We recently touched on the value of introducing healthy movement patterns and solid nutritional practices into our children’s lives early on. Leading by example is a sure way to show our children that we practice what we preach. By utilizing our power to shape our children’s lives along with honing their life’s skills we are able to prevent lifestyle related diseases and make their overall lives better.
While those things are important to parents most children don’t care whether it is good for them or not. Preventing type 2 diabetes at age 35 or 40 is far removed from their daily goal list at age 7 or 8. They generally want one thing–to have fun. It’s up to us to combine that with fitness. As a parent, coach, teacher or role model working with children our goal is to make that happen–BIG fun–broad, inclusive and general just like the workouts. We do that by creating the right environment where each child. . .
- Feels special
- Has the ability to learn
- Enjoys participating
- Is comfortable interacting with us and other children
- Feels engaged and a sense of community (belonging)
Like adults, every child is different and learns differently. Whether we are working with our own children or a small group from the neighborhood; realize that there are many different styles and ways of teaching–employing a variety is best.
In case you haven’t gathered I tend to be a militaristic drill sergeant type (formal authority). That works extremely well for some people, not at all for others and usually not the best for younger children. It’s not “fun” to them. A good coach, teacher or role model will change their style (yes, I tone it down when needed) to suit their “student”.
Various Learning Styles For Kids Doing Fitness
Using a facilitative style is an excellent method to help children feel special. Children like to talk about what’s going on in their lives–what’s happening at school, their siblings, a new pet or maybe their first push up in phys ed class. Talking with them at the whiteboard or at home after school gives them time to share their stories with you.
Prompting with questions will often bring out conversation with quieter, shyer children. Some children work best with a demonstrator style where you can personally interact with the child.
Some children prefer the formal authority which provides positive and negative feedback, establishes goals, expectations and rules of conduct along with the correct standards and ways to do things. It also provides the structure needed to learn. Best with teens.
There is also the delegator style which allows children to work independently on projects or as part of a team.
So how do these styles apply to your children and others you become involved with? Recognizing differences and using different styles to interact with each child’s personality will help make you feel comfortable and create an environment that is fun. Let’s get started. . .
Equipment: you don’t need much–some hula hoops, dodge balls, cones, possibly some light weights (dumbbells or kettle bells) ranging from 1 to 10#’s will suffice for children pre school to early teen.
Atmosphere: You will want to set up a positive atmosphere and focus on what you want them to do. Use appropriate language that they can understand realizing some children are visual learners while others are more auditory, tactile or kinesthetic learners. You must be creative and energetic using a theme based play such as on holidays or seasons. Be flexible and roll with stuff when it happens but not without discipline and order. Be patient and know how to use motivators.
The workouts: need to be kept simple–2 or 3 different exercises will suffice along with some vestibular work such as somersaults and other tumbling type activities every workout and include jumping aka impact loading 2-3 x a week.
Here’s an example of putting it all together at your neighborhood park. All you will need is a picnic table and some cones. I suggest you join your children; we are practicing what we preachïŠ
Picnic Wod (Workout of the Day): 20 ish minutes
At the Whiteboard (3 min): a large piece of paper with bold and colorful lettering/pictures will suffice. Kneel down with the kids and explain the workout making your instructions both colorful and fun. Pick a “special leader” for the day as a demonstrator for the rest of the children.
Skill (3 min): push up–review proper form
Warm up (3 min): 2 somersaults, 10 mountain climbers, short shuttle run, 10 jumps up and down
Wod: It’s a Picnic!
Set up 4 cones 20 ft from each side of the picnic table
8 bench push ups
Skip to cone and back
8 bench jumps (modify to alt step ups if needed)
Balance beam walk to cone and back
8 bench sit ups
Forward walk, jog to cone, forward roll, jog back
8 perfect squats
Skip to cone and back
AMRAP for 8 minutes (as many rounds as possible)
Game:: make it age appropriate and fun. Examples are duck-duck goose, follow the leader and ring around the “picnic table”.
Follow that up with some quiet time spent reading for the children while their minds are engaged and you are laying out a delicious healthy lunch for all. What a great day at the park–quality time spent with your children, everyone got a workout in and had BIG fun!
Paula Jager CSCS and Level 1 CrossFit and CF Nutrition Certified is the owner of CrossFit Jaguar in Tampa, FL
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. Her work is dedicated to helping families effectively incorporate the principles of ancestral diets within the modern household. She is a sought after lecturer around the world for conferences, summits, and podcasts.
Her work has been covered by major media including USA Today, ABC, NBC, and many others.