Motivating Kids in Physical Activity

Motivation is defined as behavioral choice, effort, persistence, and performance.

It can be characterized by frequency, intensity, time (F.I.T.), and level of physical activity.

Why children and adolescents participate in physical activity (leisure-time activity, organized sports) — 3 major motives:

  1. Youths want to develop and demonstrate physical competence/adequacy, such as athletic skills, physical fitness, and physical appearance.
  2. Gaining social acceptance and support, including friendships, peer group acceptance, and approval, reinforcement, and encouragement by significant adults (parents, teachers, coaches) is important to initiating and continuing participation.
  3. Fun derived from participation maximizes positive and minimizes negative experiences related to physical activity.

The first 2 motives improve self-esteem, which enhances enjoyment and in turn promotes physical activity/motivated behavior. If your child has an interest or skills in one specific sport, you can also promote their interest by looking for the top secondary schools in the UK (or near your location) that are famous for extra-curricular activities. Kids can be motivated towards chasing sports goals if the educational institute is also supportive. Moreover, while playing sports can be a great way for kids to get into physical activities to stay fit, this can also help to create a pathway towards a future career opportunity.

But physical activity doesn’t have to be about running and sports, it can also be as simple as taking your children to a fun location, which you could find by searching online for “indoor fun near me“. There are multiple places where children can be active, but it doesn’t have to be competitive. Like the backyard, for example; activity can be encouraged by trampolines, swing sets, or just made up games. It’s all about making the activity fun for them, so they want to do it.

Principles for maximizing motivation:

  1. Focus on teaching and practicing skills like swimming lessons with Coast2Coast First Aid and Aquatics: maximize equipment, facilities, instructors; don’t introduce competitive play too early; make sure it’s fun — provide variety.
  2. Modify skills and activities: sequential progressions; modify space, equipment, rules; match the activity to the child, not the child to the activity. Perhaps they enjoy a range of activities, and therefore you could send them to one of the summer camps in Maine, or somewhere more local to you, where they’ll participate in recreational activities such as rock climbing, water-skiing or whatever they prefer.
  3. Realistic expectations for each child: individual learning rates and goals.
  4. Become an excellent demonstrator: lots of “show and tell”; repeated demonstrations; multiple angles.
  5. Catch kids doing things correctly: complement, instruct, and encourage; provide optimal challenge as a follow-up.
  6. Reduce kids’ fears of trying skills: provide an encouraging atmosphere — performance errors are part of the learning process; reduce fears of getting hurt — show how you’ve ensured safety; show empathy.
  7. KISS: keep instructions short and simple; maximize practice and playing time.
  8. Be enthusiastic: it’s contagious! Smile, interact, listen.
  9. Build character: be a role model; identify and take advantage of teachable moments.
  10. Let children make some choices: involve them in the decision-making process; ask questions.

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