I started going to the gym two years ago for my own needs. My goals: to lose the baby weight, feel comfortable in my own skin, have more energy and better sleep, and enjoy forty-five minutes of “me” time while the kids played in the childcare area. I also knew I would be setting an example for my two boys. But I had no idea just how much fitness would begin to impact our whole family.
As I’ve focused on getting healthier and stronger, both my kids are right there with me. They are eager to learn new exercises and build big muscles. One of my sons set a personal fitness goal to lift our house up to the sky. The other one’s goal? To be Batman.
Over the past six months, I’ve tried to be more intentional about how we incorporate healthy habits into our life. I want my kids to love exercise and nutrition without getting burned out or hung up on appearances. Here are a few ways this works for us:
Make exercise fun!
Last year, I signed my oldest son up for youth soccer. I assumed sports and some additional playground time would be enough to get him excited to get moving. To my surprise, he really struggled to enjoy competitive sports. Each week was a battle to get him on the field.
While we did have him finish out the season, I started looking for other ways to get him moving this summer. He loves riding bikes and racing, but his absolutely bucket list item was to do a fitness class like mommy. When my gym offered pay-by-the-class kids fitness classes, I signed him up for four classes so he could get a taste of what I love to do every day.
At first, he got discouraged if he couldn’t do a move as well as another child. But each week this summer, we have incorporated these boot camp fitness moves into fun activities at home – obstacle courses in the backyard, playing a version of the “freeze dance” with burpees or jump tucks in lieu of being still, practicing forward rolls and handstands in the living room. I have watched him try a move over and over again until he persevered. He is learning to love that feeling of overcoming a challenge. And I am loving watching him!
Invite them to join you!
Many times, I ask my sons to come up with an exercise routine for us to do together. We also go on walks or race in the yard. Sometimes we play an exercise version of Simon Says.
Like most children, my son loves to run around or challenge me to a race. My husband and I signed him up for a one mile fun run with us earlier this spring, and he absolutely loved it! He taped his race bib to his bedroom wall and placed his finisher medal in a special safe place to keep forever.
Explain nutrition in an age-appropriate way.
With my 5-year-old, we talk about protein, carbs, and fats. I give him examples of each and explain why they are good for your body. We also talk about why we limit sweet treats or eating out. With my 2-year-old, we talk about why we can’t have a dessert every night or how yummy fruits and vegetables will make his body so happy.
Let them help.
When time allows, I love letting my kids help pick out produce at the grocery store or assist with cooking meals at home. It’s much quicker and easier if I meal plan, shop, prep, and cook by myself, but they absolutely love helping me. And I know the things they are learning will benefit them throughout their life.
This is probably the area I struggle with the most as a mom because helping often means messes or sibling arguments, but I know it needs to be a higher priority. My oldest son and I set a goal to cook something together on Mondays this school year. He’s already so excited about it!
I really try hard to not say anything negative about myself around my children. I want them to have healthy habits and healthy self-esteem – to know they are fearfully and wonderfully made and fully capable of doing good, hard things. We also try to only say positive things about each other when possible. If we need to correct an issue, it’s more about calling out a behavior, not a person.
Again, I don’t get this perfect by any stretch. However, I am confident that my children have only heard me use “ugly” when referring to a bad attitude or “fat” when referring to a macro-nutrient in food. Instead, we talk about having beautiful hearts and big smiles and strong bodies. I try to teach them to be generous and confident with prayers and encouragement. Perhaps I am too quick to coddle them sometimes, but hopefully, they see what it means to love themselves and others well.
I also have a book of mindfulness activities that I do occasionally with my children to help boost positivity and self-control. One of my children loves these and would do ten activities every morning. The other spends most of the time asking if he can be done yet. Maybe check one out from the library and give it a try!
Please know I say all of this humbly, knowing full well that we do not get all things right. And there is no one-size-fits-all approach. But if you have been thinking that it’s time to start prioritizing health and fitness in your own family, I hope these ideas give you a place to start.