Celebrate Earth Week, Screen Free Week, and the warmer weather by getting your kids outside to play – and get some exercise. These five kid-friendly activities will not only connect your kids to nature, they will also improve your kids’ strength, agility, and cardiovascular fitness while reducing their risk of childhood obesity and weight-related chronic diseases.
Go on a nature adventure
If your kids yawn at the thought of going to the park or playing in the backyard, take them on an adventure. Sure, you may have to drive to get there, but at least you all will get some exercise while taking in the fresh air and beauty of nature. Visit nearby hiking and biking trails or head to the beach for a walk along the water or through the sand dunes. Pack a lunchbag and reward your little exercisers with a picnic at the top of the mountain or by the water. For local trails, visit Trails.com, and if you are beachside, check the tide charts for low tide times.
One of my favorite fitness tools for kids is the Geopalz Activity Tracker. Geopalz is the first step counter that lets kids “walk to win” prizes. What makes Geopalz trackers so fun for kids? In addition to being available in many kid-friendly styles featuring sports, butterflies, or edgy designs, Geopalz lets kids earn pedpoints that they can trade in for prizes, including Frisbees, jump ropes, baseball bats, footballs and more. Kids register and log their steps on Geopalz.com, giving them an interactive way to compete against their siblings (or parents) and friends. Have your kids put their Geopalz on and send them outdoors to walk, run, jump, and climb to see who can get the most steps and pedpoints.
Outdoor scavenger hunt
Make a list of nature objects (i.e. sand dollar, pinecone, bird nest, etc.) or other outdoor items that are in a nearby recreation area, such as a park, the beach, or a farm, depending on where you live. Give your kids 20 to 30 minutes to find all the items on the list as fast as possible. With every item they locate, they have to run back to you and report it; you keep track of their nature finds. When the time is up or the hunters have found all the objects, have your kids then take you to each one. Turn this into an educational activity by giving your kids more information on the items or by having your kids tell you a story that includes the nature objects – this is a fun game for both physical and mental fitness.
Turn your yard into a fitness-friendly space by having sports gear, such as soccer balls, a volleyball net, or touch football flags, readily available. Get the whole family engaged in playing games and encourage your kids to practice so they can play at their best. Even better, get your kids involved in a city or school sports league so they can play – and practice teamwork – with other kids. Set aside time to practice with your kids so you, too, set a good example of teamwork and staying active. Make part of your outdoor play keeping your fitness space in good condition, by picking up gear when not in use and taking care of the lawn and yard.
Move for a cause
If your kids need a reason to exercise other than because it is good for them, have them exercise for the good of others. Check your community listings for upcoming fun runs that raise money for nonprofit organizations – your kids may not want to run for themselves, but they may jump on running to raise funds for the local animal shelter or to increase awareness of cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. National organizations, such as Team in Training or Susan G Komen 3-Day for a Cure, may be available in your area. You and your kids, age dependent, of course, can get involved in donating your exercise time to help others in need. Having a higher purpose for fitness makes staying active all that more meaningful.