In this blog, which is the second part of our blog series on setting up healthy habits for your kids, we’ll discuss different ways to help your child get regular physical activity. In part one, we discussed why proper nutrition is important and outlined the three fundamentals of setting your child up for a happy and healthy life:
- Regular physical activity
- Mental health
When it comes to ensuring your child gets the movement they need, here are some helpful tips to get started.
Why Movement is Important
Daily physical activity is vital for your overall health and well-being. There are three fundamental areas that directly benefit from regular physical activity:
- Improves muscle strength and endurance, including your heart and lungs 
- Helps build and maintain healthy bones 
- Plays a key role in brain development 
- Supports essential mental functions 
- Improves motor skills such as coordination 
- Improves attention, thinking, and problem-solving skills which benefit school performance 
- Boosts mood, energy, and sleep via endorphins 
- Reduces anxiety by providing something specific to focus on, thereby developing new skills and achieving a sense of accomplishment 
- Improves relationships by providing a sense of belonging and companionship, particularly when engaging in shared physical activities such as team sports, dance, or partnered activities 
- Improves body image, self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence 
Kids Love to Move
Movement is innate. Every parent has experienced the challenge of trying to get their child to sit still at dinner (or anywhere else).
Children are full of energy for a reason: everything is exciting and new to them. Children are constantly learning about their bodies and the new things they’re capable of doing.
When children play, they practise important movement skills (also known as physical literacy) such as coordination, balance, and strength. As they begin to master simpler skills, such as running or jumping, they move onto more difficult ones, like hopping on one foot. This contributes to their physical development, which is especially important in childhood. Every moment is an opportunity for learning.
Encourage Your Child
How many times have you heard your child say “mom, dad, look what I can do!”? Young children believe their parents know everything. Seeking their parents’ approval is how they confirm that what they’ve learned is good, right, or valuable.
Acknowledging your child’s little victories will go a long way. It will bolster their confidence and make them more likely to try new and more challenging things.
Play With Your Child
Joining your child during playtime is one of the most valuable ways to spend your time. Not only do you bond and create cherished memories, but by actively participating and being present with your child, you teach and encourage them to try new things.
Empower Your Child
Including your child in the process of planning their activities will give them a sense of autonomy and make them more willing to participate. Ask your child about the activities they’re interested in, and let them decide if they like them or want to try something new.
You can do this by going through the seasonal recreation guide with them or showing them what different activities look like. For example, bring them to the park and watch a local soccer game or even show them a YouTube video of children engaging in a particular activity.
Lead by Example
Being physically active will not only benefit your health and well-being, it will also show your child that it’s normal and healthy to engage in physical activity regularly. Even better, include your child as much as possible when you’re exercising. If you run, get them to join you for part of your run. If you work out at home, encourage them to take part in some of the movements and try to stretch together post-workout.
It’s Not About Perfection
Building healthy habits around physical activity is about including practical and sustainable activities into your routine. It’s not an all or nothing game. Life is busy and hectic, especially with little ones around.
Do your best with what is available, and your kids will reap the benefits (both short term and lifelong) that regular physical activity has to offer.
- SickKids staff. [Internet]. AboutKidsHealth. 2020 [cited 2022Mar30]. Available from: https://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/article?contentid=641&language=english