Keeping kids active has its challenges at the best of times, let alone during the Covid19 home isolation that we all face. It’s very well-known fact that exercising regularly is an effective means of keeping us healthy and feeling good. Unfortunately though for many families trying to juggle their work and life commitments at home full time, it’s the Xbox that tends to get the biggest workout.
Physical activity is certainly easier to perform regularly when it’s fun – this is true for both adults and kids. Fun happens when the activity they are doing is new and has a little challenge involved. This is where creativity is invaluable. Kids need some fun and creativity to stay engaged in physical activity for an extended period of time. It may seem a little daunting to try and generate this winning formula regularly at home, but the good news is that kids are masters at doing this themselves when given the opportunity.
By encouraging your kids to use this natural ability through physical activity, it is quite easy to keep them moving for half an hour or more with very little effort. In my experience working with kids as an Exercise Physiologist, there needs to be a balance between freedom and structure in the activity to prevent it turning into a chore or into utter chaos! The following pointers can help you to create such an activity yourself for your kids:
- Select the equipment: pick out a few age appropriate exercise ‘props’ for them to use, such as a ball, a rope, a stick (with plenty of swinging space!), a toy, some dumbells, a Swiss ball or other items.
- Set the boundary rules: designate the play / exercise area (such as a mat or grassed area outside), give them the overlying challenge that they need to achieve for the session (such as doing a certain number of exercises in the session).
- Get them started with some of your own exercises / challenges: the options are endless in this regard. Start with the basics such as squats, push-ups, sit-ups or similar while trying to include a prop in the mix.
Here’s a few examples to get your own creativity going:
- ‘How many push-ups you can do with your toy balanced on your back?’
- ‘Can you do squats while bouncing a ball for 1 minute?’
- ‘Can you do 20 sit-ups while throwing teddy in the air?’
Using imagination can be great also. Here’s another few ideas:
- ‘Can you leap like spiderman from building to building?’ (ie, spread a few door mats out on the ground for them to jump between)
- ‘Can you jump like a frog 20 times?’
- ‘Can you stomp with really high legs like a dinosaur for 1 minute?’
- Invite them to make up their own challenge: Once the kids see the ‘game’ you’ve set up (and usually once you’re running out of ideas or they are getting bored!), invite them to come up with their own challenge. This will certainly keep them engaged for longer and usually they will show you ideas you hadn’t thought of. Sometimes you may need to ‘tweak’ their idea a little so that it has enough structure and challenge.
- Get involved and have fun!: last and definitely not least, it works best when you are doing the activities as well and having fun. The kids will generally follow your lead: whether you are just going through the motions or allowing yourself to enjoy the activity – it’s up to you.
Mick Craven is an Exercise Physiologist with more than twenty years’ experience helping people of all ages to lead an active and healthy lifestyle. He is currently offering video call (Telehealth) sessions for people at home looking for some guidance with their physical activity. Contact reception for further details by calling 3491 6533.