By Alison Cella-Mowatt
Resource Specialist, Fitness in the City Program
Getting your children off the couch and active can help them form healthy habits for a lifetime. In my line of work, I often see parents struggle to get their kids outside or engaged in an activity. Finding an activity he or she actually enjoys can help solve this problem. Here are some ideas:
- Search for activities offered near and around your home. The more convenient the location of the activity, the easier it will be to stick with it. Check out activities offered at your child’s school. You can also try contacting your local YMCA, Boys & Girls Club, or community centers to see what they offer. Do a search on the Find Local Resources page to find activities near you. Or ask your neighbors or other parents what activities their children are involved in locally.
- Listen to your child. If she is interested in a particular activity, let her try it out. If she does not like playing on a team, do not force her to do so. Instead, look for alternatives.
- Keep encouraging your child if she seems indifferent. Lack of interest is not the same as not liking something. Remind her how important it is to stay healthy by being active.
- Look for other options. The right activity does not have to involve going to the gym or being part of a group sport. Martial arts, dance classes, and track and field are all great individual activities.
- Take it to the next level. Does your child like to jump rope? Sign her up for a double dutch class at the Red Auerbach Youth Foundation. Does she like to dance at home? See if there are dance classes or a dance team in your neighborhood.
- Surf the resources page with your child to find activities right in your neighborhood. You are likely to find something you had never thought of before!
So you signed your child up for an activity, but she does not like it. Now what? This may happen when trying new things. If it does happen, it is best to listen to your child and work with her to find something she does like. If she feels forced to engage in activities she does not like, she may start to develop negative feelings toward physical activity altogether.
Unfortunately, there is no “magic number” for how many times your child needs to participate in an activity before deciding she does not like it. The important thing to do is find out WHY your child does not like the activity and work from there. Maybe your child feels intimated in group sports. Instead, find something she can do alone, like rollerblading or hula hooping.
The single most important action you can take to keep your child engaged and active is to serve as a model for them. If you drop your child off at the gym while you go home and sit on the couch, she will not understand why exercise is important. Try to find activities you can do together such as walking in your neighborhood or dancing in the living room. If you are able to get your family moving together, you can be sure that everyone stays healthy while having fun!