Keeping Kids Healthy, Happy, and Active
by Melanie from Alabama
As parents, we’re well aware of the importance of healthy living and staying physically active. We encourage our children to play outside and join youth sports, while we may head to the gym. Physical activity is so important that we often schedule time to do it. Not often enough, however, do we consider making time to exercise as a family. While we find time for family game or movie night, family sports are often forgotten. It may seem silly, but there are many benefits to family exercise.
Any physical activity, not just structured classes, is beneficial to health and wellbeing. Some fun activities for the family that don’t feel like exercise include:
Going on a treasure hunt. Here’s a great way to keep the family fit and teach your kids about trust, teamwork, and problem solving at the same time. Sound too complicated? Then merely go hunting for bugs, animals, or flowers. You can’t entertain a young kid much better than finding a colorful salamander under a log or rock.
Train for school fitness tests as a family. Learn which fitness tests your child is required to pass in physical education class and train for them as a family. Set goals, such as running a quarter-mile and then a half and then a full mile in a certain amount of time—and reward each family member for meeting each goal.
Play follow the leader. Line up single file and weave your way through the house or backyard. Every few steps, hop, skip, do the grapevine or some other movement that your followers must imitate. Once the kids get the hang of the game, let them take turns as leader. Their naturally creative minds will come up with all sorts of fun movements for the followers to imitate. You’ll be out of breath before you know it!
Search YouTube for some family-friendly aerobics workouts for cold or rainy days. Good options include Elmocize, Workout with Mommy and Me, the Richard Simmons series, YogaKids, and Tae Bo Junior.
Give your child a head start—and race around the house. You can do the same with calisthenics. You do 10 crunches, and your child does 5. See who can complete them first.
Spend an hour doing yard work together. Raking leaves, pulling weeds, and spreading out mulch all help to build strength and endurance. Plus, when your kids help, it doesn’t take as long or seem as much of a chore (depending on the age of the child, of course). There are numerous ways to make yard work more fun for kids. For instance, when you finish raking a pile of leaves, you get to jump in them.
Wash the car together. The scrubbing is good exercise, but everyone getting wet and soapy is just plain fun for kids.
Give your kids a list of indoor chores—then join them. Younger children often like to feel helpful and will enjoy helping you with household chores. Ask them to help you make the beds, fold the laundry and put it away, set the table, and put dishes in the dishwasher—all physical activities that can help get your heart rate up, stretch your body, and build your muscles.
Dance during commercial breaks. Make it a family rule that whenever you watch television, you have to stand up and dance around during the commercials. This goes for everyone! Whoever gets caught sitting on the couch during a commercial break must perform his or her least-liked household chore for one week.
Speaking of dancing, just Dance, dance, dance. Put on your favorite music and dance with your children. Teach your children dance moves from your generation and have them show you moves from theirs (or make up moves for you to try). Vigorous dancing burns just as many calories as brisk walking or playing basketball. And kids love it. Perhaps a Friday night dance can become a family tradition. Let everyone choose some of the music, play it in turns, and shake that thang!
Make like an animal. If you have young children ages 3-8, organize an animal race. Let everyone in the family pick an animal, such as a snake, monkey, or crab. Then race across the room as you imitate how that animal might move. For example, if you choose a monkey, you must race using your hands and feet, but not your knees or torso. If you are imitating a snake, you must slither across the room. Add some proper animal noises for real fun. You’ll be out of breath before you know it.
Hold a night of active family games every week. Organize a night of three-legged races, wheelbarrow races, and others.
Create an obstacle course. Set out hula hoops, pillows, and other devices that you can imagine as “rocks.” Then tell your children that the hoops are rocks in a turbulent river. You all must jump from rock to rock to avoid falling in and getting swept away.
As a parent, you pass more than genes down to your children. Kids pick up your habits too — both good and bad. Show your kids you care about them by jumping in and joining them for family physical activities that will continue to benefit them long after they are no longer little.
You will find that once you begin to make physical activity a priority in your family, it becomes easier to get up and move while also strengthening your family bond.
This blog was written by one of our guest bloggers, Melanie.
Melanie is a homeschooling wife and mother of 8 children. She is also the Publishing Editor of Alabama Family Connections Magazine, a print and digital publication for parents and caregivers in Central Alabama. Additionally, Melanie vlogs her family’s tips, tricks, and travels via her blog and YouTube Channel, Raising Cades.
Check out Melanie's other post: 6 Ways to Encourage Healthy Eating Habits.
Want more information on this topic? wichealth.org has a free online lesson called Happy, Healthy, Active Children. Find it on wichealth.org in the Keeping Your Family Safe And Healthy category!