How can I get my kids to be active? This is a question I hear parents ask continuously.  Fortunately, the answer…is an easy one and every child can learn to be physically skilled and active.

In August 2011, the NASPE (National Association for Sports and Physical Education) formed a task force to research and review curriculum standards for physical education.   The task force spent a great deal of time reviewing literature and examining information from other countries and states.

down dogKey findings from the literature include:

  • Motor skill competence is the most important factor to influence physical activity and health-related fitness through adulthood.
  • Motor skill competence is acquired through age-appropriate, progressive skill learning.
  • Self motivation increases when a child choose activities they are interested in, master the activity, and participate in a supportive and encouraging environment.

These three factors increase a child’s enjoyment in activities, prompting a desire to be active over and over again in the future.

Competitive Vs. Non-Competitive Sports For Children

Competitive sport appeals mainly to boys and highly skilled girls, other children are often passive participants.  For less-skilled children, reducing social comparison is important, as is the opportunity to participate in non-competitive and cooperative activities.

After age 14, there is a significant decline in physical activity for all students, particularly for girls.  Many girls prefer non-competitive activities, fitness and dance over competitive team activities.


Developing Motor Skills From Early Childhood-Teens

As a result of these findings, the task force made an effort to develop programs that will lead to greater competency, particularly in fundamental motor skills; to address the needs of less-skilled children; and to de-emphasize competitive games and activities.  They recommend a focus on skills that foster lifelong physical activity.   Their grade level recommendations for children are:

  • Early childhood – elementary:  focus on fundamental motor skills (throwing, catching, hitting, jumping, etc…) as the foundation for movement competency.
  • Middle school ages: focus on application of fundamental motor skills and improving the balance of activities to retain interest of all students (dance, fitness activities, individual and team activities).
  • Secondary school ages: focus on fitness/wellness, lifetime activities and personal choice.  De-emphasize team sports which appeal mainly to highly skilled students.

I’m glad for the official findings of the NASPE task force.  Their conclusions affirm what I know works from teaching over 80,000 children in my lifetime.  It is how I personally became active for life and then influenced thousands of others to be active too.  All people enjoy doing what they are skilled at doing.  And, people become skilled at things by learning and practicing them.  In addition, support and encouragement helps everyone through the tough spots, and to strive for more.

“Kids get just one childhood and it’s is the ideal time to become competent in all physical skills that empower them to be active for life.”

What’s the bottom line?  Kids get just one childhood and it’s is the ideal time to become competent in all physical skills that empower them to be active for life. When the childhood window of time is gone, it is extremely difficult for a “do over”.  Most adolescents don’t want to risk the embarrassment of learning new skills and feeling uncoordinated.  So, make sure your young child is learning a variety of physical skills with enough repetition to master them.  And, be sure the environment is fun, encouraging, and supportive rather than competitive.  The most important goal is not winning a game, but winning in life!


Remember to keep moving and help your kids keep moving too!

We’d love to hear from you! Please share with our community by commenting below. What do you do to stay active?

SAFbaby’s Health Expert Adviser Doreen Bolhuis

Doreen Bolhuis is the President/CEO of Gymco Inc., a multi-sport facility for children in its 31st year of operation in Grand Rapids, MI.  Doreen is the creator of Gymtrix, an innovative DVD series to teach physical literacy for babies – 10 yrs.  She is a co-founder and partner of Motion Evolution, a licensed national fitness and physical literacy program for children.  Doreen’s passion is advocating healthy lifestyles and fighting obesity by empowering parents to create active kids from infancy.

Doreen holds a B.S. degree in Physical Education, Health and Recreation.  She has over 35 years experience teaching locally, nationally and internationally and is currently an adjunct professor for Aquinas College in the department of Health and Physical Education.  Doreen has appeared in local, national and international media (CNN, The Today Show, Good Morning America, The N.Y. Times) as a guest expert in Physical Literacy.  Doreen is a former elite level gymnastics coach and member of the Junior Olympic Committee for USA Gymnastics.