It seems like there are more reasons than ever for kids to stay put. There are a dozen TV channels aimed entirely at children, the video game and app market is bursting with age-appropriate content, schools are shortening or doing away with much-needed recess, and homework piles up quicker than we realize. Before you know it, it might have been days since your child last spent time outside just being a kid. This is a problem many parents face. You’re not alone.
You know that exercise is part of a healthy life, but it just feels so hard to encourage it. It doesn’t have to be. Making exercise a priority can be a fun, low stress activity for the kids and for you. You already know that you can enroll your kids in vigorous sports, but what about ways to keep them moving every day? Building healthy habits now will help your children all throughout their lives. With that in mind, I’ve come up with a list of fun, easy ways to get your kids moving with some warm up exercises. Nothing too demanding, just pure fun.
Choose Outdoor Toys over Indoor Toys
As a mom living in the mid-atlantic region of the U.S., I understand the importance of keeping your house stocked with indoor activities for those stretches of time where the weather keeps us home-bound. Sometimes however, this instinct to stuff the house with rainy day activities can lead to a lack of outdoor options. This does not need to be an expensive overhaul. Plastic bats, a few kickballs, bubbles, sidwalk chalk or a butterfly net can each be purchased for little more than $1. Each of these items can become its own reason to play. Draw hopscotch courses on your sidewalk, set up a soccer goal between two trash cans or go on a hunt for interesting bugs. Even just 20 minutes of lightly structured play like this can have far-reaching benefits for kids, and for you.
Try Some Yoga
You may be surprised how quickly and easily your kids will pick up the basic yoga poses. Kids tend to be more flexible than their adult counterparts, and will soon be showing off their best Triangle Pose for you, even as you tip over occasionally. The calming motions of yoga practice can help with everything from focus to sleeplessness. These simple motions do not require much room, so they can be done just as easily in an apartment living room, as in a wide, outdoor park. Yoga can also be a great play date activity. It gives both parents and children a fun, healthy and easy outlet.
Use Videogames to Your Advantage
With motion sensing technology available on some gaming consoles, now is a better time than ever to make video gaming an active experience, rather than a passive one. Sports based games utilize aspects of the controller, or special peripheral devices to judge the accuracy of your child’s movements. Bowling, tennis, running, yoga (again!), skiing, soccer, and any form of dance you can think of can all happen right in your living room now. Kids get a dual advantage this way. They continue using the problem solving, and hand-eye coordination skills they already pick up in video games, but now they get to add a light to moderate workout on top of it. This one shouldn’t be a hard sell.
Make Walking a Larger Part of Your Day
I live in a small neighborhood that could easily be walked by anybody. There is a school bus stop about a block away, and every morning and afternoon, it is crowded with cars waiting to drive kids the quarter mile to their respective houses. Now, certainly on days with bad weather, or on days where you’re heading straight to the dentist, this makes perfect sense. However, imagine how much more activity you could sneak in by simply walking to and from that same bus stop. It could be 1/2 mile per day, five days a week. Before long, you’re racking up 2.5 miles, just by getting to the bus stop. Combine that with parking further away from the grocery store, doing laps around the mall, and maybe walking to the far mailbox (instead of the one at the top of your street), and you’ve got a significantly more active kid (and a more active you!).
Make the Outdoors an Exciting Place
See if you can have an outside project that the kids check on every day. It could be a simple garden, or a bird feeder, or even a small building or painting exercise. Giving them a structured reason to get outside makes it feel more natural and less like punishment. Saying something like “You’ve been on the couch all day, go outside!”, is not as inviting as “How are those carrots doing today?” If you have an old camera or phone you don’t mind handing over, you could even make an outdoor photography chart for them. Each object they find and photograph earns them a star, or a sticker. Got a rock hound on your hands? Set then up with some simple digging tools and turn them loose. Don’t forget about night time activities. Stargazing is also a great excuse to get outside. Use your imagination! Just make sure they look forward to the project, and they’ll be asking to go outside without you needing to remind them.
Make Exercise a Family Thing
So often, we make weekend plans which don’t involve much exercise. Seeing a movie, visiting family, getting some shopping done – these can all be fun things, but when they become the majority of what we do in our free time, we miss out on exercise. What if you planned a family bike ride, or splash party? A weekly baseball game among a few families, or Sunday nature hikes can be great ways to encourage a healthier lifestyle, and have fun while doing it.
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