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I had a close friend of mine (who is a PT also, primarily works with adults) contact me the other day asking, “Tricia, how do convince a 10-year-old to do exercises?” Now there’s a question! Kids can be very motivated . . . for what they want to do, not necessarily what any adult wants them to do. The said adult could be their parent, grandparent, therapist, teacher, babysitter, etc.


I have learned a couple tricks to get the results I need out of children. These ideas are of course age-sensitive, as well as maturity-sensitive.

If the child is a teenager, or at least wants to be older, I always try to pull the athlete talk. I ask them what sports they are interested in. Once they have told me their sport of interest, I tell them that in order to be the best athlete they can be, it is mandatory to exercise to create a strong core, desired flexibility, hand-eye coordination, etc. I tell them that all athletes, whether high school, college or professional, exercise and train regularly. I’ve had several kids, that as long as I remind them of this every now and then, it keeps them fairly motivated.

Of course, the sport talk sometimes only goes so far. I frequently incorporate an obstacle course or game into my exercises. Games with pieces, such as Jenga, Connect 4, Checkers, etc. work great to have your child use stairs, or a stepper (on a stepper, you could do forward steps, backward steps, or side steps), walk along a balance beam (a 2×4 board works good for this), or heel raises to reach up high for each game piece.

With a game like Candy Land, I will place the cards across the room and have the child do animal walks to pick each card. Animal walks can include penguin walks (walking on heels), frog jumps (squat jumps), crab walks (hands and feet with stomach facing the ceiling), inch worm (on hands and feet with stomach down, walk hands out first to lengthen body, then walk feet to hands to shorten body), bear walks (walk on hands and feet with stomach facing floor), duck walks (“walking” in squatted position), tip toe quiet like a mouse, or jumping like a bunny.

Kyler Balance Beam

If you are working on an exercise that requires multiple sets of 10, you could have your child perform 10 sets of the exercise (straight leg raises, bridges, hamstring curls, etc.), then they can take their turn with a game, or blowing bubbles, or whatever activity they enjoy doing. Then repeat.

One trick, I mean “idea”, is to not call them exercises. When it’s time for exercising, say, “Let’s play a game!” Or call it something that encourages your child – basketball training, animal tricks, etc. One of my kiddos always says when therapy is over, “Thank you for dancing with me today!” (even though we may not have “danced”). 😉

These ideas should jump start your child’s exercise routine.

What have you done to encourage your child to perform exercises? Share your ideas in the comments below. You never know, your idea may help another parent or therapist!

The purpose of this blog is to provide resources for parents who want to carry over therapy activities with their child at home. The information provided here does not replace therapy or medical care provided by a qualified therapist or medical professional.
These activities are safe for most children. However, some activities or materials may be inadvisable for children who have certain allergies or medical conditions. It is recommended that you consult your child’s medical provider or therapist before engaging in the activities you have selected.