How To Teach Your Child To Exercise

Fun ways to exerciseMost of the parents find it difficult to manage kids who are very active by nature. Easiest way of gaining more control over the impulses of your bundle of energy is to organise the activities which benefit them and keep them occupied.

These activities should burns off their extra energy and give a boost to their confidence levels.

Exercise is one such activity which channel your tot’s endless energy and hyperactivity into productivity.

Exercise and its benefits for toddlers

“Even toddlers need up to 20 minutes of daily exercise routine (structured exercise) and at least an hour of unstructured exercise like free playing at park for better health when they grow up,” says Dr Pooja Vala, a physiotherapist who worked at Kadji, the care, Vadodara.

Structured exercise for toddlers is mandatory. Did you know this? Well, I didn’t.

Do you know why physical activities are important for children; even for babies?

“Kids who perform structured exercises regularly since their childhood tend to develop strong bones and core muscles. They are also much happier than tater tots and have a feeling of overall well-being. They also sleep better and have healthy weight.” Pooja says.

“Moreover, active toddlers also have reduced risks of developing heart diseases, diabetes and obesity. It’s also beneficial for better brain functions such as improved memory and concentration. Therefore, it’s for children’s physical as well as cognitive, social, and emotional development, too,” says Pooja elaborating about the benefits of an exercise routine for a toddler.’

Wouldn’t it be great for your kid to practise exercise from childhood? If you are an health conscious parent, then this article is for you.

Read on to know few fun ways to teach your children exercise through activities that they don’t feel like they’re exercising.

1) Set an example

Monkey sees monkey does; you do, your kid will too.

Kids are great imitators. Use this phenomenon to teach them great activities—the best way to keep your toddlers active is to keep yourself moving!

“There are many exercises like hamstring stretch, Pectoralis muscle stretch, rotation of shoulders that are very beneficial for adults as well as toddlers and kids,” says Pooja, “At the initial phase, these stretching exercises can be done thrice a day holding a stretch for up to 30 seconds by toddlers and adults. Then, you may increase the time span of workout.”

Most of the school-going children complain of pain in their shoulders what with lifting heavy school bags or writing so many exams. According to Pooja, these stretch exercises strengthen trapezius muscles and improve the condition of ‘elevated shoulders,’ and thus relieve the shoulder pain.

It’s also not a bad idea to sign up for mommy-and-me yoga class for a structured workout to both of you. The important point here is to show exercise as your priority, which will encourage your toddler to work out as well.

So, get set go and set a right example for your kids through demonstration!

Demonstration

“Many parents ask me about how to train their children for exercising. The answer is by demonstration and correction.” says Pooja. Children need proper training as they are first timers in this area,. Hence it is very important to demonstrate the exercises to them in a right manner. kids should practice exercises only under supervision until they acquire the moves without difficulty.

“Let your children practise exercises under your supervision for at least a week and correct their wrong moves/ stretch. Repeat the same until you feel they can manage independently. Then, let them perform these structured exercises daily at scheduled time,” she suggests.

2) Cut screen time, dance!

Try to curb the couch-potato lifestyle of your toddler by limiting his/her TV time. Screen time adversely interferes with their brain and language development.

As your toddler gets older, he/she is going to get fascinated to many other electronic gadgets. So, set the limits on his/her screen time and establish healthy habits now itself.

You can even use the limited TV time to your advantage.

To boost your child’s brain and language development, choose the TV content that enhance the problem solving, creativity, and communication skills.

You may also choose the TV channels/ DVDs during screen time that encourages your child to get up to bounce. This can be an excellent after-school activity. Dancing channelises his/her energy and improves the body coordination and multi-tasking abilities.

3) Sports

What better way to exercise than learning a sport! Engaging children in sports is pivotal for active life! Encourage your school-going children to be part of the physical education activities. Attending school PET will prepare them for most of the exercises required. Based on his/her interest, let your child participate in sports like football, basketball, swimming, etc. Sport enhances the gross motor skills of your little one!

Swimming is a very good exercise as the continuous movement keeps up the kid’s energy level and builds self-discipline in him/her.

Enrolling your kid in martial arts like karate, kung fu will fulfil his/her need for physical movements and help get a perfect mental balance.

Sports is a great way to inculcate social skills, team work, sportsmanship, self discipline, and control.

4) Fun games

Like sports, playing games also has a key role in physical and mental development of children. Playing with your little ones provides you wonderful opportunities to bond with them—kids love if the parents are their playmates.

“Fun activities—indoors or outdoors—are a part of your child’s unstructured physical activities. This is needed for their brain development and social-emotional learning,” says Pooja.

  • Kick the ball

“My toddler loves to play ball with me. I just need to kick the ball once and then he continues playing. It is a great physical activity which can keep him engaged for up to 30 minutes,” says Shweta, a mother of two-year-old.

You can play this game at your home or in a play area. You can even play ‘Kick ball’ on the steps. Hold your child’s finger and kick the ball from the top step. Continue playing until you reach to the last step. Use verbal clues like “Kick, hit the ball!” You can play this game everyday while taking your kid from top floor to play area/ground. This would be great physical exercise for you as well.

  • Chase bubbles

Chasing bubblesThis is very interesting activity. Just get an attractive bubble blower to play this game. Blow the bubbles and ask your toddler to chase them. Invite other family members to join as well. Your toddler is going to love this activity without even knowing that you are involving him/her in a kind of physical activity!

This activity involves various movements by your child like running, jumping, trying to reach bubbles etc. These movements help developing hand-eye coordination, skills of balancing himself/herself, and changing directions frequently.

  • Catch me if you can

All the toddlers still love this classic fun game. This activity promotes motor skills and the feeling of group play.

“While playing catch me if you can, my son feels really happy as I run to catch him-a totally opposite situation than everyday when he has to run behind me,” Shweta says.

  • Hide-and-seek

Hide-and-seek provides ample opportunities for physical movements that improves coordination and balance. This traditional game also has many cognitive benefits. It improves child’s object permanence, skill of problem-solving, and concept of size and shape.

5) Go outdoors

Outdoor fun!“Children must be encouraged to play outdoors. Playing outdoors develop their cardiovascular functions and movement skills. Except unstructured physical activities like free playing, you can also perform structured exercises like suryanamaskar with your kid in fresh air,” Pooja says.

She suggests to do up to 12 stretches of suryanamaskar in a day. Suryanamaskar also involves muscle stretch in whole body and thus should be practised for better body flexibility.

Whatever the weather is, being out in fresh air and sunshine will keep your kid moving. It gives him/her opportunities to explore, experiment, yell, manipulate, and enhance his/her creativity. Let your child enjoy riding cycle, playing football, pulling toys, or kicking/throwing ball.

“Free, child-driven, creative play keeps the kids at bay from pressure and stress,” concludes Pooja.

If you don’t have extra time for outdoor play, changing few perspectives like walking to nearby shop with your toddler instead of driving, taking stairs instead of lift could be an alternative, etc.

6) Helping at home

“My son at this very young age is always eager to help me, be it while cleaning the house or while cooking,” says Shweta says, “He would get me vegetables from the basket or would get ready with broomstick whenever I start cleaning my house.”

Children love to enjoy this kind of quality time with parents. It gives them pride in their work and a sense of responsibility.

The actual idea behind this is to keep your little ones engaged in positive activities, instead of letting them sit in front of TV, use smartphones, or play video games.

These creative ways would definitely keep your little one moving. Try these approaches for better and healthier tomorrow of your children.

Activity kit - TV

What are the ways in which you teach your child to exercise? Share your suggestions in the ‘Comments’ section below.

Image Credits: Binny; Kris; Philippe

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About

Having been part of the faculty at St Ann's School, Hyderabad, Riddhi now is a freelance writer. With Masters in microbiology from MSU, Vadodara, she took to writing for online forums after joining the motherhood club. She defines herself as a person full of life. In her free time, Riddhi is found socialising, crafting, watching off-beat film, or any masala/romantic flicks for fun. She now blogs for the Flintobox blog.

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