The importance of improving fitness skills cannot be underestimated. Many children with low levels of interest in physical activity are often found to have decreased self-confidence. The American Heart Association has shown that physically active children show improvements in a wide variety of measures of psychological well-being, including self-esteem.
A vicious cycle can easily be established as both physical activity and self-confidence decline. A child may feel inadequate when he thinks that he is unable to keep up with his peers and may avoid “play” situations. The child may find ways to compensate for lower skill level by staying indoors when possible, creating fictitious injuries, offering to be the game’s referee, or walking around the perimeter of the activity.
How can parents encourage their children to be physically fit? Make physical activities and games FUN! The key to successful participation is creativity and positive reinforcement as well as scheduling a regular time during the week as “family playtime.”
Try the following fun activities:
• Celebrate the nice weather and play balloon toss. Balloons can be filled with air or water. Or, toss different sized or textured balls or other soft objects. If you are playing outside, try using a wet sponge.
• Design your own obstacle course using household items such as sheets, empty boxes, chairs and sticks that can create tunnels, hurdles and mazes. Create teams – parents versus kids or sibling versus sibling.
• Create your own music videos. Ask family members to raid their closets and create costumes. Next, blare (or sing) your favorite songs and use a video camera to film your adaptations. Plan a family movie night to watch your music video debuts or upload your videos to You Tube.
• Play baseball using a homemade bat. Wash and dry an empty 2-liter bottle. To make the bat more durable, use an18-inch wooden rod or a stick. Place the rod in bottle and duct tape the remaining portion of the rod to the bottle opening. Use with Wiffle balls, wadded socks, crumpled paper – anything you can imagine!
With an integrated, team-building approach, parents, grandparents and children can create fun, recreational games that also increase self-esteem. As a solid base of skills is built, the child who once avoided risk now has the comfort level and confidence to try new activities – and take on new challenges. With this paradigm shift, the child can enjoy the physical exertion and camaraderie of team play and continue to progress physically, psychologically and socially.
By Marc Sickel, a certified athletic trainer and founder of Fitness for Health located in Rockville, MD, specializes in creating fun, individualized fitness programs for children and adults with varying needs and skill levels.
Featured image courtesy of [photostock] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net