How to Inspire a Love of Movement from an Early Age

Nurturing a lifelong love of movement and physical activity in children is a goal of many parents and caregivers. Unfortunately, less than 24% of American children ages 6 to 17 get 60 minutes of physical activity daily, which is the recommended amount for kids (1Trusted Source).

The good news? When children develop a love for something like movement early on, it usually sticks with them for life. To ensure your child gets enough exercise as they get older, you need to set a foundation for a lifelong appreciation for movement in their early years.

Read on to discover how a love of movement starts at home, get ideas for inspiring young kids to get moving and enjoy it, and learn why physically active children grow up to be active adults.

The love of movement starts at home
The foundation you set with young children is critical to their overall health.

Denise Woodall-Ruff, MD, Pediatrician, and Director of the Healthy Weight & Wellness Center at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, says that children model the actions of their parents and other major role models in their lives when it comes to a multitude of lifestyle behaviors, including physical activity and fitness habits.

“A child that observes a parent or role model engage in a healthy level of physical activity is more likely to accept these behaviors for themselves,” she says. “Similarly, a child that observes their caregiver sit on the couch for prolonged periods and engage in sedentary behaviors is more likely to accept these behaviors as their norm,” adds Woodall-Ruff.

Natasha Trentacosta, MD, Pediatric and Adult Sports Medicine Specialist and Orthopedic Surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, agrees. “Parents, caregivers, and educators are role models for young children, as kids look up to these people to set an example of how to navigate life,” she says.

“Children who regularly see their parents partaking in sports and fitness activities are more likely to do it themselves — this is especially true now as screen time is increasing among young children and physical activity is decreasing,” says Trentacosta. Establishing healthy habits early in life will stay with them as they grow.

Inspiring a love of movement at a young age starts at home. Modeling and talking about healthy behaviors, engaging in physical activity with your kids, and encouraging physical activity each day can help foster an early love of movement.

How to inspire a love of movement
The key to inspiring a love of movement from an early age is to keep the focus on having fun. Just like adults, kids are less likely to get excited about something they don’t enjoy. Plus, if they’re having fun, they’ll probably want more of it, which gives them time to practice skills and improve their abilities.

“Every child is unique, and some gravitate toward exercise and physical activity more than others,” says John Gallucci Jr., DPT, ATC, and CEO of JAG-ONE Physical Therapy.

That’s why it’s essential to find activities that your child enjoys and turn them into activities that encourage them to move more. “Children, especially young kids, should not feel as if exercise is a chore,” says Gallucci.

As kids get older and more involved in organized sports, keep in mind that some kids love structured sports and competition, but many others do not. Keep a broader definition of movement that includes walks with the family, dancing in the living room, tree climbing, yoga, or any other things they enjoy.

Getting kids interested in movement and physical activity at a young age increases the likelihood that they’ll reap all of their benefits sooner, and their interest in exercise will likely continue to build as they grow.

Exercise and movement should not be a chore. Parents and caregivers need to keep the focus on having fun and encouraging kids to participate in activities they enjoy.

Tips for getting started
Providing opportunities for movement each day is critical for your child’s physical, mental, and emotional development. It also helps set the stage for active participation in fitness activities as an adult.

Here are 12 tips to help you inspire a love of movement from an early age.

Make sure the activity is age-appropriate
Asking a 3-year-old to participate in a family game of badminton might not be the best way to encourage movement. However, lowering the net and giving them a preschool-size racket with a large ball increases success and improves the fun factor.

Focus on motor skills
Developing gross motor skills is critical for children, especially preschoolers. These skills help kids with balance, strength, coordination, and reaction time (2Trusted Source).

If you have toddlers and preschool-age kids, keep activities centered around kicking or throwing a ball, hopping, climbing, obstacle courses, or riding a trike or bike with training wheels.

Be sure they wear helmets and other protective gear when riding bikes, and adequately supervise them when they’re climbing or using moving toys or devices.

Make active toys available
When choosing indoor and outdoor toys, include items that require active play, such as balls for young children and bikes and scooters for older kids. Climbing toys are an excellent choice for toddlers, preschool, and school-age children, just make sure they are age-appropriate.

Aim for more active toys than passive toys at home. When your child asks for a new toy, have them donate a passive toy in exchange for a new active toy. This tips the scales in favor of movement and teaches them that less is more.

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