Teach your kids that fitness is fun! It’ll set them up for a lifetime of being in shape.
When you were a kid, did you play outside until the sun went down? Do you remember your mom taking you to the park to play tag and do the monkey bars? I do, and it is how the love of being active and fit was instilled in me from the beginning. How you set up healthy activity in your life creates the environment your kids know. That means that even if you weren’t raised around people who cared about fitness, you can create what I call an Active Funzone for your kids every day.
Kids know what you teach them, so if they know from the beginning that fitness is fun, it will be what they crave. Start by trying some of these ideas for every stage of your child’s life.
Go hiking, running or walking with your baby every day. Make sure that getting outside and moving is something you do every day, just like waking up and brushing your teeth. As you are out and about, create fitness stations on park benches or logs where you can do stepups, dips or pushups while playing peekaboo. Or why not do burpees while facing your little one in the stroller and smiling at her sweet cheeks with every jump? From the very beginning, you will be instilling the idea in your little one’s head that fitness is fun!
On rainy days, instead of watching Thomas the Tank Engine, put on music and play freeze dance. Dance with your kids like nobody is watching. The more active you are, the more active they are inspired to be. Afterward, create an obstacle course around your house. Do “pushups like Mama” in the living room, do dips on the side of the bathtub, do jumping jacks in the kitchen, crawl like alligators around the floor and jump like kangaroos up and down the stairs. Set a timer and run from station to station.
Make trips to the park using your bodies as your vehicles. Tell your preschoolers that they can only go in the stroller if their legs get too tired to run away from bears, lions, tigers or any animal that makes them giggle and move fast. Yes, it will take longer, but using their body to get to the destination instills a sense of movement. At the park, incorporate numbers and ask them how many times they can run through the play structure and then run one lap around the park in 3 minutes. Cheer your champs on and do the exercises alongside them. Creating a sense of pride as your children move instills a sense of confidence and courage to try new athletic feats. Try not to worry about what they can’t do yet. Instead, embrace what they can do!
Early elementary schoolers
Live by the mantra, “Less than a mile, bike in style.” The challenge of buckling kids up in a car as you rush from point A to point B can cause stress, and kids feel it. Hop on bikes instead! Get your kids comfortable with cycling and develop their sense of independence by exploring the city you live in. When your kids bike alongside you, they share stories and create healthy memories without even realizing it. As you arrive at your destination, you’re all bound to be more relaxed and happy. Ask them to pretend they’re racing the Tour de France or training for the Olympics. Use the bike trailer you probably held on to from your kids’ preschool years or turn your bike into an Xtracycle to help carry the gear (and possibly tired kids) back home.
Late elementary schoolers
Continue being the active parent with your kids! Yes, seeing you exercising daily reinforces their ability to keep active daily. You set the groundwork of how to move. Don’t worry about picking them up from school in workout clothes — they’ll see you moving, which will inspire them to move. When you’re together, play together. Get off your phone and return to your email later. Focus on them. Set up obstacle courses in your backyard or park. Do the hula-hoop, play Frisbee or do crab walks. While your kids have sports practice, you should practice, too. If they play baseball at a park, run laps at the track by the park and do minicircuits such as the ones found at Dig Deep, Play HARD!
Junior high schoolers
Create Adventure Days that your kids get to pick out. Yes, your junior high school kids want to feel cool with friends, so help them create “cool fit memories” with their parents. Ask your children what they want to do: hiking, stand-up paddleboarding, surfing, skiing, mountain biking, kayaking, trail running etc. Make it a fitness adventure that isn’t related to coaches or sports practice but that will actively challenge their body. Mark the dates on the calendar, and while we know kids’ schedules get packed, make the adventure days priorities!
Creating an Active Funzone is one of the best gifts you can give your kidlets. You’re setting them up with the gift of health from the beginning. Now, who’s up for a bike race?