My son tells me that his two favorite days of the week are Mondays and Fridays. Fridays because it’s the end of the school week, and he has no homework. Mondays because he has P.E. class.
That’s when I pause and recognize one of the biggest differences between my son and I. As a kid, I detested P.E. Back in elementary school, physical education was not a regular occurrence and was conducted by our general classroom teacher. Sometimes it was promised to our class as a reward for good behavior. Other times it was used as a punishment as a result for bad behavior.
But my son is fortunate to attend a Los Angeles public school that has multiple P.E. coaches. Which means if one coach is absent, another is there to make sure class isn’t missed. And his coaches are doing a good job of making physical activity fun, social, and accessible to all students.
So, what can you do at home if your child doesn’t have regular P.E. time at school? Or, if your child doesn’t like P.E.? How do you get your child to view physical activity as something fun and not a chore?
Here are a few suggestions:
- Vary it. Being physically active, doesn’t have to mean you and your kids are engaging in the same activity each time. As long as your kids are moving, and their heart rate is going up, it counts. Gardening, vacuuming, and washing the car are often chores for adults. But for kids (young kids especially), they provide the opportunity to get dirty, to get wet, and make some noise.
- Let kids choose. Don’t dictate what the physical activity must be. Let your kids choose. Swinging at the park, playing basketball, bike rides, relay races in the backyard. Remember it’s not necessarily what is fun for you, but fun for your child. You get the bonus of spending time with your child and watching your child enjoy themselves.
- Make it accessible. In our house, my son can get to his own bike and helmet. There’s a basket of balls by the back door. A basketball hoop our son can drag outside. A plastic tub outside with bubbles, a frisbee, and a football. If it’s a hassle to get to, it’s more likely your kids won’t bother.
- Turn on the music. Our family calls it a “dance party.” Sometimes we all dance our own steps. Sometimes my son is the choreographer, and my husband and I do our best to keep up. Let your child hear some of your favorite dance tunes. Our six-year-old loves Kenny Loggins’s “Footloose,” all things Michael Jackson, and Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” to name a few.
- Practice what you preach. Helmets for your child when he rides, and helmets for you too. The cement is just as hard on your head as it is for your child. Make sure your entire family has all the necessary protective gear.
- Video games count. Think Wii Sports (our family loves bowling!) and sports on Xbox Kinect.
- Make it routine and commonplace. Physical activity should be as regular as toothbrushing. My son knows that on “good weather days” we have “outside time.” Sometimes it’s just a short walk near our home. Sometimes it’s the nearby playground. Sometimes, it’s just watering the plants. Remember, we won’t always be serving our family gourmet meals but we’re still feeding them. Same thing with physical activity. It doesn’t always have to be a high-maintenance, big time investment.