Raising a healthy family is easier when you find fun, easy ways to be active with your kids. In addition to inspiring physical activity, these moments become great memories.
While plenty of kids happily rush outdoors to enjoy bike rides, basketball games, or exploring the woods, the global childhood obesity epidemic indicates that many more prefer to hang out indoors watching television or playing video games. Of course, kids aren’t the only ones having trouble getting motivated to be active.
Less than 10% of the U.S. population gets the recommended amount of physical activity (30-60 minutes, at least 5 days a week). Fortunately, there are a lot of things you can do that will be fun for you AND your kids and will get you moving. Here are my favorites:
Whether you use squirt guns, water balloons, or Nerf guns, staging battles against your kids is just plain fun. The battles are more fun if the teams are fair or stacked against the parent(s). You’ll be so busy trying to blast your opponents and avoid being hit that you won’t realize how much exercise you’re getting, but it will be a lot!
I have to give a shout-out to my friend Wendy for introducing me to this super fun activity. It’s like geocaching (for those of you who are familiar with that) but with clues instead of coordinates. Basically, you find a list of locations on the website, visit them and solve the riddle to find the hidden container. When you find it, you stamp the log book in the container with your family stamp (you choose whatever you want) and then stamp your own book with the stamp in the container as a reminder of when and where you have been.
This is great for kids of all ages and doesn’t require special navigation skills. Check out the letterboxing website for more details and a list of letterboxes near you.
Obstacle courses are as much fun to set up as they are to do. You can take turns setting up courses, each take a section to create, or create the course together. Be creative.
Things we’ve used:
- Hula hoops
- Cardboard boxes
- Pieces of wood
- Jump ropes
You can create teams if you want and include segments where one person has to carry a teammate piggyback or give directions to a blindfolded teammate. You can have a segment where the person doing the obstacle course has to balance an egg on a spoon as they walk along a balance beam made from a piece of wood.
Just make sure that the youngest participant can conceivably complete all segments of the course so that no one ends up discouraged.
Unless you are actually good at tennis, playing it with your kids is a blast. The only thing you have to remember is to play without rules.
Younger kids will have a hard enough time trying to figure out how to hit the ball. Don’t confuse them with complicated concepts like serving, boundary lines, and scoring.
If you play tennis with the kids one or two times per week, you’ll be amazed (and proud) of how much better they get in a short amount of time. You will get tons of exercise running around the court trying to return their errant hits and collecting tennis balls.
Kickball is a fun game to play with kids because almost anyone can manage to get a kick, unlike baseball or softball where it can be hard to get a hit. You can play at a local baseball field or make up your own smaller field in the backyard.
As a kid, we always played kickball in our cul-de-sac and we would draw the bases with sidewalk chalk. The only other piece of equipment you need is a ball.
We usually play this on the trampoline, but it works just as well on the ground. Each person takes a turn making up a stunt or exercise which he or she demonstrates. Everyone else must perform the stunt or exercise.
Anyone who can’t must perform a penalty exercise (e.g. 25 jumping jacks or 10 push ups). This is fun to play with kids because they come up with the funniest things like hopping on one leg, flapping your arms like wings while turning in a circle.
You can lay down ground rules in advance (e.g. no back flips) to keep the older kids or daredevils in the group from making the stunts too hard to replicate.
My husband might not love that I am sharing this in public, but one of our favorite family activities is after-dinner dance party. We turn off all the lights, flip on our miniature disco ball and turn on the dance mix on the iPod.
We dance club-style (everyone doing their own thing crowded together in our family room) and then we form a circle so that each person can have a chance to be in the middle and show off their best moves. Every once in a while we Soul Train it and form two lines so that we can each take turns dancing down the party aisle.
We also play dance video games like Dance Central and Just Dance and have an equally good time. For the record, those games are HORRIBLE at scoring you on actual dance ability since my teenage son is always a top scorer and he dances like the white boy that he is. Clearly years of playing video games has taught him how to manipulate scores.
Hopefully these ideas will get you started. Once you start playing with your kids in these ways, you might be inspired to try new activities. If you stumble upon some fun ones, please share them with us in the comments below. I’d love to add more fun and easy ways to be active with your kids to this list!