2. Make Family Time Active Time
"One of the best ways to help your child get more exercise is to be active with your child," Alderman tells WebMD. "For example, play with your child at the playground or go swimming together rather than just watching."
Getting the whole family involved will also make it less likely that your overweight child will feel singled out. Parents need to be role models and stress the value of healthy living to their children on a daily basis. A family activity that may be especially helpful for overweight kids is walking the family dog.
"Walking a dog doesn't seem like exercise to kids, so it's especially good for overweight children who may otherwise shy away from being active," says Epping. "And walking with a dog can help increase social contact and provide a level of social support."
3. Find the Right Exercise for Their Age
When considering the best type of kids' exercise for your child, it's helpful to try to tap into activities that work to your child's age, interests, and strengths.
Young Kids and Grade-School Kids
- Explore different activities. "Try to expose your school-age child to as many activities as possible," says Lisa Esposito, MS, RD, CSSD, LN, a sports dietician with Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. "At this age, kids often like team sports, such as soccer, basketball, or volleyball." For kids that don't like team sports, try activities such as gymnastics, swimming, or dance.
- Practice builds confidence. "If your child feels self-conscious about her weight, she may feel more comfortable being active in the house or in her own backyard," says Alderman. "You can try to find fun ways for her to exercise at home, like setting up an obstacle course, using an active video game, or playing catch."
- Buddy up. If your overweight child is reluctant to try any kind of exercise, it may be helpful to find a mentor. Younger children often look up to older kids and enjoy doing things with them. Look for an older friend, relative, or neighbor to be active with your child. This will help her see that it's "cool" to exercise.