Motivating Kids To Make Exercise

You know your kids should be active, but often they can be found hunkered down in front of the TV, video game or computer while the sun shines outside. It’s a scene parents everywhere have lamented. The solution is pretty simple: Get them active by making exercise fun.

In fact, don’t even call it “exercise.” Call it “play” and give them lots of opportunities to do it. If you gently suggest a bunch of activities (running through the sprinkler, playing whiffle ball, drawing a hopscotch grid with sidewalk chalk), they’re very likely to take you up on one. And if they enjoy themselves, they may take the initiative next time to choose that activity over being a couch potato.

What’s fun to a kid? Sure, they love a day trip to an amusement park or a family vacation getaway, but there are many low-cost, everyday ways for kids to have a great time being active. Each kid will have his or her own favorites, but most will enjoy activities that offer one or both of the following:

• Physical thrills, such as swinging on a swing, splashing into a pool or gliding on skates

• A chance to get better at something, such as riding a bike, catching a ball or jumping rope.

With thrill-seeking kids, be sure to supervise closely. (Riding on a tire swing can be fun, but falling off onto the hard ground isn’t.) And when it comes to skill building, be sure to take notice when your child shows improvement. Maybe your child is landing some solid kicks on the soccer ball or jumping rope with increasing speed. Your encouragement-and your child’s own satisfaction-will spur him or her on to keep practicing.

When you find an activity, such as jumping off the diving board, that offers physical thrills and a chance to master a skill, some kids will do it over and over until their skin is waterlogged and the sun is setting on the pool deck. And if you’re willing to do more than lifeguard, you can really increase the fun quotient. What’s more fun (and funny) than seeing mom or dad bounce off the diving board and land with a cannonball splash?

But regular outings to the pool, the park or even the backyard will yield more than just good times. You’ll show your kids that physical activity is a normal and fun part of everyday life-a healthy habit they’ll want to continue for years to come.