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How to Motivate

  • Remember that each child is unique, has different motives, interests, and abilities, and needs to learn at his or her own pace. Be patient with each child’s progress and development. Note that to better equip children with special needs to participate, you may need to consult certain agencies (e.g., Active Living Alliance for Canadians with a Disability – ) for adaptation ideas. Children who are overweight or obese may need particular encouragement, mentorship and interventions to help them overcome certain perceived physical, psychological and social barriers to physical activity.
  • Inform children of the importance and benefits of being physically active. Link the performance of certain physical activities (bicycling to school) with the likelihood of specific benefits (better cardiovascular health, mood, cognitive function).
  • Keep physical activity enjoyable for all children and youth.
  • Children are more active if they have friends who are active and if they enjoy participating in physical activity with others (including their parents and siblings). Support and encourage them to do so.
  • Emphasize improvement, learning and fun rather than competition, awards and comparisons with others. 
  • Maximize the success that children experience when they are physically active. When they experience achievement, they tend to gain confidence and pursue learning even more. Enhance success by planning and implementing activities that are within the child’s ability level—not too easy or not too difficult. The difficulty of activities can be altered (for example, by changing the equipment and rules). Allow the participants to think about and choose these adaptations.
  • Build children’s confidence by praising them for their efforts and what they perform. Also, because children will gain more confidence about their physical abilities when they feel safe, provide a comfortable setting with a very low risk of anxiety, rejection and physical injury. 
  • Provide them brief, useful feedback to help them understand how they can improve their abilities. Children tend to enjoy learning and improving their movement skills and fitness through physical activity. Incentives can include playing enjoyable music and having a healthy snack after the active play time.
  • Because most children like to be involved in the planning of activities, provide them with choices and opportunities to offer ideas for new activities or changes to existing ones.
  • Promote physical activity in the home by, for example, displaying images of children being active and recognizing others who are active (e.g., using television programs or movies).
  • Help children and youth set realistic goals (both long- and short-term) for staying active. Attainable goals help children to expect success, thereby increasing the likelihood they actually will succeed.