Physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Encouraging kids and teens to be active from a young age sets good habits early on and helps them develop the skills they need to stay active throughout their lives. The best way to get them started is to try out a few different sports, maybe they have a friend who already does karate or athletics who they could go along with and find out what it’s all about.
To find out about clubs in your area sites like Mums Net or the sport’s governing body are good places to start. Using sites like Change 4 Life gives other ideas on how to get children active each day. Walking or cycling to school can be a good way to get a little exercise and fresh air. Summer and Easter camps in various sports are available to go along and try.
As a mountain bike coach at Pedal 2 Pedal in Hampshire, I run mountain bike camps through the school holidays which give children aged 4+ the opportunity to try mountain biking, a sport that, unless they have cycling parents they probably will not come across. Getting kids on bikes has many benefits including;
- A very beneficial life-long activity which is less load bearing on growing bones
- All youngsters can successfully participate irrespective of ability
- Opportunities for youngsters to join a local club, to further develop their skills and make new friends through a healthy activity, either socially or competitively
- Cycling is an excellent cardiovascular sport
- Cycling improves muscle strength and contributes to a healthy lifestyle
- Enhanced flexibility and joint mobility
- Cycling helps improves balance and coordination
- Improved spatial awareness, concentration and independence
- You can go as a family out for the day with little cost involved
As a coach, I make sure in every session each child has the opportunity to get some feedback and one to one attention from me. It is important that even in a group setting that no child gets forgotten because they don’t speak out and don’t make a fuss if it goes wrong. I pick out the positive points from each session to give them a sense of achievement so they leave feeling positive and excited about the next session.
I also like to set little challenges for the time between each session; this keeps them on their bikes during the week until our next session. As children need an hours exercise a day if they have a goal to reach for the next week they are far more likely to get up of their own accord and go ride around their garden or ask if they can go biking at the weekend.
Whether your son or daughter is competitive or just likes going to clubs to be social the benefits include:
- They enjoy what they are doing
- Learning about leading a healthy lifestyle
- Challenge their energy into something constructive
- Learn new skills which will help them as they grow
Keeping children interested can be difficult, to say the least. The approach is different for every child and will depend on what they are driven by. Some are super competitive so taking them to kid’s races, or matches will keep them enthusiastic and will also teach them about winning and losing and sportsmanship which are key skills for later life. If they are not competitive it’s a matter of finding out what drives them, talk to them about what they enjoy and then motivate them towards wanting to do more of that.
It’s important to remember we all have off days and sometimes they won’t want to go swimming or will have made plans with a friend at school to have a play date on an evening when usually they are at bike club and that is okay too. If children feel good about exercise they are far more willing to get up and go for it than if they feel I am doing this because my parents say I have to be there!
Good luck on the journey.
You can see more from Hannah here:
And if it's of interest, a parent of a kid Hannah coaches wrote a blog about Kids and Racing: http://beyondthemud.co.uk/2017/06/08/guest-post-steve-weeks-dad-james-raced-southern-xc-last-weekend/