What's the best predictor of your child's enjoyment of physical activity?
a) cool new sneakers
b) focused skills training
c) your support of the activity
Okay, so you knew it was a loaded question. The answer is (c)—kids are more physically active when their parent encourages and supports that interest.
Such support boosts children's positive attitude toward exercise as well as their interest in organized sports. And when you participate in free-time physical activity with your daughter or son, you increase her or his enjoyment of unstructured fitness fun.
You don't have to excel at any sport to work this magic with your kids. Try these ideas for playing and being active together:
- Take a family bike ride or walk. Find nearby trails, tracks or safe routes for all ages in your group. On weekends, when you have more time, plan rides or walks at sites farther from home to keep up interest.
- Reduce the time your kids spend inactive—watching TV and DVDs, playing computer games, even at the movies. Substitute active entertainments such as swimming, bowling, going to the roller or ice rink, visiting the zoo.
- Play games outside with your kids—everything from hopscotch and jump rope to hide-and-seek, basketball or badminton. Don't worry about what the neighbors will think.
- Play physically active games indoors with your kids. Treasure hunts, dancing, hacky sack, ping pong, even yoga can keep the family moving when the weather makes staying inside necessary.
- Consider getting a family membership at the local "Y" or community center. These facilities give you opportunities for several kinds of play and often have special parent-child activity sessions.
- If you belong to a health club or gym, find out if your adolescent or teenager is eligible to join. Then you can exercise side-by-side on various types of equipment. Be sure to have a trainer show your child how to use the machines and set up an appropriate workout program for him or her.