As summer fades to fall, “getting back into routine” is a phrase we tend to hear a lot. This time of year is always a great chance to make room for new family opportunities and fun for kids instead of simply defaulting back to the familiar.
Children are often willing to try new things: They enjoy learning new skills and finding ways to challenge their minds and bodies. This exposure to a variety of activities is beneficial to help them discover what they like — as well as what they’re good at — and ultimately uncover a pathway to their passions.
We spoke with two experts from the Life Time Kids program (who are also moms!) and they answered our questions about the importance of engaging kids in new activities and offered some best practices for doing so.
- Shelly Forsberg, director of kids and aquatics business development for Life Time
- Samantha Stark, senior director of kids and aquatics for Life Time
Q: How do I present a new activity in a way that will intrigue my child?
Shelly Forsberg: Introduce the activity as a form of fun. Creating a game or some friendly competition can help intrigue little minds. Then, continue to guide and cheer them on along the way. If they flop, encourage them to try again or offer tips to help them succeed. If possible, get other children their age or older involved to make it a fun group activity.
Samantha Stark: Identify aspects of the activity that are similar to something your child already does and enjoys. For example, if you want your child to try yoga, you could compare it to the stretching they do before or after their soccer practice. This will help them relate and feel more connected to the new activity.
Q: How do I keep my child safe — both physically and emotionally — when trying something new?
SF: Be patient and create a safe space. Tell them to try their best, and if they fall down (actually or figuratively), reinforce that it’s OK. Be present and take your time when explaining any rules or directions. Request feedback from your child and be sure to listen. As a mom, I let my kids know that I am there if they need my assistance with anything.
SS: For physical safety, be sure to research and follow general safety guidelines for the specific activity. For example, if your child is learning to rollerblade, make sure they have all the proper protective gear.
Q: How can I help my child make new friends and connect over a new activity?
SF: Sign up for activities at school, your local community center, or health club. Get there early and introduce yourself to other parents and children. As new friendships develop, schedule a time for children to play outside of the organized activity. For example, have your child invite other kids over to your home, meet at a park, or get together for lunch. If my child has a friend from a sports team, I’ll often even ask if they would like to invite their friend to try a new activity with them.
Q: What if I am learning the new activity or sport alongside my child?
SF: It’s all about playing and having fun together. Don’t take the new activity too seriously. Focus on being a role model and do it with them. Break down the steps or motions to simplify the activity for both you and your child. If they master it, allow them to demonstrate their new skills. Afterward, start a discussion about what you liked most or what may have challenged you.
SS: You don’t need to become a master of every sport or activity your kids enjoy. My boys were always very active in football. I may not be able to challenge them to a full game, but I have learned a lot about certain skills, such as the proper three-point stance and how to throw a football. If your child shows interest in something, do some research. You can find so many great resources online to help break down the skills of all types of sports and activities.
Q: What are the benefits of introducing new activities for my child and family overall?
SF: New activities give everyone something to look forward to — and discovering things to do together as a family can help you grow closer. I also find that my spouse and kids like to share stories and experiences with one another about the activities we do and the people we meet. It’s a fun way to connect and learn more about each other.
SS: As a mom of four, I have learned over the years just how varied kids’ interests can be. I initially assumed my children would all enjoy the same types of activities, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
By trying new activities together, we found what sparks interest for each child as an individual. My youngest son recently started skateboarding. While I’m not quite ready to jump on a board, it’s been fun going to skateparks as a family and learning about the activity together.
Q: What can I do if my child is nervous about trying something new?
SF: Ask your child what they’re nervous about and listen to their answer. Sometimes a little shift in mindset — or taking the activity a bit slower — is all it takes. You could also allow your child to sit back and watch first before jumping in to participate. Do it with them until they feel comfortable or find a friend that can be there to support and guide them.
SS: I ask my kids to give everything a “no-thank-you try” — they must give an attempt, even if it’s just for a few minutes. This encourages them to at least try something while giving them the opportunity to say “this isn’t for me” after a period of time.
Q: If my child is interested in a specific activity, what can I do at home to encourage them?
There are so many activities you can do as a family to discover and reinforce your child’s interests. If your child shows curiosity toward a certain activity, here are some ideas for ways to support them.
Arts and Crafts
Find an easy arts and crafts activity to do together and let the creativity flow. To make it even easier, look for kits that come with all the supplies and directions you need and take on the challenge together.
Dance can level-up the fun for so many household activities. Groove while you’re doing chores, or simply turn on some music and host a living-room dance party. If your child shows interest, sign them up for a beginner dance class.
Engage your kids at home with on-demand or live workout videos. Encourage them to watch first and jump in when their ready to try the moves. Bodyweight workouts are a great place to start, as is this 8-station family fitness circuit.
Walking, Running, Biking or Swimming
Give your kids every opportunity to get outside and move in ways that feel good to them. As a plus, these are all super easy endeavors to work into your daily movement routine as a family. If your children show interest, look for a group or club where they can start to create a community around the activity they love.
Help your kids learn the fundamentals of the sport at home or while at the club. Try these at-home basketball games to help them practice their skills and have fun with a little friendly competition.
Hitting a ball back and forth at a local tennis court or at Life Time is a great way to be active together. It can also help younger kids practice coordination and gain confidence.