School districts vary widely in the amount of physical education they offer in the curriculum, and by 8th grade physical fitness is usually no longer a daily part of the school curriculum. According to a recent Institute of Medicine report on physical activity among young people, even the best physical education curriculum fails to provide the necessary 60 minutes of recommended activity a day. Find out how much physical activity your child is getting each day at school and what sorts of activities they are doing in gym class. This will give you a better understanding of their overall level of physical activity.
It’s especially important for parents to step in and fill the void by encouraging physical activity after school and on weekends. One of the most effective ways for parents to do this is by modeling good behavior. Organize family activities that incorporate physical activity, such as walks and bike rides. Outdoor chores such as raking leaves or shoveling are a good way to squeeze exercise into a busy weekend. Finding a physical activity that you and your child can do together, such as swimming at the local YMCA, is a great way for both of you to exercise and for you to spend quality time together.
Physical Activity Goals
If everyone in the family is trying to be more active, set physical activity goals for the entire family. Set specific and achievable goals, like always taking the stairs or walking around the block every day after dinner, and check in each week to see who is doing best.
If you are concerned that your child is not active enough, try to find ways to make physical activity appeal more to him. If they enjoy competition, suggest competitive team sports that might appeal to them. If they are more solitary, running or swimming might have more appeal. If they are shy about exercising with other children, home exercise videos could help them be more active.
Lessons Through Sport
Explore lessons and organized sports for your 8th grader. These might include gymnastics classes or soccer or Little League. As they grow and their physical abilities progress, they may express an interest in sports that even a year ago were not of interest to them. Expose them to as many options for physical activities and sports as possible. Community organizations like the local YMCA often offer affordable and kid-friendly yoga or Tae Kwon Do classes, for example.
Encourage your child to try out different sports and activities and to find one that suits him. Some children resist team sports but can excel at individual sports like tennis or track. Make sure you let them sample a variety of sports to find their interest, and think of non-traditional sports, like fencing or frisbee, that might appeal to them. Reward and encourage persistence, so that even if they are not a “natural athlete” they learn to enjoy participating and pushing themselves to improve.