How to Reward Children When Exercising

Kids today have an abundance of indoor, sedentary distractions that reduce their daily physical activity level. Whether your child is glued to a computer, parked in front of the TV or is a bookworm, chances are he could be getting more exercise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend children get one hour or more of physical activity each day 1. If you want to motivate your child to get more exercise, a well-planned reward system might do the trick.


Help your child set realistic and attainable goals for exercising. It is unrealistic -- and unhealthful -- for your couch potato to start running 5 miles daily. Goals should be challenging, but also must be capable of being met. Goals that are too high can be demotivating.

Clearly define a specific goal; vague wording or undefined goals make it easier to slack off. A beginning goal might simply be to play outdoors for 30 minutes, three times a week. As goals are met, and motivation is increased, they can be set slightly higher each week or month.

Make a chart or use a calendar to track exercise goals and progress. Post it where both parent and child will see it often. A weekly or monthly calendar, with clearly marked goals, makes it easy to see the progress and keeps everyone motivated.

Celebrate the little victories. Each time your child meets a daily goal, make a big deal of it and let him place a sticker or stamp on that day to denote successful completion of the day's activity.

Reward your child for consistently meeting goals or hitting a major milestone, such as running a mile without stopping. Perhaps he met five of seven daily goals for the week, or 25 of 30 monthly goals. Reward him with whatever prize he has been working toward. Good examples are a family trip to the water park or zoo, a family bike ride or a piece of sports equipment.


Do not reward exercise activities with junk food. Though getting ice cream is a fun family outing, it is senseless to set an unhealthy goal as a reward for healthy behavior. Rather, set fun rewards that further activity and exercising as a family, such as a hiking or camping trip.


If your child has any health conditions, such as asthma, speak with your pediatrician before making drastic changes in his activity level.

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