The weather is finally turning this spring. Warmer days and longer evenings are great for
getting active as a family. Spring sports are heating up as well, with busy days at the ballpark or soccer field. Some kids, however, aren’t interested in athletics and may not get the exercise they need. How do you encourage them to get out and move?
Internationally renowned child feeding expert and registered dietitian, Ellyn Satter, offers some suggestions. Parents are responsible for providing structure, safety, and opportunities to be active. Kids are responsible for the how much and whether they want to participate. While it may seem better to force an inactive kid to exercise, doing that can create more issues, especially long term. Consider this—have you ever enjoyed something you’ve been forced to do?
Satter stresses that supporting activity is a great idea. She suggests that it is important to have good judgment about what might be normal for your child. It is true that some kids are naturally less athletic and may not enjoy activities like soccer or track. If your child is amenable to experimenting with different sports, however, then go ahead and consider a season of a sport he/she is interested in. Keep it fun, remove the pressure to perform, and praise your child frequently for trying hard, even if he/she doesn’t score the game winning goal.
Structure is also important. This can be accomplished by putting limits on leisure-screen time (TV, phone, tablet, etc.) to two hours a day, or less. Keep the TV and other devices out of the bedroom. Satter does not suggest putting limits on screen time related to homework, writing, artwork, building with Legos, or other seated activities. If your child is “bored” a lot, make her/him responsible for dealing that that.
Satter stresses that trust is important here. Some kids may be uncoordinated, less graceful, or less skilled than their peers. It is likely they have other talents that make up for that. Parents who support activity by providing structure and opportunity, but without pressure, will create kids who want to be active in the short and long term.