10 Ideas to Encourage Healthy Activity in Children

Each morning I am fortunate enough to pick Monkey up and take him to school. We park about two blocks from the school. This forces us to get a few minutes of a walk or quick jog together, talk about the day and gives me extra exercise on the walk back to the car.

What I’ve noticed is that many other children love to run to the school building just as Monkey does; especially if someone else is carrying their book bag for them. I usually encourage Monkey to run ahead with his friends now that he’s getting older and is highly capable of being several yards away from me. Sometimes he even grabs my hand and says, “Let’s run!” as we speed up down the sidewalk.

While I might look silly jogging along slowly in my work clothes, I love that he wants to run joyfully to his school building. There was a time when he started pre-k crying and walked so slowly I wasn’t sure he was making any progress. Getting to the building took what felt like hours. Now he literally jumps out of the car and zooms down the sidewalk much to both our delights.

Usually, we’re in our own little world together in the five to ten minutes we are headed to school. Sometimes I come out of our zone and notice what others are up to. What I noticed this week, and what often happens, is that there were lots of cries for children to “Stop running!” on their way to school. On my way back to work, I reflected upon how often running is viewed as a bad thing; from children who might fall and get a scrape, to “running is every other sport’s punishment,” often touted by a coworker.

Now, I’m not sure if they were trying to slow their children so they stayed in a line of eyesight for safety, or maybe they had on a new outfit the parent might not have wanted them to mess up. Who knows, their child might be clumsy and don’t want to have to deal with tears and a scraped knee on the way into the school. This post isn’t about their choice in that moment, as we all have our own reasons for our decisions.

What I would like to pose to you, if you’re one with children, is to consider why you would discourage your child from running the next time they take off on their path down the sidewalk. Is it for safety? Is it for injury protection? Or is it just a natural mama bear instinct to keep them close?

I know there have been times I’ve said to Monkey to stop running down the sidewalk, mainly because he might head right out onto the street. As he’s gotten older, that’s no longer a concern. Overall, I try my best to encourage him to run every chance I get as I want him to see running as a form of play instead of every other sport’s punishment.

Next time you have the urge to yell out “stop running,” pause a second and see if you can let them go and keep the “play” in running. You might find you’re less stressed and they are, too.

This is just one step in encouraging a healthy active lifestyle in your children. Other ways we’ve encouraged activity (which also wears them out and they sleep 10-12 hours a night):

  • helping with physical chores (outdoor gardening)
  • filling the compost pile / aerating it with tools
  • walking or cycling to the local playgrounds
  • cycling to the food store / walking around the food store
  • running a kid’s race
  • encourage climbing or jumping
  • playful running / Monkey loves fartleks from mailbox to mailbox
  • walking the dogs
  • kicking or tossing balls in the backyard

Sure, there is some level of risk in getting injured in all of these activities, but the benefit far outweighs a few bumps and bruises. When my oldest asks if he can get his gardening gloves and help pull tree branches from the backyard to the street I feel I’m teaching him the importance of hard work, doing it yourself, and staying healthy and strong.

When you’re active yourself, they feed off of that energy. Let’s get them all out playing in the fresh air whether that is a run down to the school building or helping aerate your compost pile. It’s free and great for everyone involved!