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Exercising For Life

Dear Debi,
I’m concerned that my 4 yr. old daughter doesn’t show any interest in exercising. Where do I start to get her motivated?
Tammy Mother of 3
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day
  • Plan physical activities that will keep kids interested
  • Be a good role model
Expert Advice
Karla Melendez
Karla Melendez
Health educator, Kaiser Permanente
It’s great that Tammy is concerned and that she is paying attention to the things that she thinks her daughter should be doing at this age. I don’t think there’s any need for worry at this point because the child is still young.

I would start by talking to your child and finding out what activity interests him or her. You can take them to a toy store and find out what kinds of outdoor toys interest them. Every child is different as far as what they would like to play with. You may try something new and find that they’re not interested, so try something else. Keep trying until you find whatever it is that works for them. Make sure that you’re doing it with them as well, because when you spend time with your child, not only is it good bonding time, but it enables you to be a good role model. You can’t tell your child to exercise if you’re always sitting on the couch. They learn by example and by watching you and if they see that you’re active in your life, they’ll be active because they’re going to want to be active with you.

There are lots of activities parents and providers can do with their kids. It can be something as simple as cleaning house. Give them a dust brush and pan or a Swiffer duster and you can put some music on and race to see who can clean up the fastest. In my house, we just put music on and we dance and we have little recitals. Going for a walk in your neighborhood is another great way to exercise while getting to know your neighbors.

There are plenty of fun activities kids can do on their own, too. They can do imaginary baseball, play with hula hoops. If they have basketballs, they can shoot hoops. They can dance on their own, do yoga or exercise with videos. It depends on whether or not they have a backyard at home but even if they don’t, they can march in place or come up with a dance routine.

It’s extremely important to maintain a regular routine, especially with preschoolers, because they get bored so easily. Having them do physical activity is a great way to keep them entertained and keep their minds busy. If you can get them to focus for 10 minutes, it’s great. When we say 60 minutes a day, people think “How am I going to get my child to exercise for an hour?” They don’t have to do a full hour all at once – I don’t think anyone can get a kid to do that. Ten minutes here and there throughout a day really adds up.
Child Care provider Comments
Letycia Gomez
Letycia Gomez
Mother of Two
Sometimes I think that as adults we don’t feel like exercising because it’s not fun, it feels like more of a chore. So maybe by trying to make it fun we can model the behavior. We’ll do things like take the dog for a walk—that way we spend time together. I try to encourage activities and movements that they seem to be interested in. For example, Diego has been playing a game that he calls “Crabs and Sharks” where he squats, pretending he’s a crab, and has to keep away from the “sharks.” He just recently learned this game and really seems to enjoy it.
Clarissa August
Clarissa August
Family child care provider for 21 years
You have to find something that kids are interested in. Outdoor play is so important for kids. There are so many great options for exercising outside. There are 2 types of outdoor activities that we do: structured and non-structured. A structured activity is one where I’ll lead or my daughter will lead and do something like play parachute or dance the hokey pokey and the non-structured are the ones where the kids go from activity to activity and do whatever they want, like ride their bikes.
Verdis Ferraro
Verdis Ferraro
Child care provider for 23 years
I make exercise part of my daily life because I enjoy it. I love to help the kids move through play because it’s fun. Once in a while, I’ll get a child who will want to just withdraw into their shell and I try to find something that interests them and makes movement fun for them. Sometimes kids will sit out because they’re shy or because they think it’s “stupid.” This tends to happen with a lot of the boys, so instead of telling them to dance like a rainbow, we’ll move like alligators instead. It takes a certain amount of observation to see what’s going to pique each child’s interest. I try to introduce an activity by being enthusiastic and excited about it.

Indoor Marching Game Featured Activity:
Indoor Marching Game
Outdoor Hike Featured Video:
Outdoor Hike
Topic: Health & Safety
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