Combining Fitness and Fun
How many parents do you know who would get their kids a membership to a gym? Probably not many, because kids have found an incredibly simple, inexpensive and fun way to get a workout – through play!
"Creating structured exercise for young children can create negative feelings toward fitness," says Catherine Cram, M.S., pre- and postnatal fitness expert and exercise physiologist. "The best objective is to encourage free play for your child and limit time spent in front of the television or computer."
To keep kids away from the TV and off the couch, encourage games to get kids moving – and set a positive example by joining in. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Follow the Leader
What child doesn't love this timeless game? Have your child follow you around the house or yard. March, jog, skip, hop and dance! Younger children can crawl under tables and jump over small obstacles. Older children can follow the leader across monkey bars, up and down the slide and up the stairs. If indoors, put on some music and add fun dance steps on your journey around the house.
Kids play this game all the time and don't even realize the workout they're getting. Hopscotch not only works kids' leg muscles but also improves balance and motor skills. Use sidewalk chalk and make game areas on the driveway or sidewalk. For indoor play, use the tile patterns on your kitchen floor, or items such as colorful Hawaiian leis or yarn to make a safe indoor hopscotch area. Be sure to do this in a carpeted room so children will not slip.
Kids may not do jumping jacks or sit-ups if Mom says so, but they will if Simon says! Simon says to do 10 jumping jacks. Simons says to touch your toes. Simon says to march in place. Be a couch potato. (Sorry, Simon didn't say that!)
Red Light, Green Light
This fun game should be played outdoors. Invite all the neighborhood kids and have them all line up on one side of the yard. Yell "Green light!" and see them take off. Whoever's not sitting on their bottoms after you yell "Red light!" is out of the game. The person who makes it to the other side of the yard first is the winner and gets to lead the next game. For the next game, have them crawl, walk like a crab, hop or do leap frog when the light turns green!
What could be a better cardio workout than shaking your body to the music? It's also a great way to introduce different dances and decades to your kids. Whether they're doing the jitterbug, square dancing, two-stepping or doing the twist, kids and adults will have a ball – and get their hearts pumping!