whether it’s football, rugby or organising a fun event like a treasure hunt. The latter will also keep their brains active if you set them some challenging clues.
Become a sports coach in your child’s favourite activity
If ‘stickability’ is a challenge for you, then having to turn up for regular training sessions and matches will be a great motivator.
Many children are naturally full of energy and love to burn it off by running around the house – even though that can be tiring for parents, try to encourage them, or direct it into more constructive play.
Sport New Zealand has a series of Active Movement brochures aimed at showing parents how easy it is to incorporate quality physical activity into their children's lives. The brochures also outline the importance of movement in the early years of life (0 to 5 years).
Some ideas for exercise your youngsters may enjoy:
- Swimming: a number of pools have parent and baby swimming sessions with qualified instructors.
- Games at home: try playing hide and seek in a safe, enclosed area, or try rolling, or kicking a ball for them to chase. You can also get them doing exercises with you like running on the spot or stretching.
- Play areas: many leisure centres and cafes have soft play areas with large squidgy shapes, ball ponds and mini slides.
- Nature walks: go for a walk at a local beauty spot or park and challenge your child to find fun things like pine cones. They can also learn a lot about nature, too.
- Equipment: encourage them to have fun with a skipping road, hula hoop or football and try teaching them some of the games you played when you were young.
Remember, you can help your children learn that exercise is fun, not a burden, and can support them in building a lifestyle that will keep them healthy in the years to come.
Some ideas for exercise your older children may enjoy:
- Team sports: encourage them to join a sports team like rugby or netball; training sessions are a great way to ensure they exercise regularly and will help establish good habits for the future. Team games can also help them build self confidence.
- Activity classes: if finances allow, think about enrolling your child in activity classes like dance, horse riding or skating.
- School holidays: what about signing them up for one of the many daily programmes on offer – choose one that contains plenty of physical activity. Or get neighbours your trust, with kids the same age as yours, to take it in turns to organise a trip to a local park or playground.
- Walking, biking, skate boarding: if you feel it’s safe, or you can accompany them, encourage your child to walk or bike or skate to school, to the shops or to their friends’ houses. Many schools have walking buses now, too.
- Household jobs – you might turn them into a friendly challenge, like who can pull the most weeds out of the vegetable garden.
- Activity parties - for your child's next birthday, take the kids to Megazone, Clip 'n Climb or set up relay races in the garden.
- Put your kids in charge - let each child take a turn choosing the activity of the day.
Key points to remember
- Limit screen time: limit couch potato activities to less than 2 hours per day. If your children love game consoles, why not buy games that require them to move? In a Mayo Clinic study, children who traded sedentary screen time for active screen time more than doubled their energy expenditure.
- Establish a routine: get up early with your children to walk the dog. Start slowly, gradually adding new activities to the routine as you — and your children — get fit.
- Let your children set the pace: try to shape the activities you plan so they match your child’s character and interests.