Many parents believe that in order to get your kids active, you have to leave the house, or invest huge amounts of effort or money. But this simply isn’t true.
After a busy day the last thing most parents want, is to have to put in more effort to make sure their kids do some sort of physical activity. If your children are already involved with extra-curricular or after school sports, then you’ll only need to think about how they can be active on the days they don’t have sport. Or, if your kids aren’t involved in organised sport already then what can you do?
As busy parents we know and understand the dilemma of having to get kids out from under your feet so you can cook, unpack lunchboxes, answer emails, make phone calls or do whatever else needs to be done in order to manage your life, but yet still steer them away from sedentary activities.
After much trial and error, as well as persistence (and the realisation that getting them started is always the hardest part of this process), here are 5 fun and easy ways to get you and the family incorporating a little more movement in your day.
Remember, once you’ve passed the challenge of “getting started”, the kids will love the activities so much that you’ll be able to leave them to entertain themselves while also feeling assured that they are in “energy out” mode and, therefore, living a healthier life!
5 easy ways to be an active family
Where to play: Indoors or in small spaces.
How to play: Like regular tennis, players hit the balloon to and fro over the net. The aim is to keep the balloon in the air and avoid letting it touch the ground. If it does touch, then all the players on the other side of the net to where the balloon touched the ground will each score a point. If it is a player of one, the idea is to score no points for as long as possible.
Why it’s so good: It encourages movement, flexibility and incorporates every muscle in the body. And, every kid loves playing this game – we guarantee it!
Balance a Book on Your Head
Where to play: Preferably indoors.
How to play: Walk to a designated point, turn around and then come back to the starting point. Running is not allowed and if the book falls off they must stop and place the book back on their head before continuing. Each person must complete the course once. Alternatively, have two to four people race against each other.
Why it’s so good: This enforces good posture, which means that the kids have to activate their core muscles; and a stronger core means a stronger structure.
Hide a ball/item competition
Where to play: This is another game that can be played anywhere. This one is a great game to play indoors when the weather outside is nasty.
How to play: To make this game energetic, you must include a time limit to find the item. You can change the time limit based on the size of your house and/or number of players. I would suggest a time limit of one to three minutes. Make it difficult for them to find or make the time short, and it will mean the kids will be running around frantically trying to find the item.
Why it’s so good: Just like most adults, kids love challenges! So adding a time limit to this game completely changes how the kids feel about playing it. Running to find the item will give the kids a great cardio workout, plus finding the item will give them a distinct sense of achievement.
Where to play: To play this properly you will need a good amount of space to run around, so a local park is an ideal venue.
How to play: A great little game is to come up with a word, such as ‘donkey’ or even ‘frisbee’. The goal of the game is to NOT drop the frisbee, or to make the other players drop it. When a player drops the frisbee, they receive a letter (e.g. ‘D’ as in ‘donkey’). And every time they drop the frisbee they receive another letter. The first player to get the whole word (‘donkey’ or ‘frisbee’) loses.
Why it’s so good: This will help them develop their hand-eye coordination, as well as challenge their basic gross motor skills.
Let’s get stretchy
Where to play: On any carpeted floor or grassed area after dinner is usually a good time as it slows the body down to a more relaxed state.
How to play: Think of 4 to 5 animals that kids can identify with and find stretching positions that match the animals. Call out one animal at a time such as “let’s pretend to stretch like a cat” or “make yourself as long as a snake” and then do the correlating stretch with the whole family at the same time and hold for 30 seconds. Then get one of the kids to choose one of the next animals and so on. The longer you can get them to hold the stretch the better.
Why it’s so good: Stretching is one of the best solutions to combatting the stress and the poor posture that a less active lifestyles often encourage.
Finally a couple handy hints to help along the way:
Hint 1: Praise in Public
No matter how small the achievement is, praising a child in public (and by this we mean praising them in front of family, friends or any other people who are important to them) is a great way to reinforce a behaviour that you want them to repeat. For example, when trying to re-educate your children about eating well and moving more, each time they pick up an apple, or they choose to walk the dog after school, recognise these decisions by capturing them (e.g. take a photo or a video on your phone) and make sure that those important people know about it too (e.g. email it to them).
Hint 2: Make them laugh
Other than being good for the soul, laughing has many physical health benefits that will support a healthier and happier family life. In fact, laughter is said to:
- Boost immunity
- Lower stress hormones
- Decrease pain
- Relax muscles.
Now more than ever, as you start to make significant changes with your kids and in your home life, laughter needs to be front and centre. A good reprimand followed by a little giggle shows the children that you actually want them to enjoy their life as they make these changes.
As busy parents, trying to keep life balanced isn’t easy. It’s easy to not make the effort for most people, so by implementing even just one small change every week rather than trying to change the world in a day, you will find that the task at hand isn’t as hard as you thought and the benefits to the family are significant.