Keeping Your Kid Fit When They’d Rather Sit
By Alice Burron, Council Co-Chair
One of the biggest challenges for me as a Mom is to keep my kids active. In the summer my youngest eleven year old son, Ben is not involved with organized sports, and doesn’t get excited about group sports. Plus, living on the prairie, we don’t have access to a pool, sidewalk, or playground. I’m not alone in my struggle, come to find out, as many parents have asked me for my opinion on how to keep their kids active when they’re just not excited about sports.
Being the son of someone who promotes exercise for a living you would think Ben would be athletically inclined, but this isn’t the case. From the observer’s perspective, however, he looks fit and trim, and even has washboard abs. I’m going to share with you some of my secrets I’ve picked up over my years of parenting that keep him active and athletic, and the beauty is that he doesn’t even realize he’s exercising.
My first trick to keeping Ben active is to model the way. I won’t sit down in front of a screen for long without getting up, walking around, and stretching my legs. I also wear a pedometer, and I’m constantly blurting out my steps and calories, and commenting throughout the day. Ben is so in-tune to how many steps he should be getting by certain times of the day that he’ll get up and move around to make sure he, along with me, is getting enough steps.
Connecting rich food to activity has also motivated my son to move. If I make a cherry pie, it’s a natural thing for me to mention that I better ‘earn’ the slice by being a tad more active before I partake. Knowing that we’re going to have a dessert that night will get him moving more during the day every time.
I also make it a point to join Ben, when I am able, for a ‘run.’ During the day we go for walk/runs, where we walk a minute, and then run two (or the other way around when he’s not quite as game). I purchased a handy stopwatch in neon green so that we can time ourselves, and it has made what seems like a really boring activity amusing. He now likes to listen to some epic music from movie soundtracks as we run for motivation. You should see him go!
Finally, during the course of the day you’ll find Ben doing pull-ups, jumping on a mini-trampoline and bouncing on a fitness ball. I’ve strategically placed a pull-up bar in the doorway before he gets to his room, and have placed fitness equipment that I use in places where anyone just couldn’t resist using, like resistance bands. My fitness stepping stool and balance disc have become obstacles for Ben to get over when going from one place to another and there is a jump rope in almost every room. Without any expectation at all (except maybe a comment that one might get strong abs if they were to do this exercise – and then I do a short demo), Ben has become a quasi-gymnast and has gained strength and balance through these fun fitness opportunities.
When it comes to motivating kids, creativity is your best bet. Try unstructured activity through games not based on performance, and create fun ways to move in your home. Take advantage of opportunities to try new activities, or do activities in new places. Don’t worry about sports performance, just limit sedentary behavior. Creating a link between movement and enjoyment will impact your child for the rest of their lives. And I hope you enjoy the process, too!