Guest blog post by Amanda Moore
If you’re a parent, you already know how important it is for kids to be active. Not only does it keep their bodies healthy, it pumps blood to the brain, making your kid smarter. Unfortunately, these days it’s getting harder to encourage this activity, as kids use screens more and more at school and at home. It’s even harder if you’re a single parent who plans and does everything on your own. But with a bit of prep, activity can become an easy, fun part of your bonding time. Here are five simple ways to get your kids to be more active:
It’s been proven that it’s good for kids to be out in nature. It increases attention span, helps them be less anxious and aggressive, and more balanced as people. Look for nearby areas where you can do a hike that’s an hour or two long. Even many larger city parks have trails where you and your children can ramble around and look at nature. If your children are older, you can tackle longer hikes. Check out a site like AllTrails for a hike near you. If you want to hike in a group with other families but don’t know anyone who’s interested, look for local Facebook or Meetup hiking groups, which often organize events like this. Be sure the kids always wear appropriate footwear, like closed toed shoes, and take along water.
Camping with kids is a fun, low-cost activity that gets you out into nature, too. However, this activity requires a bit more planning. The first thing you need to do is figure out where you want to go and make a reservation. REI has a directory, or if you Google “camping near me,” it will bring up local campsites on private or state land.
Camping requires some special equipment. You’ll need a tent and sleeping bags. Many campsites have bathrooms nearby and potable water, so you don’t have to worry about those two items. Other campsites, mostly those where you need a vehicle prepared for off-roading, have no water, and you have to dig a hole to use the bathroom—so save those for when you’re a more advanced camper. You’ll also need to know about area wildlife—for example, the park ranger may want you to use a special bear-proof cooler for food, which they usually provide—and bring things like bug spray and firewood.
One thing you can do to make it easier is get a group of other friends with kids together to camp with you and your kids. Find out what gear everyone has, then make food assignments or a sign-up sheet. Then the kids can have fun playing, the families pool their resources, and you get extra help.
- Play Ball
Not everyone is naturally athletic, but everyone wants their kid to be active. Sometimes this can prevent you from attempting sports-related activities with your kid because you don’t want to teach them the wrong thing. However, small children don’t need to know how to participate in organized sports to have a good time and get off the couch. You don’t have to be Tom Brady to enjoy tossing a football back and forth with your kid. Even if you can only throw three feet, your child will appreciate the effort. And you can always ask another parent at the park to show you how or watch a video.
Likewise, even if you don’t know how to play baseball, you can get a plastic T-ball stand and bat—the large bat makes it easy to hit the ball. Kicking around a soccer ball doesn’t have to involve teaching your kid how to get a goal—it’s enough to kick the ball back and forth to each other.
- Having Fun Indoors
Sometimes it’s too cold or too hot to venture outside. What can you do with cooped-up kids that won’t destroy your house but will let them expend energy?
Balloon badminton is super simple. Tape craft sticks (aka Popsicle sticks) to paper plates. Blow up a balloon, then hit it back and forth with your makeshift “racquets.” Playing “the floor is lava” and moving around on top of furniture is super fun for kids, especially when a grown-up does it with them. It exercises the imagination, too.
- Simple Workouts
This workout is free and requires no equipment, just your body and a willingness to try. Instead of competing against each other, you can have the kids compete against themselves, trying to achieve their personal bests by beating their time or repetitions.
Start with these three exercises. In between, do jumping jacks or run in place for a minute or two to get your heart rate up.
- Do a wall squat. Have your kid join you. Time how long you can hold it, then see if you can beat your time or each other’s time. If you’re strong, make your child climb up on your legs and have a seat.
- Have a planking contest. Planks are great for core strength. How long can you a plank? Try doing three different types and holding each for a minute.
- Do push-ups. You can do these on your knees to make it easier, then work up to doing straight-arm.