10 Ways To Keep Kids Active
Without organized sports or school P.E. to help children get enough exercise, what’s a parent to do? These ideas bring a little fun to physical activity.
Exercise is important for children’s physical, mental and psychological well-being. “Studies continue to show how exercise helps children stay healthy psychologically by reducing stress and physically by reducing weight while boosting the immune system,” says Geeta Kumar, DO, of Bridge Pediatrics in Fort Lee. Yet according to the 2017–18 National Survey of Children’s Health, only 28 percent of U.S. children met the level of exercise recommended for them: vigorous physical activity for at least 60 minutes daily. And that was before the COVID-19 crisis sent everyone home and put a temporary end to organized sports, school recess and physical education classes!
Being at home means you’re competing with screen time too. So how can parents make physical activity fun and appealing to kids this summer? These tips will help.
1. Create an indoor or outdoor obstacle course that includes several exercise stations. For example, to move ahead on the course, you have to do a summersault, complete 10 jumping jacks or stand on one leg for 30 seconds. Use household items like cushions, cardboard boxes and broomsticks to create the course.
2. Have a dance fest. Alternate between your favorite tunes and those of your kids. If dancing starts to feel dull, incorporate freeze play: Whenever the music stops, everyone has to freeze in place until it starts up again. “There is nothing like music and dancing to lighten the mood and keep the body active,” Dr. Kumar says.
3. Make foot races fun by changing things up. Variations include carrying an egg on a spoon while you run and racing like an animal (hop like a frog or gallop like a horse). Otherwise, games like tag and kick-the-can are tried-and-true ways to get kids running.
4. If your child is old enough, put him or her in charge of walking the dog. “Simple daily activities like dog walking are excellent not only because they are outdoors,” says Dr. Kumar, “but also because the entire family can do them together, keeping everyone motivated.”
5. Amp up follow-the-leader. Give each participant a turn at being the leader, and award a prize to the one whose actions are the most energetic.
6. Break out a jump rope. Dust off your memories of the rhymes you jumped to as a child or look online for ideas. Kids not interested in rhymes? Hold a competition to see who can jump for the longest time.
7. Practice headstands. Most kids enjoy headstands and catch on quickly. Headstands exercise core muscles and circulate blood to the
8. If you practice yoga, teach your kids the basic positions and run a simple session for them before doing it yourself. “With just a mat and maybe some online guidance, parents can practice yoga at home with their children,” Dr. Kumar says. “There is so much data about the benefits of mindfulness for kids.
9. Create a carnival. Outside or in a room free of breakables, set up a ball- throwing carnival game. Use cans from the recycling bin, or the bin itself for younger children, as the targets. Set them up on a bench, table or low wall. Award small treats or prizes for hitting the targets.
10. Explore the outdoors by hiking. Being outside reduces anxiety and stress, and hiking gets the heart rate up. It also gives you dedicated talk time with your kids away from technology. If they need an extra incentive, visit the trail ahead of time to set up a scavenger hunt. If you see others on the trail while hiking, just step off until they pass as needed to maintain six feet of separation.
HOW MUCH EXERCISE?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that school-aged children and adolescents (ages 6 to 17) participate in a variety of physical activities they enjoy that are appropriate for their age. They should be physically active for 60 minutes or more each day, including these elements:
■ Aerobic activity: either moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity (this should make up most of the 60 or more minutes a day).
■ Muscle-strengthening: activities that involve moving muscles against resistance, such as using free weights, elastic bands or workout machines or walking/ running up stairs or hills (at least three days a week).
■ Bone-strengthening: activities that produce an impact on the bones, such as hopping, skipping, jumping rope, running, weight lifting or playing sports like volleyball, tennis and basketball (at least three days a week).