It’s not even summer yet, but if you have kids, you know what’s coming:
- Sleeping late
- Not eating until noon
- Laying around until a parent yells, “Why don’t you go DO something?!”
- Then…video games or YouTube.
You threaten them: “I’m gonna sign you up for swimming lessons unless you pick a different activity!”
Then they hate swimming lessons and hate their parent for ruining their summer.
We all want our kids to be more active. After coaching kids for nearly 30 years, here’s what I’ve learned about making exercise appealing to kids and teens:
1. Quality Interaction.
The kid has to be having fun with a parent, a coach, or a team. Doing a workout on a video game doesn’t hook them.
That means play. There’s gotta be a play aspect. Maybe competition helps, and maybe it doesn’t. Maybe keeping records helps, and maybe not. At any rate, if it ain’t fun, it ain’t happening. If kids don’t want to do it, you’re not going to make them.
You don’t have to pay a kid to exercise. But you DO have to create patterns of positive reinforcement. Do something fun after the gym – make it a regular event.
4. Frequent Change.
I’d rather be able to meet a new challenge every day than shoot 100 pucks into an empty net every day after school. I’d rather play frisbee than go for a walk with my parents. And I’d rather play capture the flag than do almost anything. The best part of summer is the ability to do something different every day.
Tell a kid, “Hey, this is tough. I think you can do it. Do you?” Will get a positive response 10 times out of 10.
Finally, consider the goal of kids’ exercise: to encourage them to lead a life in which fitness and health are integral components. Who wants to see them have poor posture from too much couch time? Who wants their kid to get Type II diabetes? Who wants to outlive their kid? Let’s teach them positive habits, let them love it, and watch them go.