Gemma McCaw: How to kick-start your youngsters’ love of the outdoors

Encouraging growth is a great start.

Whenever I ask parents what they want for their kids, the top answers are always health and happiness.

Leading active lives and having positive experiences with physical activity helps to foster a lifelong involvement in sport. Not only are there many physical benefits to this, but it also encourages social development and helps to build character. It is the perfect avenue for children to learn about challenges, and dealing with the highs and lows of winning and losing.

Physical activity also boosts self-esteem, improves sleep, increases alertness and helps to create a positive outlook on life. It’s time to get out there!

Limit screen time

Most of us didn’t grow up surrounded by screens, but times have changed. How about putting some holiday rules in place so the kids are spending less time indoors on their devices and far more time outside? Create a list of fun, outdoorsy things you can all do together and tick them off as the weeks go by.

Monkey see, monkey do

If you want kids to get on board, you must practise what you preach. Don’t ask them to do anything you would not be willing to do yourself. Let them see you engaging in physical activity and model the behaviour you want reflected back – this includes how much time you spend in front of screens.

Praise their efforts, not their skills

Use words that show you understand the effort your child is putting in. Feedback such as, “Wow, you worked really hard for that,” or, “I could see you were really trying,” encourage growth.

Try not to use labels that could be taken as judgment, such as “fast”, “smart” or “better”.

Comparing your children to others is never helpful. Some kids don’t view themselves as athletic, so it is important to praise them in a way that builds their confidence.

Support their interests

Try to support your child in whatever activity they choose. It may not be your first choice or what you happen to be interested in, but your support will mean the world to them and encourage them to stay involved. Remember that physical pursuits don’t have to be structured – some of the best activities are things like water fights, riding bikes or days spent swimming!

Start small

If your kids or teens are daunted by the prospect of a big hike or bike ride, start small. It’s easy to lose motivation if we try to do too much too soon. A scoot around the block or a runaround at the playground is a great

way to start.

Where’s the focus?

When you talk to kids about the importance of exercise, try not to mention their weight or staying in shape. Instead, focus on the fact that leading healthy lives helps our bodies to function well and makes us feel great. Body image shouldn’t be on kids’ minds – it’s about getting out there and having fun.

Join in the fun

The best things you can give your children are time and attention. Whether that means heading out for a walk, a bike ride or even spending the day at the beach, quality time together is the best way to encourage movement. Making it fun, rather than a chore, is key! There are so many beautiful places to explore, swim and discover in New Zealand, especially during summer. But staying at home is no excuse for staying still – you can’t beat a fun-filled scavenger hunt or playing catch in the backyard.

Walk the dog

A family dog is a great excuse to get outdoors and get physical. If you don’t have a furry pal of your own, perhaps befriend a neighbour’s and offer to take it for walks during the school holidays.

Phone a friend

Kids love spending time with their friends, so organise to take them on an adventure or play date together. Sharing duties with other parents can make the holidays more manageable and will mean your kids get to experience lots of different activities.

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