Getting Sports-Averse Kids Moving
Playing a sport isn’t the only way for kids to exercise.
Some kids take off running with their first steps. They’re climbing things and riding things and bouncing around, making the most of every opportunity to move their bodies. Parents of those kids typically worry about broken bones and scraped knees. And those naturally active kids often go on to sign up for organized sports, which have their own built-in exercise regimens. Practice three times a week plus a game on the weekends, sometimes multiplied by multiple sports. Parents find themselves more worried about rotator cuff injuries and getting enough electrolytes than “is my kid getting enough exercise?”
But not every kid is wired for that level of activity. Some kids would rather curl up with a good book or play a board game with a pal. Some kids hate the competitiveness of most youth sports, and some have trouble with the social aspects of group activities. Some kids don’t live in a place where it’s safe or easy to play outside, and some kids are naturally more risk-averse, shying away from activities where they sense they could get hurt.
Thankfully, signing a kid up for soccer isn’t the only way to make sure they’re engaged in healthy movement. But finding alternatives for the non-sporty kid may take a little more effort and creativity. Here are some things that have worked for my sensitive, sports-allergic son.
- Make sure movement doesn’t feel like medicine. We all know that for some kids, mandated reading logs can kill their love of reading. Same goes for exercise. If it feels prescriptive, or worse — like punishment, kids get the wrong message. We move because we love our bodies and want to care for them. Keep the messaging positive, and try to stay away from punitive language.
- Model lifelong movement habits. If you’d like your child to grow up to have a healthy relationship to exercise, make sure you’re practicing the same for yourself. Too many of us use exercise to punish ourselves for indulgent eating, and our kids see this and pick up our unhealthy habits of mind. Make sure your kid sees you finding joy in daily movement, and tending to your body’s needs respectfully and mindfully. Include your kids in your activities whenever possible, whether it’s a daily walk…