Start Where They Are
After years of working with children, including those with mobility challenges, I can say without a doubt one of the biggest mistakes we as adults make when getting “our” kids moving is pushing them too hard too fast. If your child is new to physical activity or appears to have challenges with physical activity respect that.
Pay close attention to what they enjoy and for how long. Children will often show enthusiasm for an activity and then will get moody or complain. If we pay attention to when this happens we can adapt. For example if you go for a walk 3 times and notice that at 20 minutes consistently your child starts to complain and get moody, you now know their tolerance. At this point you can make an informed choice. In this example my suggestion would be to time your walks to slightly shorter than the length of time you’ve taken notice of them getting cranky. Bare with me on this. As humans we have a desire to repeat activities that bring us joy, and a positive feeling whether that is mentally or physically. And we avoid activities that bring us discomfort. So if we repeatedly push a child beyond their comfort zone with physical activity guess what they may develop a negative association to? And guess what they may begin avoiding? In this example it will be going for walks with the family but this applies to any introduction to physical activity.
So how do we get them walking further/exercising more, because obviously the goal is to build up endurance and make physical activity less of a chore. The example I’m using here is a walk but it can be applied to any activity. So here’s what we do. We repeat the activity at least a couple times a week. After a couple weeks they will have (in most cases) built up some stamina. When you notice the walks are flowing easily this is now a good time to increase the length of the walk or add another activity. We want to add in small increments so your child doesn’t or barely notices. I would suggest 5 minute increments at a time (depending on your child’s abilities). Remember we are trying to add increments with out adding discomfort or negative association.
The last point I will make with todays blog is that what ever activity you chose to do with your child, it ideally would feel natural and enjoyable to you or who ever is taking part in it with your child. Be conscious of being in a positive mood when engaging in the activity with your child. If the activity becomes associated with a negative mood or battles it’s no longer fun for the child and our positive association with the activity may fade. Along these lines, make the walk/activity a time to engage, talk, share or simply enjoy the company of your child. This creates another positive association with physical activity.
The best way to get the kids in your life moving is to create as many positive associations with physical activity as possible.
When in doubt ask an expert. Rmt4kids has been working with children of all abilities for many many years. We’re here to help.