10 Ways to Encourage Your Child to Be Active (& Increase Their Emotional Intelligence!)
Updated: Apr 27
So you want your kids to be emotionally intelligent. So do we!
That’s why we created the EQ Explorers series. It turns out there are many things you can do as a parent to encourage your little ones to develop their emotional intelligence—even when they are very young.
One of the lesser known ways is to encourage your children to be physically active. Physical activity, which includes running around in the backyard or playing on a playground, does wonders for your child’s emotional well-being.
Research has found strong links between emotional intelligence and physical activity—especially in children.
Is your child anxious or depressed? Get them outside. Being physically active has been found to reduce depression and anxiety and even boost your child’s self esteem. Additionally, exercise can actually help your child learn cooperation, problem solving, and emotional management. How?
Exercise reduces stress (you’ve probably experienced this yourself) and improves cognitive function.
This means that with the help of exercise, your child can think more clearly and handle their ever-changing emotions in a more rational way.
Emotional intelligence and physical activity are interconnected. If you work on one, you’re working on the other. Encourage your children to live balanced lives. Spend time talking about feelings and helping them process experiences, and encourage them to be active. Science shows that if you do, your child will reap the benefits of higher emotional intelligence and better physical health.
Here are 10 ways you can encourage your child to be active and work on their emotional intelligence, too!
Go outside every day. It sounds simple, but this can make a big difference for you and your child. Even if they’ve already been to a full day of school, schedule a time every day (especially on the weekends) for them to be outside. And don’t worry, you don’t have to plan an activity—just let them explore the great outdoors.
Sign your child up for a new sports team. Encouraging your child to join a sports team will enable them to run around and use their body while also learning valuable interpersonal skills.
Go on a family walk. It’s easy! Whether you walk or ride bikes, get everyone together and get moving.
Play a game of kickball, soccer, or plain-old tag as a family. Exercising (or playing) can calm any tension and get you giggling together.
Buy toys for your children that require activity: Invest in a jump rope, chalk for the sidewalk, a soccer ball, or even a cheap badminton set. Your children will have fun learning the activity.
Set a limit on screen-time. We’ve all heard this before—and it’s really important! One show a day, 20 minutes with the iPad—whatever it may be, set a boundary. Your child is most likely not mature enough to set one on their own. Help them out by setting a hard limit and then let them be creative with the rest of their free time. Chances are, they’ll want to go outside.
Keep a chore chart. Ever feel like you’ve gotten a workout from dusting the baseboards or vacuuming the living room? Give your child daily or weekly responsibilities to work with their hands and help with the housework.
Plan family outings or vacations that involve physical activity. Take a hike on a Saturday or go to a ski resort in the winter. An experience that engages all of your senses will certainly be memorable.
Focus on fun. While you can explain the benefits of exercise to your children, don’t let that be the focus. Teach them to get in touch with their bodies and love to move! Help your child recognize how they feel when being active. Don’t let exercise become another chore for your kids—rather, help them see it as rewarding fun.
As always, model first. You’ve learned by now that your children are constantly learning through observation, and one of the people they observe the most is you! That’s the great thing about parenting. If you want to get to your kids, you have to walk the talk. Make sure that you prioritize physical activity each day. Your exercise of choice probably looks different than playing hopscotch in the driveway—but your kids will quickly pick up on the joy that you find in being active.
Herazo-Beltran, Yaneth, et al. “Relationship between Physical Activity and Emotional Intelligence and Bullying Among School Children.” Journal of Sport Psychology, vol. 28, no. 1988-5636, 2019, pp. 97–103.