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More PsychNotes: Fitness and Health

December 10, 2015       

Children Prefer Activity
by Monica A. Frank, PhD

active child
When given the choice, children prefer being active. We worry about the problem of obesity and inactivity in children, yet it appears the problem has more to do with opportunity than with preference. Of course children like to play games, and if their only opportunity is to play sedentary, solitary games that is what they will play. However, when children, especially boys and normal-weight children, have the opportunity to play physically interactive games or similar non-physical games, they will choose the more active games (Sit, et al., 2010).

I believe this is also true with any activity. For instance, I've noticed with my grandchildren that they prefer to engage in activity such as bike-riding as long as we are doing it together. Or, if playing a game, they prefer to play with someone. Obviously, though, this means adults need to give children the opportunity for activity which means we can't just sit them down in front of a game console but need to be involved with them. However, providing such opportunities needs to start young because once children are obese their preferences are for less activity.

Sit, C.H.P., Lam, J.W.K. and McKenzie, T.L. (2010). Direct Observation of Children's Preferences and Activity Levels During Interactive and Online Electronic Games. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 7, 484-489.

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