I have a bright, happy, 8-year-old daughter. She loves school, has some good friends, and is mature and good-natured nearly all the time. Here's the problem: she dislikes any and all physical activity. The only thing she doesn't like about school is PE, she resists attending birthday parties that are sports-oriented, and has one-by-one given up all physical extra-curricular activities (ballet, gymnastics, soccer, karate). She is nowhere near overweight, but she does like to eat, so I worry for her size down the road if she continues to resist physical activity.
The question is, how much do we push her to be involved in a sport/physical activity outside of school? I don't want her to resent it/us, which is my fear if we make her do something she doesn't want to do. How important is it at this age??
From: LouHen, MetroWest, MA
As you clearly are aware, physical activity is important for many reasons, from heading off obesity and resulting medical issues to making kids smarter. So, yes, exercise is a good thing.
But: it doesn't need to be adult-led, organized, or even competitive. In fact, the best exercise is simply free play, such as old-fashioned playground play, or kid-organized games ("Tag! You're it!"). Do she and her friends ever ride bikes? Jump rope? Play hop-scotch? Jump on a trampoline? Play at the beach? Run in the water? If she's got a fair share of this kind of activity, I wouldn't worry. (She and her friends never heard of hop-scotch? Get some chalk and show them how it's done.)
And what about family activities: A weekend hike, a family bike ride, badminton, touch football, a walk around the neighborhood. Doing something together as a family can remove the onus of "exercise" and turn it into "this is what our family does." And if you don't do these things now as a family, it's never too late to turn over a new leaf. Just don't make her be the reason it's happening.
You've introduced her to a few different possibilities of extra-curricular sports, and now I'd let it go. Maybe she'll want to try something down the road because her best friend does, and maybe there's just something about the structure, the rough and tumble or the competition that she doesn't like. Heck, maybe she doesn't like the way the gym smells. It sounds like she's a healthy, typically-developing kid who has friends and that, by definition, means they are doing something physical some of the time. (If their play literally revolves around screen activities when they are together, it's time for some rules. Read this.)
The author is solely responsible for the content.