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Helping Our Kids Become More Active

Written by Christine Jordan, EdS, LMFT 

Years ago, kids were more active. Playing outside was more fun than being inside. And a parent’s biggest problem was getting kids to come in for dinner. Now we have different challenges. Screens and electronics make being inside more appealing. Concerns about your child’s weight may add to your worries. In the end, we want our kids to develop healthy relationships with their bodies and enjoy moving. So, how do we help our children be active? 

Know your job as a parent

Ellyn Satter, a registered dietitian and family therapist, leads families to better health. She pioneered a powerful concept called the division of responsibility. This concept teaches parents how to support – rather than push – kids to be active. 

The parent’s responsibility is to provide structure, safety and opportunities for activity. You offer structure when you create family time to be active and play. Providing safe places (inside and outside) to play encourages kids to enjoy moving. This may mean being okay with some commotion in the house or playing with your kids at the park. Helping kids explore a variety of activities gives them opportunities to find what fits their personalities and bodies. Your child may love organized sports or find that playing basketball in the driveway is the most fun. Your job is supporting and encouraging your kids to enjoy moving. 

Trust your child

Trust that your child will find ways to be active and enjoy moving. Let your kid choose how hard to play basketball or how fast to bike ride. No worries if your daughter sits in the grass looking for a four-leaf clover. You are doing your job by being outside with her. When parents do their job, kids eventually find ways to be active. 

Avoid agendas

You may want your child to lose weight or develop a certain skill. However, agendas can make activity less fun. Support kids in ways that help them discover how they like to be active. Encourage your kids to move because they enjoy it, not because moving burns calories. Soccer may have been your childhood passion. However, your kids may discover an entirely different passion. Again, trust that your child – with your support – will naturally find ways to be active. 

Crowd out sedentary activity

Less access to screens and electronics helps kids be more active. Find time to play with your kids and explore ways to play as a family. Brainstorm as a family different playtime ideas. Remember that playing together does not always need to be active. Board games and cards are great ways to begin playing as a family. 

This article was written by staff who are apart of Brenner FIT (Families in Training). Brenner FIT is a pediatric weight management program at Brenner Children’s Hospital that helps families create healthier lifestyles together. Brenner FIT offers free cooking, nutrition and parenting classes. Visit BrennerChildrens.org/BrennerFit for our current class listing.