I remember being a kid. During the summer, we were kicked out of the house early; returning only when the street lights went on. There was no time to sit and be idle. We spent our days playing hide-and-seek, pickup games of soccer, swimming in the river.
Life was good.
Nowadays, though, kids are just as happy parking their butts on the sofa to play video games or watch tv, even when the weather is perfect outside. It’s crazy. But what’s the solution? I think it goes back to the very basics:
Teach. Motivate. Encourage.
Demonstrate not only the importance of physical fitness to your kids but also the “feel good factor”. In other words, make it FUN. Being healthy is not just about structured exercise, it’s about developing lifelong habits that foster active living. It’s a win-win situation.
Teach them different ways to “play.”
Kids only know what they’ve experienced. The more opportunities you provide, the better chance they will find something that truly inspires them. Perhaps your kid is not into mainstream athletics. Instead, try great alternatives such as golf, tennis or even ultimate frisbee. Show them old school games, like badminton, croquet and capture the flag. My daughter’s personal favorite is scavenger hunting. It can be done pretty much anywhere – your neighborhood, the beach or on a road trip. Plus, it’s a blast for everyone involved.
Motivate by example.
Kids naturally emulate their parents. Don’t just preach the importance of fitness to them, let them actually see you be active. When possible, work out at home or bring your child to the gym. Include them, show them the ropes. From an early age, my daughter saw how much I enjoy exercising. Before long, she began doing burpees, jumping jacks and push-ups with me. When she learned to ride a bike, we began “training” together. She cycles and I run alongside her. She loves it.
Encourage activities your child already enjoys.
Physical activity is meant to be fun – not forced and mundane. During the summer, the pool is where it’s at. Get off your sun lounger, and join them for a game of Marco Polo or Sharks and Minnows. Better yet, show them cool swim strokes and diving techniques. If they like animals and nature, take them to your local wildlife refuge or state forest. My kid gets lost for hours exploring, collecting pine cones, throwing rocks in the river.
Lastly, just play with them! Run around, be goofy, have a blast. When was the last time you acted like a kid? Chasing your children around the playground is an amazing way to reconnect with your kids as well as your own childhood.
As my kid likes to say, “Stop being so serious.” Revel in the moment because that is when the best childhood memories are made.
Rachael is an accomplished athlete, mother and writer. She holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Glasgow, Scotland. Besides a passion for health and fitness, her interests include community service, reading, traveling, and pretty much anything adventurous, epic and adrenaline-inspiring.