Active Parents Have Happy Kids
A budding genius
You’ve heard of Bill Gates, right? When he was young, his parents encouraged him and his siblings to be the best they could possibly be.
In fact, he first developed his competitive streak while organising family athletics tournaments and playing Monopoly with his parents and sisters.
Pre-school age is best for sports
The best time to start being active is at pre-school age. But I say: start even earlier! Why not give your kid the best chance at an active and happy life? Well, Bill Gates wasn’t just lucky.
Research has shown that active kids perform better in school, are more independent, have higher self-esteem and are more creative.
Pre-school age is when your child’s motor skill development really starts taking off. Skills like running, balancing, jumping and throwing are all learned. This provides a basis for the more complicated movements they will need as they get older.
Why should kids be physically active?
Get ready because here’s the science bit. You probably already know that physical activity, including playing sports, boosts blood flow to all parts of the body, including your brain – the same goes for your child.
But did you know that active kids also perform better in school? 50 years of research has proven it!
Active kids perform better in school
Here’s a little insight into what’s going on under the surface:
- Promotes clear thinking
- Boosts creativity
- Supports better cognitive learning
- Increases mental concentration
- Enhances self-esteem
- Reduces depression by increasing levels of important brain chemicals
Active kids are happier
One final advantage that will make every parent’s day, is that active kids are, quite simply, happier.
Physical activity helps kids to feel good about themselves
Can you remember how proud and pleased you were the first time you rode a bike with no training wheels? Or learned how to bounce a ball? (You’re smiling now, aren’t you??)
Make activities part of your life
As you’ve probably realized by now, kids learn best when copying from their parents.
It’s important to make activities part of your life – introduce them to new movements and create opportunities for them to practise.
3Ds to teach kids sports:
Demonstrate: Be a role model – your kids will learn from watching you!
Dedicate: Make sure they have plenty of space and opportunity – give them room to run, a bike to ride and a ball to play with.
Develop: Think of creative ways to engage your child. Fun is the first rule!
Kids Activities Every Day? How To
Nobody expects you to organize daily hiking trips or soccer tournaments so don’t panic!
Make activities part of your daily routine and keep them simple.
You’re already a ‘mom on the move’ so make the most of that!
Walking with the Kids:
Walking is probably the easiest activity to work into your everyday routine.
You have to pick up and drop off your kids at school, go to the grocery store, the bank and the dry cleaners anyway, so why not walk?
Walking with your kids encourages them to talk to you.
You get more insight into their lives and how they see the world. The natural questioning and answering that arises will help your child to
- Develop their speaking and vocabulary
- Enhance their curiosity in the world around them
- Help to fight things like seasonal depression, etc.
My tip: Use every opportunity to walk. Get started with 20-minute daily sessions. For more on making walking part of your life, click here – http://www.walkingmama.net/a-walk-a-day/
Running For Fun:
I recommend fun runs and short races.
Running for fun helps kids to:
- Promote their personal skills – by rounding up their buddies and organising races in the park. They need to define the start and finish lines and someone needs to do the countdown – ready, steady, GO!
- Challenge themselves – kids love competition and races are a great way for kids to have fun and set goals at the same time.
My Tip: make it fun and never force it. My son hates running but he couldn’t wait to do it when I mentioned I was planning to do a 4-mile fun run with 20,000 other people! We ran along together for around 1km, then when his little legs got a bit tired, he just hopped on his scooter!
The Bike is King
- A sense of autonomy and accountability – if they can get themselves to school and back, they don’t need to rely on you!
- Real-life experience – this is a fantastic opportunity for your kid to develop their problem-solving skills.
- A sense of adventure and fearlessness – don’t be afraid to let your kid try out small ramps and other obstacles – while wearing a helmet of course! Kids love the sense of achievement that comes from doing something ‘the big kids are doing’.
My tips: Equip the bike with everything your kid needs for safety and fun. Get a loud cycling bell, a cargo trunk (to put a ball or scooter uniform in), a helmet, back and front lights and proper cycling gloves – the more they feel like a ‘professional’, the more they enjoy it!
My son has a candy-holder on his bike and he loves giving candies to all of his friends. It also develops great one-handed cycling skills!
Scooter for a pre-schooler
Not quite ready for a bike? Don’t worry, a scooter is a bit less intimidating and you can even ride shotgun until they get the hang of it! A scooter is a cheap and convenient means of getting from A to B, and can easily be picked up and carried.
Scooters help to develop:
- Good balance and maneuvering – the ability to find a way through crowded streets
- Courtesy and good manners – on a crowded street, your kid will have to say excuse me quite a lot! And as scooters are not usually parked outside, they’ll have to learn to ask politely where they can park it when you’re in a café or a store.
- Problem solving and creativity- watch this guy washing his schooter in the cafe’s fontain:-)
My Tip: Get a cycling bell and a front light for your scooter. It will make your child’s life easier on crowded streets. Remember scooters have poor brakes and can pick up a lot of speed on hills, making it difficult to stop. Start off on flat surfaces by taking a spin around the local park. All of the thrills with none of the spills!
Skateboarding/Rollerblading for pre-schoolers
Skateboarding is the ideal crossover sport for other board sports like surfing, snowboarding and wakeboarding.
Skateboarding is ideal for:
- Conquering fears and taking calculated risks in a controlled environment
- Balance and coordination
- Striving to perfect a new trick or master a new terrain
- Building confidence and self-esteem
My tips: Keep it safe! A helmet, elbow and knee pads are something your child should never be without!
Tennis, Golf, Volleyball, Badminton, Table Tennis, Bowling etc.
All of these sports are great for developing your kid’s coordination and concentration, two skills they’ll really value in later life. But don’t try to turn your kid into the next Rafa Nadal or Tiger Woods; give them time to figure out what they enjoy doing the most. Give them the idea and some equipment – cheap plastic tennis rackets, a light golf club to play on the beach or at home, games of catch, plastic skittles etc.
You don’t have to break the bank to keep your kid endlessly entertained!
My tips: Keep it fun and short. Let them play for around an hour or so, then tell them to take a break. Activities like this require more concentration so they’ll need it!
Rope jumping, Chinese rope jumping and Hopscotch
Kids love showing their parents new things or tricks they’ve mastered and these activities are fantastic for that!
These rope jumping tricks are easy and fun to do:
Rope jumping develops:
- Coordination and motor skills
- Creativity and memory
You’ve seen the way your kids copy the moves of their favourite singers so why not learn a few cool moves yourself! Give Miley and Selena a run for their money and become your kid’s new idol! Here are some moves for the more advanced student!
Dance like nobody’s watching – that’s what I always do! Any time your favourite song comes on the radio, turn it up and get moving! Dancing is such a natural way to learn and a basic form of cultural expression.
- An understanding of how your body moves (better motor skills)
- Self-expression and creativity
- Social encounters, interaction and cooperation
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you can’t have missed the success of Gangnam Style – 1.5 billion views and half of those from kids I believe!
My tips: I use dancing to distract my son’s attention from something I don’t want him to do, like playing Minecraft. It’s not a bad game but once he starts, it’s hard to get him to stop! So I just put his favorite song on (loud!) and start dancing wildly around the room – he can’t help joining in so it works every time! After that, he’s too tired to argue…
If you want your kid to develop their social skills, there’s no better way than getting them involved in team sports. They learn how to win – and lose. A valuable lesson for life – everything won’t go your way every time!
Team sports promote:
- Coping with real-life victories and defeats
- Social skills – getting a team together, going over the rules, setting up a match etc.
My tips: Let your child watch various sports and then choose which one appeals to them. But you should stick around to set an example and settle any potentially volatile situations! Soon, you’ll be able to just leave them to it, as this behaviour will start to come naturally.
Phew. You must be exhausted after all that! Take a load off in a nice, cosy café. This way, instead of bustling about with pots and pans, you get to sit and relax with your child. I always carry a pocket chess set with me – it’s a great way to develop your child’s reasoning and concentration. In fact, my son has taken to it so well that I rarely win a game these days!
My tips: Find a family-friendly café near where you do your activities. Make it part of your routine to go there after a busy day. Your kid (and your feet) will thank you for it!
Fun activities and sports teach our kids that they can always improve and be better. Of course, they won’t realize that – they’ll be having too much fun!
Found any other ways to get active with your kid? At Walkingmama, we love hearing your tips and suggestions!