Play every day

How to make physical activity a lifelong habit

Play every day

Are you worried that your kid is a couch potato? Is that concern warranted, or is it simply a product of generational differences? We explore healthy activity levels and talk with an expert about how to help turn your mini-me into a mini-mover!

It’s all fun and games

Not all physical activity needs to be competitive to be beneficial. Based on years of research, recommendations agree that two- to five-year-olds should be moderately active throughout the day, while six- to 17-year-olds need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity to meet their daily physical development needs.

Building increased movement with imagination

Jesse Schneider is a kinesiologist and owner of a noncompetitive sports program for kids from 16 months to 12 years of age. “The most practical way [to help your child build increased movement],” says Schneider, “is to engage kids’ natural imaginations and turn daily tasks into fun games. Kids love being a part of games and stories, and if you can get them to buy into your story, the rest is easy.

“For example,” Schneider suggests, “instead of just putting dirty clothes in the washer, say you’ve just been told that LeBron James and the Looney Tunes Squad need to defeat the Hamper of Destruction by feeding him stinky socks (get them to run up and slam dunk, or practice their basketball shooting form). Once you turn exercise into something fun, they’ll want to do it again and again.”

Motivating the undecided and disinterested

Schneider says, “Exposing your child to as many different activities as you can, like gymnastics, skating, swimming, skiing, Sportball, or bike riding, [can] significantly expand their motor skills and physical literacy.” He adds that when your child starts to take more interest in certain ones, you can focus more on those activities.

Being an active role model

According to Schneider, research has shown that parents who model a physically active lifestyle significantly influence their child to do the same.

“If you can model what an active lifestyle is, your child will be more likely to adopt that [example],” Schneider says. “It doesn’t have to be anything crazy: simply try to do some form of activity a few times a week. Make it a priority for yourself and your family.”

Pro tip to get moving as a family

“The only secret is to just have fun—on purpose,” says Schneider. “Look for things in your life that can be made more fun. Whether it’s your job, grocery shopping, or driving, don’t be afraid to be silly with your kids; this makes mundane tasks something to look forward to.”

“You only have young kids for a very small fraction of your life,” says Schneider. “Take any moment you have with them as a chance to bring joy to each other’s day, and I promise they will remember it for the rest of their lives.”


By Brendan Rolfe, CPHR, BA, DipA