Recently, I was perusing the book Active Start for Healthy Kids: Activities, Exercises and Nutritional Tips (Human Kinetics, 2005) by Stephen J. Virgilo, which is designed to help parents develop active and positive lifestyle habits in their children that will last a lifetime.
It shares a wealth of ideas, fun family activities (including dance and yoga) and nutritional guidelines that parents and teachers can use to inspire kids to make healthy lifestyle choices.
Here I wanted to share the book's seven keys to raising and developing active kids. Even if your children are a little older, they can still benefit from revisiting these active-living fundamentals.
1. Give your child options
Children should be exposed to different options for being active through toys, facilities and games. They are more apt to actively participate when variety is offered to them.
Get outside and play with your children. Plan trips to the park, beach and recreation centre. Assist on parent councils to reinforce policies around physical activity at school.
2. Be active daily
In order for children to embrace a long-term habit of physical activity, they must be active regularly. Children should be physically active every day.
In his book, Virgilo states that parents should “Plan at least 60 minutes of structured physical activity, and 60 minutes of unstructured physical activity every day. Preschool teachers and parents should agree on a simple model, for example, 90 minutes at school and 30 minutes at home during the week." Try new, fun ideas for staying active!
3. Develop new motor skills
Exercising a variety of movement skills is crucial in the early stages of life. Prior to age 12, the neuromuscular system is still developing and movement skills can be enhanced dramatically by doing a variety of purposeful movement. This will enhance a child's athleticism for life and encourage adherence to fitness fun for years to come.
Let children explore and acquire age-appropriate development skills such as skipping, hopping, jumping, catching and throwing. Try using an array of equipment such as beanbags, hoops, balls, parachutes, scarves and BOSU.
Be supportive and encourage your children for how well they are developing their athletic skills (for example, kicking a ball), rather than emphasizing their success at an activity or game (for example, scoring a goal or winning a game).
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4. Give your child choice
Children will guide you to activities they enjoy if they have a variety to choose from. They are more likely to connect with an exercise, sport or fitness program that they have chosen themselves. Allow them to make their own choices and you'll empower them for life.
5. Be a role model
Practice what you preach and become a positive role model for your child. Children respect, look up to and imitate the people that play the largest roles in their lives, so make sure you are setting a good example.
6. Try noncompetitive activities
Make it fun and they will come! Life has enough elements of competition in it. It is not imperative to make all physical activity aggressive with an emphasis on winning.
Children aged two to six should enjoy games, activities and sports that emphasize achieving personal bests and having a good time -- try these 12 fun family activities.
7. Make it a family affair
The home environment has a huge influence on the values children start to develop. Boys pay close attention to how their dad interacts with others and what habits he adopts, and girls seem to do the same with moms.
Engage in family activities such as swimming, skating, biking or hiking -- this will send a powerful positive message to your children. The family that plays together stays healthy together.
Also remember that you cannot preach about good nutrition and eat poorly yourself. Children are watching your every move so it is imperative to set a good example.
Life is a journey, and helping your children begin theirs with a solid foundation of fitness and health will help them to develop a healthy lifestyle for life. Remember that the first six years of your child's life is the prime time to lay the groundwork for a lifetime of success in fitness and health.
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