Helping girls get active can be a tough task, especially with the easy access to electronic devices. However, one of the best and healthiest ways to help your daughter have a positive image of her body is to encourage her to use that body – to get active, make a mess, to feel movement, to learn a sport. This way, she can learn to see herself as strong, resilient and competent – not just as “thin” or “pretty.” Girls who ‘do thing’ are far more interesting and self-confident. Here are some expert tips on helping girls get active:
1. Let her get messy.
By the time your daughter’s in preschool, while what she eats is important, how she plays will help her develop a healthy sense of her body. Parents should encourage little girls to get physical and do typically-non-girly things. Parents need to help girls learn to use their body and enjoy being physical, having fun, even if that means getting messy. Put your preschooler in the sandbox and let her get as dirty as the boys, encourage her to run around, treat her as indestructibly as you would your son. If the bow falls off, she can always shower later and get spick and span again.
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2. Encourage her to get moving.
It’s important to encourage even the most sedentary girls to move their bodies, as this helps them develop coordination, assertiveness, and the ability to take healthy physical risks. It promotes a healthy lifestyle while developing a body image that’s about physicality and not society’s image of sexuality. Activities such as bike riding, jumping on trampolines, or swinging on zip lines are terrific for girls who don’t like more competitive sports. Otherwise, enrolling her (without pressuring her) in team or individual competitive sports will bring out a sense of pride, discipline and self-esteem that will yield a wealth of benefits for you and her.
3. Praise effort over outcome.
Likewise, parents shouldn’t pay too much attention to how well (or poorly) girls play or if the coach was unfair. Instead, focus on their effort and whether they’ve had a good time playing. Sports are a great opportunity for girls to develop resilience and learn how to tolerate frustration and deal with disappointment. The experience will teach her to keep going even when the odds are against her, and to accept mistakes and outcomes, and try again. At the end of a practice or game, you might say, “What did you do today that you feel proud of?” or “What new thing did you try today?”
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4. Acknowledge her for the person she is, not the things she does now.
Parents should try not to identify their daughter with the sport she plays or the newest (or oldest) interest she’s been pursuing. Instead of calling her ‘my little X-sport player’, acknowledge her hard work and always remind her not to feel pressured into any particular sport. Moreover, it’s crucial – as parents- not to become obsessed ourselves with her sports activities, as that puts even more pressure on girls to perform and could make her lose interest.
It’s important for all parents to encourage girls to become active and resourceful, to promote a healthy, dynamic lifestyle and help their self-esteem. Always remind your princess that – while it’s nice to sparkle like a princess – it’s better to be brave and self-sufficient like the warrior she is.
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