According to the NHS, we should be keeping children active for a minimum of 60 minutes every day – and while they’re bound to get some activity in during their school day, it’s unlikely to make up the full hour.
Physical activity is important for children of all ages, with a host of physical and mental benefits. Physically, exercise helps children strengthen muscles and bones, maintain a healthy weight, and sleep better. Mentally, being fit can lead to better concentration, reduced stress, higher self-esteem, more confidence, and improved social skills.
Luckily, lots of fun and easy ways to help get children moving are simple for any parent or foster carer to manage! Check out these eight tips to help you encourage your child to be more active.
How can we encourage children to be more active?
1. Play sports with them.
School sports and after-school activities are great, but since they don’t always add up to enough exercise on their own, you can bolster your foster child’s activity level by helping them practice.
Alternatively, take up a sport or game that the family can do together, like frisbee, cycling, or rock climbing.
2. Prioritize time for exercise.
Many children have a lot on their plates with schoolwork and after-school activities, so it’s key to set time aside for exercise.
With younger children, make sure they have time every day to run around and explore – most youngsters will get enough exercise just by being their curious selves.
If you’ve got a teenager (or your child isn’t naturally energetic), structure their time to include physical activity every day.
3. Get fit as a family.
Show how fun and beneficial exercise can be by keeping fit yourself. If you struggle to get enough exercise in your life, then make getting fit a goal for the whole family.
If you’ve got teens, try starting a family exercise group using a training app like Strava, or signing up for exercise classes together. For younger children, encourage activity by setting a goal for the whole family – such as completing a long bike ride or hiking a local mountain – and then train together to reach your goal.
4. Choose active toys and provide a safe environment for play.
This is particularly important during busy times of the year when you might not be able to oversee your child’s activity as much as you want.
If you have a garden, make sure it’s clear of any dangers and provide plenty of outdoor toys. If outside space is hard to come by, try making a dedicated area in the house where your child can be more physical and stock it with active toys like play tunnels, mini trampolines, and movement games like juggling and Twister.
5. Use technology wisely.
Limit recreational screen time to 1-2 hours a day to keep it from becoming a bad habit.
Instead, harness technology to help get your foster child active. On top of traditional training favourites like Strava and Nike Run, lots of apps get children moving, like the UNICEF Kid Power app that pairs with a wrist tracker, or Fitness Kids that lets children compete against one another alongside animated videos.
6. Go exploring.
Take walks or bike rides as a family. Find new neighbourhoods and parks to explore, or try using scavenger hunts and colour walks to keep your child engaged.
An easy scavenger hunt is to find one item beginning with every letter of the alphabet, while colour walks see you looking for each colour of the rainbow in turn and letting what you find dictate your route.
7. Have a dance party.
Dance parties are a great way to get active when getting outside isn’t much of an option. Put on some music and get grooving! Silly outfits and dance battles can help keep children interested -or challenge yourselves to learn a dance routine together.
8. Embrace their competitive nature.
A lot of children are naturally competitive. Try activities that test your foster child’s speed or endurance, like races.
Family sports days can also be fun – get your child to help plan activities, and invite a few friends to join and play as teams, or make it everyone for themselves. Add in some silly prizes and you have the makings of a great – and active – day!
For more tips on staying healthy, including activities for disabled children and children’s sports in your area, visit the NHS’s Change 4 Life.
Bring more life into your home by welcoming a child in need! If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent, get in touch to find out more about fostering with Compass.