When you do something often enough, you don’t even realize it’s not “normal.” That’s what sports and being active generally have become for my family. Without realizing it, my husband and I have created a culture of movement in our household. I give most of the credit to him on this one. When I met him, my then 4 and 2 year old children didn’t know the difference between a soccer ball, basketball, baseball, and football. I didn’t realize it mattered. Now they play all of those sports and more in one way or another, and I couldn’t be more grateful for his influence in their lives.
According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, & Nutrition, only 33% of kids are active every day. I’m a band nerd at heart, and really don’t think sports are the only thing a kid can do to stay active, so here are some thoughts to help you combat the “I’m bored” chants or zombie-like stares in our device-infested world.
When It’s Nice Outside
Step 1: Go outside.
Step 2: Do anything but sit.
It really is that simple. Go for a walk around the block. Throw a frisbee, baseball, or football. My family even sometimes takes a football ON our walks. Ride scooters or bikes. Jump with a jump rope, a skip it or skip ball, a pogo stick, on a trampoline, or even from the ground (see my then 4 year old boys in the pic to the right). Play four square or kickball with a bouncy ball. Have a hula hoop contest. Play tag. Skateboard – even if your kid can only ride on his bottom or stomach right now. Roller skate/blade (I recommend knee pads when they’re learning!). Play hopscotch. Set up some goals with whatever objects you have lying around, and play soccer or football.
Swing, slide, and climb on either your own playset or go to the park. Set up an obstacle course in your yard with whatever you have to encourage running, jumping, crawling, or climbing. Shoot some hoops – as part of PIG, HORSE, or any other game involving a basketball. Set up races – starting younger kids closer to the finish line. Hit golf balls or baseballs (even if only plastic ones). Create a backyard scavenger hunt. Launch rockets. Take a drive to Hocking Hills and walk around; join in the fun of climbing at Old Man’s Cave or Ash Cave. You could also head to the zoo – that’ll keep you walking for hours before you’ve seen everything! Buy some silly string and let the kids go to town (outside – trust me).
And when it’s really hot… play with water! Squirt gun fights, sprinklers, water balloons, baby pools, community pools, or even splash pads or water parks. The really lucky may even know someone with a boat to take advantage of some more natural bodies of water!
Of course “nice outside” doesn’t have to mean warm. Kids love playing in the snow. They’re incredibly good at snowboarding even though some of us adults would break our necks. You can build a snow fort or a snowman. And of course, there’s always sledding.
When It’s Not
We live in Ohio. Our weather is quite unpredictable, but that doesn’t mean the only option is sitting inside in front of a screen. I try to limit screen time to an hour a day, but I’m more forgiving when that screen time includes movement. Try turning on Youtube videos and dance. (I highly recommend Koo Koo Kangaroo or what we call “line dances,” which are really someone else’s Just Dance videos online.) Play Wii Fit, Just Dance, Wii Sports, Dance Dance Revolution, or some other video games that require activity.
Have the kids do yoga or aerobics workouts along with you. Play ping pong. Have Nerf wars. Check out an area trampoline park or a restaurant play place. Wrestle with your kids (I leave this one to my hubs because mine are too rough already!). Do ball control soccer drills in the living room. Take slow motion videos of kids jumping up and down. Build giant blanket forts. Jump over an ottoman onto an old couch or into a pile of pillows. Play hide and seek. Check out what’s going on at the convention center or the expo center. Even crafts, baking, playdough or moon dough, legos, puzzles, and board games can be good for exercising brains and fine motor skills.
Elephant in the Room
I haven’t mentioned organized sports or lessons yet because I think that’s what everyone’s minds immediately go to. I’m all about these, too. Our kids have done flag football, tee ball, soccer, gymnastics, swim lessons, ninja class (gymnastics for little boys), jazz class, ballet, basketball, and more. And our oldest is 7 years old. I can’t get into all of the benefits of organized sports here, but they’re absolutely worth it and they’re a blast. But you can absolutely have active children even if they’re not athletic. We parents can show what it means to be healthy to our children, but sometimes that’s even harder than just telling them what to do. I say join in with whatever they’re doing and you’ll immediately up your own activity level. Bonus! All it takes is a little creativity to keep our kids healthy and moving.