The NHS recommends that children do an hour of physical activity a day, but that can often seem easier said than done. We chatted to the CEO of sports-tech company, Playfinity, to learn how we can encourage kids to move more
According to the NHS, children and young people between five and 18 years old should try to do around 60 minutes of physical exercise a day. This is likely to be pretty achievable when we factor in lessons like PE, walking or biking to school, break time playground fun and extra-curricular activities.
But, during the darker, shorter days of winter, or when children are out of routine over the holidays, 60 minutes can feel like a lot. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to incorporate movement into an average day which can make that ‘magic number’ feel much less daunting. We chatted to the CEO of Nordic sports-tech company Playfinity, Pippa Boothman, to find out more about how we can encourage kids to get moving and why it’s so important.
Why is it important for children to keep their bodies moving?
More and more kids are dropping out of sports at alarming rates. According to a report from the National Alliance of Youth Sports, 70% of children stop playing sports by age 13. It can be difficult to keep children active, especially in the age of technology, and so Playfinity wanted to take action to help keep kids both healthy and happy.
It is important for children to keep their bodies moving from a young age as this establishes a foundation for a lifelong habit of regular physical activity. Physical activity has also been linked to improved cognitive function, mental health and academic performance in children. It enhances concentration, problem-solving skills, and overall brain development.
Regular physical activity in childhood is also associated with a reduced risk of health issues such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems. Establishing healthy habits early on contributes to a lifetime of better health.
How can parents encourage children to move more?
Be a role model
Parents and caregivers can serve as powerful role models by adopting an active lifestyle themselves. Kids learn by observing, and if they see you leading an active lifestyle, they are more likely to follow suit. Caregivers should try to lead by example and include the child in activities, such as going for a walk, bike ride, or playing sports together.
I recommend that you celebrate milestones and achievements together and develop a supportive and encouraging atmosphere. It’s important to praise your kids’ effort and improvement rather than focusing solely on the outcomes.
Keep it light and fun
It’s really important to keep things fun and lighthearted when it comes to encouraging children to keep moving. Try to make exercise engaging so that children form a positive association with exercise and allow them to succeed no matter their skill level.
6 ways to get children moving for longer
1. Choose activities that interest your child
Sports play a crucial role in a child's development, and Playfinity’s interactive sports toys aim to introduce them to the joy of movement, which is at the core of staying active. Tailoring activities to the specific interests and abilities of each child (and each age group) ensures that children can find that joy in exercising.
2. Turn it into a game
It’s important to keep movement playful, particularly for toddlers. I recommend you turn physical activity into a game. For example, you can set up a soft obstacle course or play some music and encourage them to dance. Alternatively, you may wish to engage in simple ball games which still make movement enjoyable for them.
3. Introduce teamwork
As children progress into early childhood, activities can include more structured games like tag, hide and seek, or basic sports drills. These activities not only enhance motor skills but also introduce teamwork and coordination. This is not only a vital life skill but also helps children to grow in confidence.
4. Pick engaging activities
This is a really useful tip, particularly for older kids approaching their teens. For a technology-focused generation, finding activities that keep them engaged can be more of a challenge, with an increasing number of teenagers opting for an Xbox over football, for example. Turning these traditional sports into a game can also help. Our method of ‘gamifying’ sports aligns with teens’ preferences, encouraging participation and keeping older kids interested in physical activity.
5. Mix it up
The best way to get kids involved in activities with the family is to keep it varied. A fun way of doing this is by choosing a range of activities that the child enjoys and finds entertaining. Variety helps keep things interesting and allows kids to discover activities they genuinely enjoy to help them view it as a pleasurable experience rather than a chore.
6. Keep it simple
Exercise doesn’t have to be complex. Incorporating physical activity into your kids' daily routines can be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the lift, or biking, walking or running instead of driving short distances.
Ultimately, exercise should be an enjoyable experience for everyone. Try to avoid overdoing it by focusing on your child’s age-specific needs. Encouraging healthy habits at an early age will help kids carry a love of movement throughout their adult lives. Most importantly, remember, all movement is good movement.
Playfinity was founded back in 2016 with the urgency to keep children moving. They understand the importance of fostering an active lifestyle from a young age – encouraging kids to move more is not just a goal; it's at the core of what they do to help instil a lifelong love for physical activity.