Kids need 60 minutes of "moderate to vigorous" activity daily and should not be sedentary for longer than an hour at a time. Try these quick expert tips for heart-friendly family fun.
Make it fun
Activities should also offer a challenge without being too difficult or frustrating for the child. Easy-to-learn games and toys including hula hoops and Big Wheels for small children make it easy for kids to jump into the action. Tennis and swimming, on the other hand, require a bit of practice before they can become enjoyable. Include them along with easier activities to keep kids motivated.
Keep it social
Children also enjoy playing with other children. Take advantage of this and start a neighborhood playtime exchange: contact your neighbors to form group playtimes. Gather five or six families together and each day one parent runs the play group. You don't need formal equipment. Just grab a bunch of fun toys and active games and take them to a local park or the supervising parents' backyard.
Create a plan
Plan for these fun backyard and outdoor activities to try with your child (adjust and vary according to their age):
- Stage a relay race
- Play a game of volleyball over a clothes line
- Have jump rope/jumping jacks/push-ups contests with small prizes
- Play Frisbee at the local park
- Go canoeing or kayaking
- Fly a kite
- Create a backyard scavenger hunt
- For small children, blow bubbles and have the kids burst them using different body parts as they name the body part
- Go for a hike and name things you see that begin with different letters of the alphabet
- Set up an obstacle course with hopscotch, push-ups, crunches and jumping jacks
Pick and choose
In addition to individual outings with their friends, plan one day a week for family activity day. Alternate different family members who plan the trip or parents can give three options and let the child choose (alternate among the kids if you have more than one). Choose activities the entire family can do together: bike rides, hiking, swimming, for example, are all great family activities.
Some more unusual outdoor activities include "rails to trails," using railroad beds converted to trails for biking, hiking and walking; and "geocaching," a high-tech treasure hunt using a GPS device. Enter your zip code on the site to find "caches" in your area. You search for the outdoor treasures using coordinates on your GPS device and then share your experiences online.
After all, what's more motivating than a prize at the end of your workout?
More family fitness tips
Learn to exercise with your kids
Making fitness fun for the whole family
5 Ways to get your family exercising all year long