Motivate Your Child to Move: While External Rewards like a Prize or a Special Sweet Treat Can Be Effective for Short-Term Gains, Maximizing Your Child's Internal Motivation Leads to a More Consistent Desire for Physical Activities

By Kabaki-Sisto, Karen | The Exceptional Parent, May 2016 | Go to article overview

Motivate Your Child to Move: While External Rewards like a Prize or a Special Sweet Treat Can Be Effective for Short-Term Gains, Maximizing Your Child's Internal Motivation Leads to a More Consistent Desire for Physical Activities


Kabaki-Sisto, Karen, The Exceptional Parent


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Does your child enjoy the playground and sports, or would he or she prefer to sit on the couch engrossed in TV shows or video games? Brain-based research shows that physical activity can increase attention span and memory, prepare the brain to learn new information, and improve behavior. If your child remains sedentary, what gets in the way? At the heart of any action is motivation. To kick-start your child's natural drive to get moving, mobility has to be pleasurable and meet his or her individual needs.

FIND THE APPROPRIATE CHALLENGE LEVEL

By giving your child the power to control the level of challenge that is right for him, he will feel capable and fully engaged. For example, using pieces of paper crumbled by your child, a sibling can hold an empty wastepaper basket for shots while your child chooses how far or close. Over time, your child may venture to take higher risks, such as attempting farther shots, within this safe and supportive environment.

USE POSITIVE LANGUAGE

The most powerful tool to shape how your child thinks, feels, and acts is your choice of words. The power of communication builds positive, trusting relationships which weigh heavily on motivation.

Praising their effort can encourage more effort: "It's wonderful that you are jumping rope"; "You dance so beautifully."

Give nonjudgmental approval to maintain effort: "You're trying lots of different ways"; "That's great that you keep going."

Make honest, encouraging comments about the physical activity itself: "Skipping is fun!"; "Climbing these stairs is hard work, and I can't wait to reach the top... it's going to feel great!"

Note your child's contributions with family members that create a comfortable sense of belonging: "Your brother is having so much fun playing tag with you!"; "It's so nice that you are pitching the ball for your sister."

Support your child's belief in himself and his abilities regardless of the results: "Running fast is hard to do, and you're doing it so well!"; "I am here to help you."

FUN PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY!

To pique motivation, you can encourage teamwork, communication, and stronger relationships within your family using these fun activities! Be sure to consult your child's occupational therapist and/or physical therapist to modify according to individual needs. Your child can enjoy these as "brain breaks" after or "brain and body energizers" before concentrating on homework, during commercials of a TV show, or simply any time!

GROOVE N' MOVE

Songs like Gloria Estefan's Get on Your Feet! and Van Halen's Jump! can rev your child up to get up from off the floor onto his feet or jump when the song indicates. Your child or siblings can change it up with other actions, like from a standing position "Get on Your Elbow" to the floor or "Kick!" rather than jump. This is great for children with limited language skills as they can watch and follow along.

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TWIST ON MUSICAL CHAIRS

Forming a circle of chairs with one less chair than the number of players, a leader stands in the middle and says, "All my family members who like panda bears/who have never gone camping/who are wearing jeans have to get up and find another seat quickly!"

WHICH WAY TO GO?

With fun music in the background, family members take turns drawing a series of about six arrows in various directions. …

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