Active Family Fun

7 WAYS TO GET THE FAMILY UP & MOVING

No matter whether your kids are in Zoom school, in-person or at daycare, everyone needs some physical activity in their lives, and incorporating it into daily and weekly routines will help your family lead a healthier and happier life! Exercise helps babies develop motor skills, and it supports kids’ hearts, lungs and muscles as they continue to grow and change. Between busy schedules and decreased access to public places like gyms, children’s centers and schools, it can be challenging to find time for effective and fun physical activities for the whole family. We’ve compiled some fun ideas for staying active at home that will keep the kids moving and entertained. 

Nature Exploration

Taking walks with your kids may seem like a predictable choice, but there are so many ways you make it fun! And, walking is a good way to get out of the house, get some exercise and explore the world around them. Fall is the perfect time to start this habit, as temperatures are cooling off and the leaves are changing into beautiful colors that will catch your kid’s attention. By turning walks into a family activity instead of an exercise, it will encourage your child to be more receptive. Pick a new place to explore every week, make it a post-dinner habit, play iSpy or challenge your kids to identify different objects and things in nature that you see while exploring. For the younger ones, you can also create mini races during the walk, such as racing them to the mailbox or down the driveway. Most kids love showing you how fast they can run! 

Another great idea is to incorporate a scavenger hunt with your kids, giving them a list of items to identify and maybe collect like trees, flowers, acorns, leaves and insects. You can even have them collect one unknown item every time you venture out and research it together when you get home. Dogs are also fantastic walking companions, and you can teach your children how to walk the dog and play fetch.

 

 

Family Olympics

A fun and easy way to get your kids excited to move around is by making a tradition out of having a family game day/night. There are so many different ways to make this enjoyable for you as well as your kids. Hold a family olympics with teams and themes so that everyone can dress up and practice together beforehand. Some great competitive games to play can include relay races, a three-legged race, water balloon toss, hula-hoop challenge, egg and spoon race, musical chairs and much more. Find which games appeal to your family the most and have a blast! 

The more you are excited for playing games, the more your kids will be excited.

If you prefer to stay inside for game night, there are a variety of competitive games that are fun for adults and kids. For instance, Twister is perfect for indoor fun and helps your kids work on their balance and flexibility. If you don’t have Twister, you can make your own using an old sheet and painting the colors on. Bowling is another thing you can easily set up in your house by using old milk or soda jugs, or even the cardboard centers of paper towel and toilet paper rolls. Create a playing field and take turns rolling the ball at the pins, trying to knock them all down. The more you are excited for playing games, the more your kids will be excited, so dress up, create teams and let the games begin!

Active Outdoor Fun

For all skill levels and athletic abilities, outdoor sports are a really great way for kids to get exercise. Invite your kid to shoot some hoops with you and turn it into a game like PIG or Knock-Out. If you don’t have a basketball hoop, try kicking a soccer ball back and forth or against a wall, or throwing a football or baseball. You can even use sidewalk chalk on a cement/concrete wall and create marks they need to hit with a soccer ball or tennis ball. Sports like these are good for practicing foot and hand-eye coordination. 

Another activity for hand-eye coordination is frisbee. After practicing in your yard, try venturing to a local frisbee golf course to try your practiced skills or create a course in your backyard. All you need is a frisbee and something like a trash can or empty bins to throw the frisbee into, and you’ve got yourself a game. Whoever takes the least amount of throws to get it in wins. 

There are other activities that are not as competitive but just as fun. Try jump roping, roller blading, hula-hooping, playing four-square or hide and seek. Make it a personalized competition by seeing how many times your kid can jump rope in 30 seconds or if they can jump or hula-hoop for a minute without messing up. Or try out bocce ball and miniature golf. Creativity is key and it will most certainly pay off when your kids are sound asleep, happy and well exercised. The trick is to stay engaged and have fun!

Get Your Groove On

​Dancing is a great way to let yourself go and have fun while also getting up and moving. You can put on your family’s favorite jams, have the kids take turns picking a song and enjoy a dance party or dance-off right in your living room! This activity is great for kids of all ages, and even babies love to groove. Dancing not only gives you and your kids a great cardio workout, it also releases endorphins and encourages happiness. Research from medical professionals shows that dancing along to music even for five minutes can boost happiness and improve creative thinking patterns. 

If you prefer more structured dance workouts, try kid-friendly online dance games like Just Dance For Kids (there are many different versions of this available for Wii and some are available on Youtube), Zumba, and Youtube videos that are easy for kids to follow. You can also make family dance nights a weekly tradition by focusing on themes like disco night or a salsa party.

Imagine an Obstacle Course

​Get your kids moving by suggesting some fun and creative activities that are sure to bring them joy. Create an obstacle course in your house or outside that challenges your kids while keeping them moving. Tape is useful in making patterns on the ground that they have to jump through and around. You can lay pillows around the house and other objects for them to climb over or avoid. If you don’t want to get your house messy, you can set the course up outside using sticks, rocks, ropes, etc. Another element to add to an obstacle course is a balloon or a ball that they have to keep from touching the ground. Games that stimulate the mind and body are super important for kids as they grow. 

Another way to get your kids up and moving is to create an educational scavenger hunt. Give them a sheet of paper with the items they need to find that also practices their reading skills. As they find an item, you can teach them a little bit about each or attach a notecard of information they need to read. There are so many variations of this game and of scavenger hunts, and it is a fantastic way to educate while your kids are moving about. 

Lend a Helping Hand

Most kids love getting their hands dirty, especially young kids who are curious about almost everything they can taste, touch and smell. Set up your own “Lend a Helping Hand” day, where you and your kids clean out an elderly neighbor’s garden, surprise a neighbor by raking their leaves for them or stop by their grandparents house to help with miscellaneous chores. Gardening is great physical activity especially for gaining dexterity in your fingers and working the upper body. It also provides a nice educational opportunity for your kids to learn about how and when certain plants grow and how to care for them. Other types of yard work your family can help out with can be raking leaves. Make it fun by creating the biggest leaf pile imaginable so that after all the hard work everyone can take a break and jump into the pile. ​Not only will this get your family moving but also will teach them the importance of helping one another. 

One way to get kids to do chores inside the home is to make it a family affair.

When it comes to tackling chores, kids usually run and hide at the sound of the whistle. However, there are ways to make household chores more fun for your kids while still teaching them the importance of lending a hand. One way to get kids to do chores inside the home is to make it a family affair. Put some music on, dance around and enjoy each other’s company while vacuuming and cleaning the windows. Incorporating dance is an active way to help make chores more fun. 

Another way to put some more pep in your kid’s step is to create a scavenger hunt around your house. For each task your child completes, they will receive a new clue that gets them closer and closer to finding what is at the end of the scavenger hunt. These clues could also lead them closer and closer to an item or prize that you hid somewhere. You could have them make their bed, only to find a clue under their pillow, or hide one in their drawers that they will discover while putting away clean clothes. When you mix good deeds with staying active, you can learn valuable life lessons, stay active and spend quality time together.

Little Things Go a Long Way

​Everyone has a busy schedule and sometimes it is difficult to block out large amounts of time for physical activity with your family. There are some things that can be incorporated into your daily routine that are not only fun but also effective in getting you and your kids moving. While watching television, add mini exercises into commercial breaks. When the commercials come on, jump up and do jumping jacks with your kids or time them as they hold a plank. Simpler activities like Patty Cake and other clapping games are great for infants and toddlers during these short intervals. 

One way to make this more appealing to kids is to use names from the show they are watching in the exercises you are doing. If they are watching Paw Patrol you can tell them to do “Ryder-squats,” using the main character’s name, or “Big Bird-jumping jacks” where they make themselves as big as possible while doing the exercise. There are many other ways to incorporate physical movement into other daily routines. All it takes is a little creativity and a lot of excitement.

When many of us are working and schooling from home, these at-home exercise ideas are great ways to include mental breaks from your computer and learning. Young kids are missing out on recess and many after-school activities, so it’s now more important than ever to create healthy habits. So, get outside or move around indoors and spend some quality time together as a family.

 


LIZA STONER is a University of Virginia student and a Charlottesville local who is dedicated to making her community a better place. She also enjoys exploring and writing about all that Virginia has to offer. 


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