Exercise For Kids

Getting exercise for kids can be as simple as playing some old fashioned games.  T.V., computer games, and other electronic media provide an irresistible siren’s call to our little ones. Believe me I understand the seemingly impossible task of getting the kids up off the couch. And let’s face it if we’re totally honest with ourselves it’s easier to let them veg in front of a computer game than force them to be active. We subconsciously tell ourselves, “They’re out of our hair, they’re having fun. They’re happy, what’s the problem?”

We’re thrilled to have a bit of peace and quiet, so it’s easiest to just let them have fun with their cartoons. But – for the big picture of their health now and in their future we realize we need to limit their media time and get them more active. I’m not bashing the simple fun and great learning benefits kids can get from media. I’m just saying we’re out of balance with this. If they’re going to have computer time, why not spend some of their computer time being active? Most computer game boxes now have options for dance/sports/ or other active games. Why not consider investing in these to blend computer time with physical activity for your kids. My favorite is the WII Fit series.

Exercise for kids works best if it’s not really formal exercise – but active play. They have short attention spans, so you may have to switch things up. Here are a few ideas to get the kids off the couch. There are various kids exercise programs that I considered writing about, but I decided to share some old standard activities I did as a kid. You can play these games with your children, or even better if you have a group of kids after you teach them the rules, they can play on their own. Little ones will need lots of help and supervision, but the older the kids get they will play better with each other and they become more competive and faster at the play.

  • Swimming
  • Tag
  • Mother May I?
  • Hop Scotch
  • Bike Riding
  • Adventure Hike
  • Scavenger Hike
  • Hula Hoop
  • Jump Rope
  • Follow the Leader
  • Duck Duck Goose
  • Build a Snow Man
  • Build 2 Snow Forts and have a war
  • Games (kick ball, soft-ball, tennis, soccer, relay races)

Here are details on some of these activities. I wasn’t sure if I should provide these details or not. You may think this is ridiculous and already know about these games. But on the off chance that this is new to you – I’m going to risk seeming silly and explain these games. All of these games require either no or little equipment. Very low tech. I’m betting that the “art” of these childhood games has never been passed down to some of you.

Swimming – Every movement (walking/jumping, etc.) in the water takes 17 times more effort than on land. I know this now, but as a child I just remember how ravenously hungry I always was after a day at the pool. There are health benefits just being in the water. So, take the kids to the pool and just let them swim, or play around in the water.

Game idea: Marco-Polo. The person who is “it” must keep their eyese closed except under water. When they stand up out of the water they say “Marco”. Everyone else says “Polo” so the “it” person can tell where the others are located. Then the “it” person jogs/lunges/ or dives under and swims toward the others trying to tag someone. This is great fun and exercise for everyone as you are swimming or trying to run in the water to either tag some or avoid being tagged. When you get tagged – then you are “it”.

Hide and Seek – You can play in the house or in the yard. This works for toddlers and older kids enjoy it too. My grandkids favorite place to hide? Inside the laundry room closet and under the dining room table. Not super hard to find them, so you have to act a bit stupid and surprised when you find them in that same spot (over and over again). If you play in the yard there are more places to hide. For little ones keep it very simple (behind a tree).

Tag – This is a great outside game, but can also be played inside. I’ve never been a huge fan of the “no running in the house” rule. I chase the kids in a circle through the living room, kitchen, dining room. (Shh. Don’t tell my husband. He’s the creator of the “no running inthe house” rule.  But if the weather is nice, of course outdoors is way more fun.

       Variations. Tag is much more fun with a group of kids. This game works with young children, keeping it easy – and with older children it gets faster and more competitive.

  • Freeze Tag – You need a group of kids. The more kids the better.  Basically one person is “it”. When “it” touches anyone they must freeze – (stay in that spot) until another person tags them setting them free.  A huge amount of running is involved in this game! Freeze Tag Rules
  •       Tag/Hide and Seek Extravaganza! – You need 2 teams – once again the more kids the better. You need a large playing area. (a park, the entire school-yard, entire church grounds, a neighborhood block which only works if you know all your neighbors and they’re all involved – probably won’t happen in today’s world). One spot is designated as “home base”. Team ‘A’ stays on home base with eyes closed and waits 5 minutes to allow the other entire team ‘B’ time to hide. Team ‘A’ announces loudly that they are coming. Team ‘A’ tries to find the team ‘B’ members and tag them. Team ‘B’ tries to sneak back to home base un-detected. If they make it back they are safe. If they get tagged, they are out. After everyone is either safe or tagged, switch postions and go again. Ocassionally a hiding spot is so fantastic that they can’t find you. If this happens team ‘A’ may opt to shout out that that person is safe because they couldn’t find you. This allows that person to slink back without giving up the location of their fantastic hiding spot.

When I was a kid we played this all through-out the summer. We called it “Murder at Midnight” because we played in the dark. Our playing field was one entire block.   Everyone in the neighboor-hood played, so there was no problem hiding in everyone’s yards. Families were large back then, so we had lots of kids. One house porch was designated as home base. When thinking of games I played as a child, this is the one that stood out as the most fun in my mind – but since we live in a different world and it wouldn’t be safe or prudent to allow kids to run in the dark through neighbors yards, I tried to think of a way you could still play this game. I decided I needed a more politically correct name for the game as “murder at midnight” probably would be frowned upon, and also changed the playing field to a public area so you won’t be tresspassing! Play during the day and if you have mixed ages playing – fantastic. Just pair an adult or older child with younger ones.

Mother May I – This one is great. You get to sit in a chair and tell them what to do. About zero effort on your part, just teaching them the steps and making sure they remember to say “Mother May I” each time. I use these steps; bunny hop, giant step, baby step, scissor step.   Rules of the game:

Hop Scotch – You just need a sidewalk, a stick of chalk, and one small rock per person – add some hopping and balance, and voila; you have hopscotch.  I see nowadays that they use bean bags to toss, but in my day it was a rock. Like I said … low tech. How to play Hopscotch.

Bike Riding – Take your older kids on a family ride – make sure you wear helmets and ride in a safe place, like a bike/walking trail. Younger kids are happy to ride in your drive-way, or at the playground as you watch on adoringly.

Snow fort war – Of course this only works if live where there is snow. When I was a kid we had 2 teams that each built their own fort. This might take all day because we made them pretty elaborate. This was just another exuse for the never-ending games of tag that we played. This variation had tag as you threw snow-balls at each other, trying to make it to the safety of your fort. I remember one fort we built we incorporated the slide fromt the swing-set. We took the slide off the swing set and put it on the ground under the wall of the fort. The wall was built over the slide but with an opening so that you could run to the fort, dive down onto the slide and get inside quickly.  Once inside the fort – of course just more war throwing snow balls at each other.

Adventure Hike  – One of my grand-sons loved to go on adventure hikes. I remember when he was younger, anywhere that was off the road was adventurous to him. Some hikes that come to mind … along a stream, through the woods, along an abandoned rail-road track, through the storm drain path which included a huge tunnel that went under the interstate. He’s now a teen-ager, and when I visited them this spring I went on an adventure hike with him and my son-in-law in California. I thought we were going on a trail on the mountain. When I saw my grand-son’s wistful eyes as he looked away from the trail and up the side of the mountain I was suckered in. I know he wondered if his 50+ grandmother was up to the challenge, but fornutely I was. There was usually something to hang onto when the going got rough, or not when we were sliding down on our butts.  Good thing I stay in shape because that hike was definitely an adventure. Would I do it again. You betcha!

Scavenger Hunt or Hike – Walk around the block with your little ones, and take a small bag for them to pick up treasures. (pine cones, pine needles, fallen leaves, flowers etc.) For older kids make it a true scavenger hunt that there are specific things they need to find and check off the list.

For more information on the benefits of exercise for kids, check out this website . http://kidshealth.org/parent/nutrition_center/staying_fit/exercise.html#

I hope you make the time to play some of these old fashioned fun games to get exercise for kids.

Renee – from ForeverFitLife.com

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4 Comments on “Exercise For Kids

  1. Oh yeah “Mother May I” is a great lazy mom day activity. But seriously this is a great list. It’s funny how we can forget things we did as kids. It is such a high tech world sometimes it seems easier to just “plug in” your kids instead of helping them experience activities in the real world. If we don’t teach our children these games they will be lost for the next generation.

  2. I am a HUGE advocate for getting the kids away from technology to get exercise. Thanks for this post! Your grandson definitely loves the outdoor games you have taught him.

  3. You left out my favorite low tech game… FETCH. This only works for toddlers, and some parents may find it degrading to pretend that their child is a puppy. When I had my second child we had a long hallway that lined up with my recliner where I would sit to nurse. My first kiddo age 1-2 didn’t understand why mommy had to sit down and hold the baby all the time. This game allowed her to feel like she was getting quality time, while simultaneously wearing her out!

    • Well, I play fetch with the dog – so why not with the kids! Another “lazy” game where I can sit on the swing and get the kids moving. I love it.

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