Kids who are 6 to 12 years old need physical activity to build strength, coordination, confidence, and to lay the groundwork for a healthy lifestyle down the road. It's also a time when kids gain more control over how active they are.
So it's important to give your school-age child as many opportunities as possible to be active, and to make sure your child is involved in a variety of activities, sports, and games that are a good fit for his or her personality, ability, age and interests. Brainstorm together and let your child choose the activities that feels right. Typically kids won't mind a daily dose of fitness, as long as it's fun.
The National Association for Sports and Physical Education recommends that school age children:
get 60 minutes or more of physical activity every day
accumulate activity throughout the day which can broken down into bouts of 15 minutes or more
avoid periods of inactivity of 2 hours or more
Fitness at Home
parents and kids think of organized sports when they think of fitness. Though
there are many advantages to signing your child up for the softball team,
practice and games once or twice a week will not be enough to reach activity
goals. In addition, parents can no longer rely on physical education in the
schools to provide enough physical activity for children.
Incorporate physical activity into the daily routine. From household chores to an after dinner walk, keep your family active every day.
Allow enough time for free play. Kids can burn more calories and have more fun when left to their own devices. Playing tag, riding bikes around the neighborhood, and building snowmen are some favorite childhood pastimes.
Keep a variety of games and sports equipment on hand. It doesn't have to be expensive - an assortment of balls, hula-hoops, and jump ropes can keep kids busy for hours.
Be active together. It'll get you moving and kids love to play with their parents.
Limit time spent in sedentary activities, such as watching TV, going online, and playing video games.
When you have exhausted the possibilities at home, take advantage of local playgrounds and athletic fields. Make family fitness outings part of your regular routine. Let family members choose an activity - go hiking, ice skating, or try-out the rock-climbing gym. Anything goes, as long as everyone can participate.
Part of helping your child commit to fitness includes being a positive role model by showing your child that exercise is important by regularly exercising on yourself.
Fitness for My Child
As you're thinking about your child's fitness, it's important to keep in mind your child's age and developmental level, natural abilities, and interests. Through physical activities, kids can learn about setting goals, meeting challenges, sportsmanship, teamwork, and the value of practice.
Between the ages of 6 and 8, kids are sharpening their basic physical skills like jumping, throwing, kicking, and catching. Some kids enjoy doing this in organized sports teams, but non-competitive leagues are the best choice for younger kids. Coaching your child's team or cheering from the stands on game days are ways you can show your support.
Kids who are 9 to 12 years old are refining, improving, and coordinating their skills. It's a time when a child's commitment to a sport may be reaffirmed, while other kids may drop out as competition heats up and level of play improves. It's okay if your child is not interested in traditional sports, but it's important to find alternative ways to be active.
If your child doesn't like soccer, basketball, or other team sports, explore other options and encourage your child to be creative. There are plenty of fun and challenging activities that your child might like more: karate, fencing, golf, bicycling, skateboarding, and tennis to name just a few.
I'm Concerned About My Child's
If your child refuses to play or interact with peers, or complains of pain during activity, it's a good idea to talk with your child's doctor. Kids who participate in sports are at risk for injuries, so be sure your child wears the appropriate protective equipment, such as a helmet and protective pads when roller-blading. Kids who specialize in one sport are also at risk of overuse injuries, including stress fractures and joint injuries.
A child with a chronic health condition or disability should not be excluded from fitness activities. Some activities may need to be modified or adapted, and some may be too risky depending on your child's condition. Consult your child's doctor about which activities are safe for your child.
Kids who enjoy sports and exercise tend to stay active throughout their lives. And staying fit can help improve self-esteem, help maintain a healthy weight, and decrease the risk of serious illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.