by Rachelle Lipschultz
Last month’s issue of the e-zine focused on cooking with children. Cooking your own food is a wonderful activity which can go a long way toward promoting lifelong healthy habits in your children. But as we all know, healthy eating by itself is not enough—it needs to be paired with exercise in order for us to reap its full benefits. This month, we are fortunate to have a guest author providing advice on how to get your child into the exercise habit. Professor Matt Yeazel is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Anne Arundel Community College. He is a licensed clinical social worker whose previous positions have included working with the Anne Arundel County Department of Health providing services to children and adolescents. He also consults with the Family Outreach Network for bilingual parent education programs.
If you’d like to learn more about how to promote healthy exercise habits in children, we encourage you to attend two of our non-credit courses, “Designing Family Play Spaces for Children" and “Successful Coaching Strategies for Parents.” Since play and sports are two of the primary ways that children get their exercise, it is important for parents to be able to promote these activities without placing undue pressure on children. Details about these, as well as all of our other courses and public service programs, may be found on our fall brochure
. We hope to see you soon!
HOW DO I GET MY CHILD TO EXERCISE?
by Matt Yeazel, LCSW-C
It’s Saturday and a beautiful day outside—the perfect day for a child to go outside and get some exercise, right? Not so fast—though YOU may think it is, your child may think exercise is a combination of eating vegetables and doing homework all rolled into one. How do you motivate a child who isn't motivated about exercise and physical activity? Here are some thoughts:
Determine if your child has thought about exercising. Many children haven't even considered how exercising might be important for them. A child who is very active will respond to a different type of motivating reminder than a child who hasn't even thought about how exercise can help them. Just telling your child that exercise is important will not get them to exercise, unless they also understand why it is important.
Find activities that your child may enjoy. Though it might seem obvious, many parents pick activities that THEY would like to do. Not every child wants to play organized sports. In fact, many do not. Sometimes it’s because it is a new experience and it takes time to get used to the game, but other times it is because they are put into a situation where their peers are evaluating how "good" or "bad" they are at that sport. There are other ways to get exercise. Taking the family dog for a long walk each day (length depending on the age of your child) can be a fantastic source of exercise, for example. Studies say that people should exercise at least three times a week—your child would be ahead of the game here!
Brainstorm with your children about what they would like to do. Avoid forcing your child to do any specific type of exercise: Ordering a child to run around the block won't work unless he WANTS to do it. The research is very clear—if your child has found something he likes to do, he’ll do it. Taking your child to view new and interesting ways of exercising can be a great way to broaden your child’s horizons and introduce her to new ways to get exercise.
Find activities that your child feels capable of doing. Don't misunderstand this statement—it’s OK to encourage children to become better at things that they feel they are not "good" at, but it’s also important to remember that they have to feel capable of performing that type of physical activity in the first place. Having a good idea of both of these things will increase your awareness of what your child thinks about themselves. You'll know how you can help them grow in addition to what exercise they enjoy.
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