Building Confidence in Your Child to Get Active

Building confidence in our kids to be active is key if we want them to stay active for life. In addition to ability and desire, kids’ confidence to enjoy physical activity is an important part of physical literacy.

Try signing your child up for programs that welcome kids with different abilities and skill levels. Boosting kids’ confidence to get moving is easier than you may think. Here's how you can help grow their confidence at every milestone.

family taking a walk with their dog

Kids are great imitators, and they’re more likely to be active when their parents are. Set the tone by being mindful of your own behaviors! And try not to be overly critical of yourself. Watching you take on new activities with an optimistic perspective sets a good example for kids.

Lead by example. We all want our kids to have high self-esteem and self-confidence. As a parent, be a role model by joining or leading activities. Being active with your child helps them develop the confidence to try new things and take risks—and develop the resilience to get up and try again. Most importantly, having fun together is a great way for you to bond with your child.

Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself. As adults, we know no one is perfect, and that’s OK! In fact, it’s more than OK to be imperfect, and it’s important for kids to get that message as early as possible. Your role is to promote fun and fitness—and show it’s not always about competition or winning. Sending kids the message that physical activity is something they can enjoy increases the likelihood that it will become a lifelong habit.

kids drinking water in baseball dugout

Everyone needs encouragement, especially when it comes to trying new things. So, as a parent, it’s your job to encourage and support your child as they develop new movement skills. The good news? You can help them build confidence simply by how you talk about physical activity together. By choosing to focus on the positive, you’ll help them develop their own resilient inner voice that will last a lifetime.

Focus on effort, not results. Celebrate your child’s effort no matter if they lose or win. It takes a lot of courage to try out for a sports team or learn to do a cartwheel, so it’s important to recognize your child’s effort. Try saying, “I love to watch you play” or “I am so proud of you for trying something new and sticking with it.”

Be supportive of all players on the team. Promote an inclusive environment by supporting all players on the team, regardless of their skill level. There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, but kids feel more comfortable putting themselves out there when their effort is praised.

Remember to give compliments. It’s important to praise your child when they do a good job. Try giving positive feedback on specific skills your child gains. This not only boosts their confidence, but it also shows that you are paying attention to their personal growth.

Keep encouraging. Don’t give up! There’s a learning curve involved when practicing a new skill. But once your child gets past it, they often gain the confidence they need to enjoy an activity or sport. If they don’t end up enjoying an activity, at least they tried. And now they can choose a fun new activity to try instead!

mom and daughter having a dance party in living room

Being active at least one hour a day is what it takes to build strong kids. And while many kids love soccer, basketball, softball and other team sports, some don’t thrive in competitive environments. Noncompetitive sports give kids the opportunity for self-improvement and personal growth.

By participating in creative forms of exercise, your child will have an outlet to burn energy, build skills, grow enthusiasm for physical activity and make friends who have similar interests. So ask your kid what they enjoy and help them make it happen.

Finding an activity your child likes is important because kids will spend time doing what they like. While participating in competitive sports is a great way for your child to get active, there are lots of options to get moving without joining a team:

  • Cycling
  • Dancing
  • Hiking
  • Yoga
  • Rock climbing
  • Kayaking
  • Roller blading

two boys playing on a swingset

As adults, we often grumble about getting exercise and working out. But kids don't want to "exercise" ... they want to play! So when it comes to being active, let them act their age. Try swapping out words like "exercise" for "playtime" and "be active," then make sure to offer plenty of exciting activities. A few of our favorites include:

  • Encouraging them to get outdoors with a game of jump rope or neighborhood hide-and-seek.
  • Supporting imaginative play by letting them play pretend with friends.
  • Growing their movement skills by having a dance party to their favorite songs.
  • Promoting coordination by climbing on a jungle gym.
  • Imitating different sports by pretending to dribble, dunk, jump or fence.

A little fun is more important for your child’s emotional and physical health than you think! Unstructured play has many surprising benefits like teaching them to pay attention, develop coordination and gain impulse control. Achieving new skills through play will also help your child feel capable and confident that they can tackle whatever comes their way.