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Making Fitness Time Fun Time

Whether your kids excel at traditional sports like soccer and basketball, or run in the other direction at the mere mention of them, you can set fabulous fitness habits in motion by emphasizing exercising for the sheer fun of it. These recreation recommendations are think-outside-the-box (or field) ideas for getting kids moving and keeping them moving. Plus, they'll have so much fun doing it that they won't even notice it's good for them.

Be specific. The very kids who balk when you tell them just to go out and play often respond much better to specific backyard challenges and activities. Offer: a stopwatch and a timed goal (running for 5 minutes, hopping for 3, a minute's worth of sit-ups); an obstacle course to make and do (they have to use the mini trampoline, the exercise ball, and the hula hoops, say); a relay to complete using balls, bean bags, foam darts, and whatever else is likely to appeal; a game of hose limbo (run under the spray) or hose tag (avoid being sprayed) on a hot day.

Join up. Recreation classes offer a terrific introduction to various physical activities, especially since the premise of a beginning course is that you don't already know how: in addition to conventional sports, look for rock climbing, skate boarding, swimming and diving, various kinds of dance, gymnastics, yoga, martial arts, and even circus arts. Or consider joining an athletic club such as the Y or a climbing gym.

Get outside. There are all of the tried-and-true backyard and driveway games and toys, of course -- the scooters and skateboards, pogo sticks and balance boards, balls and hula hoops. But there are some newfangled games worth checking out as well:

  • Djubi -- What do you get when you cross a ball with a sling shot? You get Djubi -- a unique, rubber-band-powered, launchable throw-and-catch game. (Djubi, $30)
  • Dodge Tag -- This fun, fast two-person version of dodge ball has vests that the soft balls stick to -- which means that if you get a hit, everyone knows it. (Diggin Active, $20)
  • Coursing Around -- A book of "15 fun-filled activity courses using sidewalk chalk." Think hopscotch, only crazy fun. (Coursing Around, $15)

Or don't. Just because you're rained out or snowed in doesn't mean you can't get a move on. Consider these active indoor games that run only the smallest risk of breaking all your prized knickknacks:

  • Hyper Dash -- A hilariously frantic game where you follow electronic commands and tag targets in the correct order to win. (Wild Planet, $30)
  • Hullabaloo -- If Simon Says and Hopscotch had an electronic love child, it would be this cute and silly follow-the-directions movement game that's perfect for little ones. (Cranium, $30)
  • Twister Hoopla -- This off-the-mat version of the famous contortion party game uses colored rings to create plenty of play, lots of laughs, and as much balance as you can muster. (Hasbro, $24)

Play a card game. FitDeck Junior Exercise Cards contain illustrations and instructions for specific movements, stretches, and exercises of varying difficulty. Your child can draw a hand randomly from the deck of 56 cards to create a fun and unpredictable workout that targets multiple muscle groups. ($15, fitdeck.com)

Be prepared for fun. Keep individual buckets and totes filled with supplies for grab-and-go activity: sidewalk chalk, a penny, and a ball for hopscotch or four-square; a pair of flashlights and a few snap-and-glow bracelets for after-dark tag; jump ropes and a printout of some traditional skipping rhymes; lots of different kinds of balls with a list of ideas for games to play with them.

Gear up. Who doesn't love a gadget? The thrill of battery-powered proof just might inspire your walker or runner to go that extra mile. A CardioSport Digital Pedometer lets you count your steps - -and convert them to mileage (Impulse, $20), while a Simple Stopwatch can inspire all sorts of athletic feats, personal bests, and good-natured competition: How many jumping jacks can you do in a minute? How long does it take to swim a lap of the pool? (Learning Resources , $10)

See More Family Fitness Tips

Catherine Newman lives with her husband and two kids in Massachusetts. She is the author of Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family.
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CeReality: 5 Families, 5 Stories, 1 Critical Meal

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