Harvey Howard is the owner of My Gym Children’s Fitness Center in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. He is a certified special education teacher, elementary teacher, guidance counselor, and student assistance professional located in New Jersey. Here is explains how parents can get their kids to enjoy being physically activity.

If you want to get your kid active in fitness, the way to do it is by being active yourself. The more a family engages in group walks, bike rides, or other fitness activities as a unit, the more a child is going to see that behavior and want to model it. For an emerging, developing family, group fitness outings are an important part of an overall healthy lifestyle.

Children see how their parents feel about fitness, and because they absorb everything, they will notice that. So, for example, a mom may take her child to soccer practice and instead of sitting down or just watching, she may decide to jog around the field while the kids are practicing. I have seen this happen. And the message that activity sends to the child is that fitness is important. You, as a parent, are telling your child that while he is playing soccer, you are going to use that time for physical activity yourself rather than just sitting there watching. You are showing them—and also telling them—that developing your own fitness opportunities is important as well. And while they may not 100% grasp that concept right now, they are absorbing it and that will come into play later in life.

There is also the parent who jogs while pushing his child in a stroller. Once again, this is showing that exercise is something that is important to Daddy. And at the same time, the kid is also seeing the sights while his dad is running. The child is having his own personal, positive experience in the middle of his father’s exercise program by being able to see things he might not otherwise get the chance to see. And like I have said before, kids are going to want to copy whatever they see their parents doing, so this is a natural lead in to a future interest in exercise down the road.

Participating in activities as a family is important, as well. If a kid starts out riding in a stroller while his mom or dad pushes him along, he will get to the point where he is riding a bike alongside Mom and Dad while they are jogging. Eventually, maybe he will be riding a bigger bike. And then, when he can start jogging on his own, he might start doing that. Parents can slow down a bit to go at the child’s pace, but the point is this is a group activity. So the entire family is outside, having fun, bonding, and getting fit at the same time. That is what family fitness really is about.

Whether you are canoeing, or kayaking, or any other physical activity, these things should be about helping with the developmental process and helping your child grow into a healthy human being. As always, positive reinforcement in the form of praise is helpful as well, since children are only going to want to continue these activities for as long as they are still fun.

The information in the article is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your healthcare provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with an appropriate healthcare provider.