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Motivating Students


"Do I have to?" 
"I've got a sore leg!" 
"I want to finish this computer game!"
"I don't want to!"

Are these whinges from kids familiar to you?  As a teacher? As a parent?  How do we encourage our students/children to get out and exercise regularly to a level that we know is conducive to a healthy mind and body?  This is something that parents and teachers in our modern world are wrestling with on an increasing scale as our sedentary lifestyle increases. 

As a person who has quite a few decades of life behind me I can remember my childhood on a farm including roaming the hills and paddocks, rabbiting, billy carting, bike-riding, chasing a football in the "imaginary MCG", walking a mile to and from school each day, and helping with a range of chores involving much physical activity.  I can also remember my weekly junior sporting activities, such as football and tennis, which were encouraged by my parents and inevitably involved them spending many hours driving me around the countryside to the various club venues. Obviously, the kids of today, particularly in urban environments, don't have some of these physical challenges and opportunities.   

However, they do live in a rich world of resources and community activities which have the potential to keep them active, fit and healthy.

If I may, I would like to make a few suggestions to help you as a parent or teacher, motivate our kids to get active. 

Firstly, some kids need to be provided with a wider range of physical activity - not just the traditionally popular sporting and physical activities which, possibly because of body shape, previous failure, peer influence etc. they shun.

For example, footy, netball, cross country, "Boot Ball" may not be motivating for some but instead rock-climbing, roller-skating or jazz ballet may provide more interest. What other non-traditional activities can we involve kids in?

Secondly, I think that kids are motivated by passionate adult leaders. Parents may have an influence here by involving their kids from an early age into their preferred activity such as cross-country running, bushwalking or bowling.  I was heavily influenced by an aunty who was passionate in her sport of tennis.  Encouragement, tutoring, supplying equipment etc are ways that kids can be influenced.  Let's make our kids aware of these people.

At a young age, children are involved in family activities so why not provide a wider range of activity that kids are included in. Walking and exercising the dog, flying kites, playing on the beach on a  winter's day, a family bike ride, a walk in the bush etc may help to motivate young kids to be active.

A mindset change by the whole family may be needed to provide greater opportunities. Teachers may also need to look for more non-traditional ways of planning their program to include physical activity - a kilometre walking club, walking to local attractions or facilities instead of hiring a bus, Brain Gym, Jump Rope, gymnastics program at the local gym etc.

We are clever, imaginative people with a host of resources around us to provide for an active lifestyle. Let's not be dictated to by "the couch potato" syndrome or the kid who whinges "I don't want to!"

Rob Baker
(former resident of Russells Bridge, principal, teacher and father of 4 healthy, active kids)