Children and young people are more likely to be more active or prioritise being active when other members of their family are.
The families of children and young people (CYP) play a significant role in shaping their attitudes, behaviour and experiences throughout their lives. This is also true for sport and physical activity, where family members, particularly adults, can act as role models for active behaviour by taking part with CYP.
However, many participation opportunities offered for CYP by community organisations involve them being active with those of a similar age, often leaving other family members side-lined and unable to be involved.
Creating a family offer is a great way of engaging with CYP and other family members. There are a number of benefits to engaging whole families through your organisation’s activities. These include:
- Benefits to the development of CYP, which can vary when they are active with adult family members compared to when they are active with their peers, of a similar age.
- Having the potential to improve activity levels for both CYP and adults, as CYP can play a role in encouraging their parents/carers to be active.
- Benefitting family relationships.
- Motivating families to be active together.
Ways to create a whole family offer
Family can mean different things to different people and could include parents/carers, siblings, grandparents or any significant individuals (aunts, uncles, cousins etc.) involved in a person’s life. Delivering to a broad range of age groups and adapting to different needs, motivations and barriers can be challenging. To support organisations in developing a family offer, a number of top tips have been set out below:
- Be flexible with the timing of your offer. If possible, try to find a time that works best to run your sessions and activities around family life. It is important that families have the opportunity to dip in and out of attendance freely should they not be able to make all of the sessions.
- Accommodate CYP of all ages in your activity offer. Sport England research shows that family activities appeal most to primary school aged children as this is also the age when children are most interested in taking part with other members of their family. If the activities that you offer also appeal to CYP of different ages, siblings and other family members might be more likely to get involved.
- Consider a blended approach to delivery. Consider offering the opportunity to attend face-to-face and/or online sessions. This will help those that can’t attend every session to stay engaged with the activities you are offering.
- Involve families in the design of your activity offer. CYP and adults who help to shape activities and can get involved in decision-making processes are more likely to be active, as the activities offered are more likely to meet their needs and wants.
- Provide an offer that caters for all abilities and skill levels. Older members of a family are less likely to be active if they lack confidence in their own skills or ability. Parents/carers in particular do not want to risk feeling shown up or worried about letting their children down if they lack confidence participating in a certain activity. It is therefore important to ensure older family members feel as welcome and as comfortable as possible to participate in an environment which caters for their ability or skill level.
- Try to offer flexible membership options. Consider if your membership options are flexible enough to allow families to be active together. Do you have a family membership or a pay as you go system, which may work better for busy families?
- Consider the location of your offer. You should clearly communicate where your organisation is based and the best ways get there. The logistics of attending is sometimes a barrier for families, so it is important to provide enough information that helps families feel safe travelling to or attending your organisation.
Creating the right environment
- Traditional sports environments can be intimidating for families. Some families, particularly those who are not active and consider themselves ‘non-sporty’, may feel uncomfortable in places where sport traditionally takes place. They might not feel like they belong because dedicated sports facilities are seen as places for adults with developed skills, who take being fit ‘seriously’. Consider if there are any other facilities where your family offer could take place e.g. community centres or local parks.
- Work to connect families together, based on location or if the children attend the same school. This will help to ensure that families feel more comfortable when first attending your organisation. You may also wish to use friendly connecters to introduce families who do not know each other when they first attend.
- Review whether your workforce is representative of your local community. Where possible use coaches and volunteers whose background reflect the families you are working with. This will help to help build trust and relationships with them.
- Build positive attitudes. Try to ensure that the activities you provide are fun and non-judgmental. Ask each family what success looks like and set realistic goals to help you offer this.
- Support families to take ownership of activities. Encourage families to take ownership and have a say in the activities you provide. This will not only help you deliver a great experience to them, it may encourage them to promote your offer to others. Word of mouth from other families can be really valuable for marketing.
- Offer a variety. Mix up activities offered so there is something for everyone. You can motivate families though events, challenges, quizzes, loyalty schemes, games, competitions and rewards.