- Reflect on your current lifestyle and consider how events in your youth affected the person you have become.
- Recognize the importance of providing encouragement and support to school-age children, especially when it comes to being physically active.
- Develop methods of providing encouragement and support to school-age children.
Think about your life as a school-age child. Do you remember being physically active? Did you play sports or spend most of your free time playing outside? What are some of your good memories surrounding physical activity? Good memories might include winning a baseball tournament or having a coach that motivated you to do your best. You might remember trying new sports with great success or hiking in the woods with your family or friends. There may also be some memories that are not so good. There may have been a time you were picked last for a team or tried out a new activity and didn’t do well. You may also remember feeling uncoordinated or self-conscious about being physically active.
Now, think about how those memories and reflections influenced the person you are today. Did they lay a foundation for you to become active as an adult? Did having a difficult time as a child motivate you or did it make it difficult for you to find your right-fit activity? Did it cause you to have poor self-esteem as a child, or did it make you feel more confident in yourself?
Providing Motivation and Encouragement
In today’s digital age, school-age children are becoming less physically active. Less than one-quarter (24%) of children 6 to 17 years of age participate in the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day. It will be part of your role as a school-age staff member to provide motivation and encouragement for children to live an active lifestyle. One of the best ways to provide motivation is to explain the connection between being healthy and being active in a way that school-age children can understand. In addition to providing information, you can help encourage and motivate children by using these methods:
- Choose fun, developmentally appropriate physical activities. When children are enjoying an activity, they will feel good about themselves and want to continue. They will feel comfortable being active and want to be physically active in the future.
- Plan activities that are challenging, but not impossible. You want school-age children to be successful with a planned activity. If it is too challenging, it could be discouraging for children, especially those that are not naturally athletic. As their comfort levels and abilities improve, you can make the activities and challenges more difficult.
- Consider planning activities with a variety of skills. It is important so that all children, even those who are not typically physically active or athletic, can participate and have fun. For example, if planning an obstacle course, create two separate courses, one that is easier and one that is difficult.
- Limit screen time for the school-age children in your care. Screen time can be considered any exposure to a digital screen such as a computer, television, video game, phone, tablet, etc. Teachers’ lesson plans should not rely on screen time to occupy students.
For children 6 and older, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends consistent time limits on media. Make sure screen use does not interfere with a child’s ability to get adequate sleep and physical activity. AAP also recommends designating media-free times together, such as dinner or driving; media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms; and ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.
- Provide equipment that encourages physical activity: Offer a variety of games and sports equipment to appeal to the wide range of interests of children in your care.
- Consider taking part in a physical fitness challenge: Organize different challenges and tasks to assess overall fitness in your program or in your community. Consult local programs or guidelines for assistance.
Be a Role Model
Be a role model to others by participating in the activities with the children. It is OK if you are not naturally athletic. If children see you trying, she or he may be encouraged to do the same. The best way you can be a role model for school-age children is to take care of your own physical health and to try to lead a healthy lifestyle. Some methods of doing this in the learning environment are:
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Keep a positive attitude; never say negative things about yourself or your appearance (or the appearance of others).
- Participate in physical activities with children.
- Stretch your muscles before participating in a physical activity and encourage children to do the same.
- Take safe risks, such as trying a sport or activity you’ve never done before. Let children teach you a skill that they enjoy.
Encouraging Family Involvement: A Lifetime of Wellness
In the Family Engagement course, you learned how to create and maintain family partnerships and encourage family engagement. A great way to motivate children to be physically active is to include their families. Studies show that children who live in a household with active parents are more likely to be active themselves. Similarly, when children and parents participate together in physical activity, healthy lifestyle habits are more likely to be formed. A great example of getting families involved in being active with their children is FitFamily, which is a web-based goal incentive program developed by the U.S. Air Force. The program encourages families to be active together and to log their process.
Here are some ideas you can implement in your program to help families support their school-age children’s physical activity:
- Plan family events that incorporate physical activities such as field-day competitions or group games like softball or kickball.
- Have Service family members give demonstrations of skills used in military trainings and exercises.
- Ask parents to form committees or advisory groups to support physical activity at home.
- Challenge children and their families to track their activities at home, such as steps taken during a specific period of time or miles traveled on family bike rides.
- Create contests, such as jump-rope contests, tug-of-war challenges, and dance competitions, for children and families to participate in at your program.
The U.S. government initiative Move Your Way provides information about helping families set goals for wellness and healthy living at /https://health.gov/moveyourway/. Explore this link and consider using some of the materials and resources with families of children in your care, such as this fact sheet for children: https://health.gov/paguidelines/moveyourway/materials/PAG_MYW_Kids_FS.pdf.
Part of your role as a school-age staff member is to encourage children to live an active, healthy life. Watch this video for some examples of how to support the health and activity of school-age children.
In today’s digital age, school-age children are increasingly participating in less physical activity. Your role as a school-age staff member includes providing motivation and encouragement of an active lifestyle:
- Provide motivation and encouragement to all school-age children by always being positive and optimistic.
- Be a role model for school-age children by taking care of your own body and participating in physical activities.
- Create an environment where school-age children feel safe taking risks and trying new activities.
- Include families in physical-fitness activities and challenges.
In the Providing Encouragement for All Children activity below, you will read the scenario and think about how you might respond in the situation, and how you’ll encourage physical activity for all children and youth in your program. Share your responses with your trainer, coach, or administrator.
In the Physical Activity Plan, you will review the Healthy Kids, Healthy Future and Move Your Way websites to help complete a basic activity plan. The goal for this activity plan is to think about a way to incorporate activities that would motivate school-age children and their families to be physically active and move more. Think about how you would implement this idea into your current program. Share your plan with your trainer, coach or administrator.
Action for Healthy Kids. (2019). Game on activity library. https://www.actionforhealthykids.org/game-on-activity-library/
Action for Healthy Kids. (2019). Tip sheets: Before and after school activities. https://www.actionforhealthykids.org/references/
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2016). Media use in school-aged children and adolescents. https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/138/5/e20162592/60321/Media-Use-in-School-Aged-Children-and-Adolescents
The Aspen Institute: Project Play. (2015). Sport for all, play for life: a playbook to get every kid in the game.
The Child & Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (CAHMI). 2016 National Survey of Children's Health. Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health;2016.
Child Care Aware (n.d.). Resources and Links. Retrieved from https://www.childcareaware.org/library/
Move Your Way. (2018). Retrieved from https://health.gov/moveyourway/