Your kids are home. Y’all have all been home a lot in the last year. Even though there’s hope for things to change in the near future, that doesn’t change that they’re inside now, and as such, you’ve probably missed your regular exercise routine. Since you don’t want to grant them anymore screen time, you might want to consider incorporating your kids into your workout routine. As you already know, kids have a ton of energy, especially for activities they find fun. All it takes it a little imagination and ingenuity, and before you know it, you’ll be sweating together doing things that feel less like exercise and more like play.
“Parents know kids are little bundles of energy,” Nicole Pepper, body architect and children’s fitness instructor at Anatomy, tells SheKnows. “Sometimes, as parents, it can be challenging to balance our schedules between work, family, friends, hobbies and fitness. We are always looking for ways to be efficient with our time and set an example for our children.”
Because by working out with your kids, you’re teaching them the importance and value of fitness (even if they don’t realize what they’re doing is actually exercise).
We talked with a group of fitness experts to get their creative workout ideas that you can do with your kids within the comforts of your very own living room.
For some fun twists on some classics, Pepper suggests the following.
Set up a 3-by-3 grid using household items such as towels aligned on the floor across the room. Choose one item to represent X and one item to represent O. On the count of three, you and your kid run and place your X or O in one of the squares. Whoever aligns three of their letters in a row horizontally, vertically or diagonally first wins!
Get creative with exchanging running for hopping, shuffling sideways, bear crawling, etc. to the tic-tac-toe board. This game teaches fast thinking skills as well as getting them to run to a target and back.
Simon says touch your toes. Simon says squat. Simon says do 10 jumping jacks, etc. Switch roles and let your kids tell you what to do. This game teaches listening skills (making sure they only perform the task if Simon says so) as well provides an opportunity to have your kids remember the names of different movements when it’s their turn to instruct.
Throwing & catching
Keep it simple. Play catch with your children using any sort of ball (you can choose something sport-specific to an activity they are used to playing). Mix things up by having them try to catch with one hand, two hands, their less dominant hand, throwing into a basket or hoop, aiming at different distances, etc. This teaches them hand-eye coordination and gets them excited about playing new sports.
Headstands & handstands
On a soft surface, have your kids practice headstands by going upside down and making a tripod with their head between their two hands. Help them lift their legs up in the air for a few seconds at a time, being cautious of keeping their neck in a safe position. Once they get comfortable, they can practice handstands by elevating their feet on the edge of the couch, or even walking their feet up backwards on the wall.
This is beneficial for children’s proprioception (a fancy word for awareness of the position and movement of the body) and feeling comfortable in uncomfortable positions. Teaching body control and awareness is a foundational skill that will carry over to different sports as they get older.
Begin standing, place your feet hip-width apart and turn your toes outward. Bend your knees to drop your bottom toward your heels to squat low. Be mindful to make sure your knees are over/in the same direction as your toes. Bring your palms together at your chest and press your elbows to your inner thighs. For extra fun, hop up and down like a frog. It is always a fun game to count how many hops you get in before you start laughing.
Begin standing, then bring the sole of your right foot to your left ankle, inner shin or inner thigh. Keep your right foot either below or above your left knee; avoid pressing on your inner left knee while standing. Once balanced on one leg, bring your palms together at your chest and practice your steady, one-legged balance. Repeat on the right side. Encourage kids to grow their hands like branches of a tree above their head.
Partner Dancer pose
Stand on your left leg, then swing your right foot back toward your bum. Reach back with your right hand and grab your inner right foot or ankle. Kick your right foot back into your hand and reach your left hand up to the sky.
This pose can be challenging, so Sand says her family likes to make it a partner dance. To do that, begin by facing your little yogi to mirror them and bring your lifted hands together like a high-five. As you kick your lifted leg back, press your forward palm into their palm for steadying balance support. Repeat on the opposite leg.
Down Dog pose
Begin with your palms and toes on the mat in a planklike pose or the top of a push-up. Push through your hands and arms to press your chest back toward your thighs and lift your bottom up and back, like the peak of your mountaintop. Encourage your kiddo to create a mountain-type shape with their body in this pose, with their bottom being the mountaintop.
Begin by lying on your mat, belly down. Place your palms on the mat under your shoulders and cricket-wing your elbows back by your sides. Press into the mat to lift your chest away from the floor. Look forward with a proud, king-cobra chest. There’s also the option to make a hissing noise for fun.
Some friendly competition
Use what you already have in your living room to make the most of your playtime/exercise time together by creating in-house drills, Bonnie Micheli and Tracy Roemer, cofounders of Shred415, tell SheKnows.
“It’s easy and it can be done in any room of your home,” they say. “All you have to do is set up three small cones or markers throughout the house. Each cone will be set up in a straight line about 10 or more feet apart from one another — depending on the size of the room.”
To get your family warmed up properly, begin by shuffling in a line around the cones. Shuffle left; shuffle right. Next, have them do the walking toe touch like Frankenstein’s monster (this move actively warms up your hamstrings). After, follow with walking lunges.
Then, set a timer for one minute. Get your kids and even your spouse to complete the drills. Continue and see how many times you can run the drill in one minute. Whoever gets the most times up and down, wins.
To add some variety to these drills, Kate Hamm of AnamBliss, suggests crawling sideways, backward or forward, performing bear crawls (similar to crawling, but your hips are lifted higher than your shoulders) or crab walks in which you start in a seated position with your hands behind you. Press your hips up and walk. Play around with hand positions — toward your feet or out to your sides if you have a lot of wrist pressure — and walk like a crab.
Another game of friendly competition? Something Hamm calls monkey fighting. “You get a balloon and don’t let it touch the ground,” she tells SheKnows. “See how many touches or taps you can get before it does.” You’ll be moving around trying to catch the [balloon], which will definitely work up a sweat.
As Pepper says, “The more you can turn fitness into games, the more your children will associate fitness with fun. Start them young and teach them healthy habits that will last a lifetime.”
A version of this story was published January 2019.