Children from 6 years old and above can benefit from doing light strength and weight training. The majority of parents however are cynical as to how healthy it is for children to do strength training, the fact is that, that children who start training training early do not suffer from the common myth of stunted growth. Children who take up strength training have few if any disadvantages and it is a positive step for most children. As it will encourage your child to be active and learn the importance of exercise. You can also use it for extra family time and it will teach your child healthy habits for life.
Do not Start Them Too Early
Your children should not start strength training until they are both emotionally and physically mature enough to deal with it. Generally this is at around age 6 for the majority of children, if in doubt speak to a doctor first. However as the child's parent you will no as well as anyone if your child is ready. They must be able to listen carefully and follow instructions to prevent injury or accidents, but the exercises you do should be fun, easy to do and not to technical or intense.
Remember your child is not an adult and their strength training should not be anywhere near as intense or demanding as you might do. It's more important that you use the opportunity to teach your child healthy lifestyle habits than to try to get them to build up muscle. Only once they have gone through puberty, should they think about trying to build up muscle mass. Instead you should aim to improve basic endurance and strength, so that the child feels better and fitter. This is especially important for overweight children who want to participate in sports and get healthy.
Here's What You Should Be Doing
Ideally you should consult a trainer to help you make proper training routine for your child, but you should just aim to make sure that they work out their whole body at least 3 times a week, remembering to include a proper warm up and cool down. For example you could have them do 20 minutes of cardio, broken into ten minutes of skipping, and ten minutes of running (or playing tag). Once they've done that you could do some training exercises without weights, such as a circuit; including press ups, star jumps, sit ups, squats, squat thrusts, burpees and leg raises for example. Once they've built up a basic level of strength and endurance you can start to introduce some light weights exercises.
Remember your child is a child and not an adult, so do not push them too hard, you're not aiming for them to bulk up so you should keep the weights light and only slowly increase them over a long period of time. Do not forget to finish with a proper cool down and stretching session.
Children are not perfect and they may not always do what you ask, and you may have bad days with them, but remember they are only children; you can always bribe them with healthy trips or bonus pocket money for behaving well. If you decide to take you child to a gym make sure you clear it with them first or find one that caters for children, alternatively join a circuit training class which would be ideal. Strength training can be fun and a great way to spend more quality time with your child so give it a try.