With the recent pandemic, a lot of us have shifted to more of a sedentary lifestyle—and this applies to our children too! With a sedentary lifestyle, we tend to lose strength, flexibility, and endurance. As adults, we will likely recognize this as we try to jump back into a workout routine or attempt to chase little ones around the park. With our children, we may see a decline in endurance and strength when they aren’t able to keep up with their peers.
They may lag behind or take more self-selected breaks when playing with their peers around the neighborhood or at the park. They may also choose to sit out on activities that may be challenging or more difficult. The following are some tips and tricks to try when you notice your child may not be keeping up with their peers:
1. Encourage more regular activity in your everyday routine
Try to think of little ways to fit more activity into your daily routines. If feasible, you could walk to school or the park instead of driving. You could park a little bit farther away from the store or choose to take the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator. Try setting up a hopscotch on your way into the house so that your child can complete some hopping and jumping while heading inside.
2. Make exercise a family affair
The best way to encourage an active routine in a child is to involve the whole family. Think about taking family bike rides, hikes, or evening walks. Consider setting up friendly fitness competitions: a jump rope contest, a balance contest, skipping races, animal walk races, etc. Establishing an early relationship with fitness within the home will set your child up for a good relationship with regular physical fitness throughout their life.
3. Add some exercise into your child’s favorite games/activities
When playing with a puzzle, you could place the pieces at the top of the stairs and the board at the bottom. This will encourage your child to climb the stairs to get a new piece for the puzzle. When playing with crayons or legos, you could place them on the ground below the table so that your child must squat down to retrieve a new crayon color or a new lego piece. You can also make a game out of having your child balance on one leg while brushing teeth or washing hands.
4. Take advantage of your local park district
Many local park districts have some great programming available for children. There are swim lessons, dance classes, sports leagues, and open gyms. These can promote an early appreciation for regular physical fitness and sportsmanship. Typically, park districts will have different offerings during each season, so your child could try a few different activities and then pick their favorite. The best activity for your child is one that they enjoy.
5. Get outside
I think one of the good things that came from the pandemic was a newfound appreciation for the outdoors. When we were confined to our homes and then told that it was OK to congregate socially distanced outdoors, we suddenly became more comfortable being outside in 30-degree temperatures. I hope we keep up that comfort and continue to get outdoors, even when we’ve safely returned to all our indoor activities. Regardless of the temperature, you can dress accordingly to take walks and play outside.
If the above recommendations don’t seem to be cutting it, talk to your pediatrician. Your child may benefit from a formal physical therapy evaluation. If warranted, your physical therapist will take a close look into your child’s strengths and opportunities for improvement. You will then receive an individualized home program that includes recommendations tailored to your child.