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As a personal trainer, I often get asked how much physical activity a child needs to be healthy. This is an area where we need to be careful to tread lightly. As a child grows, we want them to be healthy and active, but we also want to set them up for a healthy lifestyle with active habits. So as your child grows, it is more about establishing an environment of FUN and fitness for kids! If we make “fitness” something we have to do or something that needs to be done, not get fat. We’re sending our kids the wrong message.
As a parent, you are the model. If you see fitness as fun and a great way to stay in shape and be healthy, your kids will as well, but if they see you treat it as a chore or something to be dreaded, then you’re sending a message that they should hate it too.
The first thing I will guide parents to do, is to find their thing. Fitness can look different for everyone. Let’s be honest unless you actually enjoy your workout, you will not continue doing it. I would rather you find a love of walking than you feel the need to be doing a set regime that some fitness influencer set up for you. I know I have spent hundreds on workout programs that are gathering dust because I actually did not like them; they weren’t fun for me. So try all the workout classes, and find that thing that lights up and gets you excited to workout! This may change over time, and that’s okay too. Your body may intuitively know it needs a change.
Now that you are working out and enjoying it, your kids will see this and be inspired to be healthy and active! Kids learn by seeing.
Fundamentally kids need the following amount of physical activity based on age.
Children 3-5 need active play and to be physically active throughout the day; this will help with their overall development. Kids innately know this as by nature, children are very active during this development period. If your child is more sedentary due to screen time, encourage shows that are more active and have them dancing and playing along or turn the TV off and let them use their imaginations. During this time frame parks, and toddler-themed activity centers are a great choice to keep them active. Here are a couple of active toys and games for younger kids to encourage active play.
- Play tents and tunnels
- Foam Pojo Jumper
- Learning bowling set
- Classic sit and spin
- Dance Mat
- Mini Trampoline
- Red Light Green Light
- Duck Duck Goose
- Dance party with their favorite songs
- Ring around the Rosie
Kids at this development stage have energy that needs to be burned, just like an active puppy. If toddlers are not getting enough exercise, a meltdown or temper tantrum can signify that they need more movement. Something to keep in mind!
Children ages 6 through 17 should aim for 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity each day. As you can see, older kids do require less active play but still get at least 60 minutes a day. Most children are very active until they hit their teens, and for some, this can slow down in favor of video games and screen time. If you have a child that is not naturally active and you want to encourage more movement, here are some great ideas to get them moving! (Remember we are setting up a habit of FUN and fitness.) Help them find an active activity that they enjoy; for kids who enjoy team sports, it is pretty easy to set up. Help them find a sport they enjoy and join a sports team. If your child is not into sports, try finding other ways to keep them active daily. As parents, it is really easy to let our kids spend their time in front of screens; as a busy Mom with three kids, I get it.
As with anything in our lives, if we can make it fun, our kids are more likely and excited to get on board with physical activities. We are designed to be playful and have fun! Somewhere along the way, we adults have forgotten the importance of play. So this playing with your kids is also a fun way for us to be active as well! Maybe playing tennis with your kids can become your thing!
Here are some fun ideas and active games to help get your kids up and moving and encourage regular exercise
- Jump Ropes
- Set up an obstacle course in your living room and race to see who is the fastest family member.
- Hula Hoops
- Clean-up race – a personal favorite of mind. How fast can they clean up a space? – genius 😉
- Capture The Flag
- The Floor Is Lava
- Hide n’ Seek
- Hop Scotch
- Dance Party
- Freeze Dance
- Simon Says
- Duck Duck Goose
- Just Dance
- Throw Throw Burrito – My kids love this one
- Play catch
- Play Horse or Pig at the local basketball court
- Four Square
- Get a Trampoline – we have an inground one in our backyard, and the kids love it.
- Marathon Month Challenge
*Even more ideas to keep kids active
If you want to create a more of a structured workout time, the following simple exercises are well suited for kids,
- Bear Crawls
- Crab Walks
- Jumping jacks
- Planks – great for helping to develop strong core muscles
- Toe Touches
- Bum Kicks
A fun way to mix this up is to choose one of your kid’s favorite shows and pick out the often-used catchphrases; Disney shows are perfect for this. Asign one of the above mentioned movements to a catch phrase. So each time a chacter says a phrase they need to do the assigend move. My kids loved Phineas and Ferb Workout when they were smaller, I used this concept tp create a fun interactive workout they still love to do from time to time. It is a great way to combine screen time with exercise fun.
Another great option is to grab a copy of my book, The Big Book of 30-Day Fitness Challenges. I have several fun challenges for families that will help add a bit of fun simple activities into your daily schedule! And since they are set up as challenges, you can add in a small prize if they complete the challenge! Make sure you add a small prize for yourself too.
Raising healthy kids starts with re-framing the way we look at exercise; so many of us, myself included, have been conditioned to look at working out as something we need to do to look a certain way. Let’s drop that belief RIGHT now and train our precious children to do the same. Let’s exercise because it is fun to move our bodies and we feel better when we do. Let’s make the conversation about being healthier and happier!
Our kids need movement as they grow and mature; it is essential for their mental health and physical development. I hope these ideas around fun and fitness for kids have helped you to find a few ways you can help your children to be more active daily.