1. What you do matters. You are the first and most important role model in your child’s life. If fitness is important to you, your child will place a higher importance on it as well. Spend family time having fun with fitness together! Be sure not to make it a chore, just a fun thing that your family does together! One of our favorite family outings is geocaching. This involves hiking, walking or biking and following a gps to specific coordinates to a hidden treasure. You can find one near you at http://www.geocaching.com/
2. Limit the devices… for everyone. We know that children are spending a ton of time in front of screens, but it is not just children. All to often you will see the parents on their devices just as much. I recommend setting up specific ‘device free’ times in your household where all computers, ipods, kindles, phones, etc are banished (for us that means you can’t be ‘playing your device’). Meal times are an obvious one, but adding a device free time of 2 hours before bed can help everyone sleep better and gives your child time to actually talk to you.
3. Encourage Sports. Helping your child find a sport that they enjoy and excel at can be very easy for some and very difficult for others. For children with natural athletic ability and drive they may come to you with a list of activities they want to participate in. However for the less athletically driven child, it may take a lot of time… and trial and error to help them find something they love. In that case I suggest encouraging them to try out many different sports over several seasons or years, one at a time, to see what sticks. They do not have to be the best (although your child may find they enjoy pushing themselves to get better) it is the activity and the consistency that is important.
4. But don’t over do it. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Too much time in organized sports can detract from other important individual and family activities. A child’s academic success may suffer as may your family life (e.g. transportation, missed dinners, time away from other duties, etc.). And finally, too many organized activities can also consume other opportunities for your child to enjoy sports—specifically the self-directed neighborhood pickup games that offer essential benefits. Know your child and family and balance things accordingly.
4. Don’t limit Fitness to Home! Some of our favorite trips end up being centered on fitness. Most recently, my 10 yr old son and I went with my husband across Europe as he photographed for a book he is publishing. Lucky for us, many of the places he needed to photograph were remote and involved a whole lot of hiking to get there. As a family, we loaded our backpacks with healthy snacks or lunches, grabbed our water bottles and hit the trail hiking or hoped on the bikes. Whether for a quick weekend get away or an extended summer holiday make fitness an important, fun part of your trip.
5. Turn it into a Competition or a Game. Nothing gets children motivated like a little contest. For example, set up relay races at the park. Have your child invite their friends over and set out 3-4 different things for them to play with outside (hoola hoops, scooters & cones can be used in 100’s of games). Using old pool noodles and balloons have the children hit them back and forth to each other. Have fun with it and keep them moving!