Kids can learn to love physical activity

Posted on Monday, June 26th, 2017  |  


Active play = love of physical fitness

I frequently hear stories of parents and kids who don’t get enough physical activity.  Often, they believed they were “uncoordinated” and so avoided sports and physical activity out of worry they’d be embarrassed.  It is heartbreaking to listen to them because every child can learn to be active and every parent can help.

Looking back on my own childhood, there were many things my parents did right and I am incredibly thankful for them now.  I’m not quite sure Mom and Dad were really strategic about it – they probably weren’t looking at the big picture and planning for how our daily family habits would ultimately affect the lives of their kids.  I am not a kid any longer, but the things I learned in my childhood have been passed along to my children and now my grandchildren.   And, I still practice them as an adult.  So, what are the secrets, and how can you pass along good habits in your family?

During middle school and high school, my coaches called me a “natural” athlete.  But, I now know I wasn’t talented, I was trained.  My parents provided constant opportunities for physical experiences and my confidence grew with each new skill I mastered.  There were pogo sticks, stilts, badminton and archery sets, softball, football, kickball, tennis, basketball, ice skates, roller skates, skateboards, balance board, jump ropes, jacks, and chalk to make a hopscotch grid.  We learned gymnastics in the backyard, swimming by age 4, water skiing and snow skiing by age 7.  My parents invested in athletic equipment and experiences and we participated as a family.  The result of these early childhood experiences was what I now call “physical literacy” – competence in most every skill I would need to be physically active throughout life.  Just like academic skills, physical skills are building blocks; they are transferable and enabled me to participate in any new sport with confidence and skill.  I later learned to trick water ski, skydive, hang glide, para-sail, play racquetball, lacrosse, etc.  I was always able to join in the fun rather than watching from the sidelines because of the physical foundation my parents had helped me build.

Every child can learn physical skills and every parent can enjoy an activity with their child.  It’s easy to play throw-and-catch with any ball or stuffed animal – you can do it indoors or outdoors.  Kicking a ball around the yard is fun for the whole family.  Stilts can be home-made (mine were, by my dad, and I still remember the satisfaction I felt when I finally conquered the challenge of balancing and walking on them).  Badminton and archery are backyard fun for all ages. It is fun to learn to throw a football with a spiral motion, and how to catch one too.  Basketball is great leisure fun – you can put a hoop on the top of your garage or get a basketball pole to put next to the driveway.  We have done both (at different homes) and our girls enjoyed “shooting hoops” with their friends.   Hitting a tennis ball back and forth over the net is great for developing eye-hand coordination.  Our adult daughter who is the mom of two girls still loves hitting tennis balls with her Dad when she visits from Colorado.  It’s become a bit of a tradition for them.

The time spent together in physical activity is quality time for the whole family.  It builds great memories of shared experiences.  Your kids will feel valued because you want to spend time with them.  It increases family bonds and enhances social skills.  And, physical activity relieves stress for kids and adults.  It enhances “feel good” chemicals in the brain – serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine.  An active family game (even just 15-30 minutes) after dinner will help the kids concentrate better and complete homework more efficiently.

The “secret” I discovered is experiencing a wide variety of activities rather than focusing on just one or two sports.  This creates well-rounded athletes who are confident and enjoy any physical activity.  And, people who move well enjoy moving more often!  Choose just one activity from the list above (or create your own) and get started today building physical literacy in your family.  Your kids and grandkids will thank you for it!

Remember to keep moving!


Doreen Bolhuis, President & Founder of Gymco





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