Exercise for Kids: How Parents Can Keep Kids Active

parentingages and stages

When I was growing up, “in the good old days,” exercise was built into my daily play routine. Here is a common refrain I hear from parents of children who are close to my daughter’s age (who is soon to be 8 years old), “It’s just not the same as when I was a kid and I went out after school and played outside until I was called home for dinner.”

Kids playing with mom on the sand

These days it seems that children are kept inside more and under closer watch. And the lower levels of activity are becoming too apparent in the national averages for children with obesity and diabetes and other ailments that could potentially be prevented by a healthier lifestyle, which will nearly always include more exercise.

But how can we as parents keep those kids active?

How Parents Can Keep Kids Active

Make Activity a Story

One great way I have learned to engage kids in an activity is to attach a story to it. It can be a made up story, a fun or silly story. It can be an adaptation of a favorite family story or a reenactment of a book or movie. Really, anything can be used for material, and most kids will love to help create a story as you go!

Made up stories: When I am helping to create a made up story, I like to start with a premise that is interesting to the kids I am playing with. In my daughter’s case, it used to be about princesses and castles, but these days it is more likely to be about outer space or talking animals. I may start with facing a ‘being’ that doesn’t know much about how ‘we do things around here,’ and we get to act out different ways we can move our bodies. For example, "And then the alien asked, 'How fast can your legs move you?' And we all show them just how fast we can run … and how high we can jump … and how low we can crawl, etc."

Reenactments: Sometimes after we see a movie we love, we like to go over some of our favorite parts and act them out. I like to make sure we choose some of the more active parts. For instance, after we recently watched the movie Spirit, the next day we were out prancing around and galloping like horses, acting out some of the more active parts. For a while, we were part of the family of wild horses that ran free in the fields and then we became some of the bridled horses that had to pull the train car up the big hill (ugh).

Active Imaginations: My favorite part about using story as a vehicle for engaging kids and keeping them active is having kids help create the story so they exercise their imagination at the same time. It nearly always ends in a giggle fest, because kids are so fun and so darn funny! The other part I like is that once that ball is rolling (so to speak), the kids will usually take it over and keep it going on their own. Now we are really talking a win-win!

How do you encourage your kids to be active everyday?

Karen Duggan is the Founder of Playful Planet, a children’s media company dedicated to ‘Empowering Kids and Their Families to Be Healthy and Live Sustainably.”  Playful Planet’s first program, Storyland Yoga, has won 4 national awards, including Parent’s Choice and Mom’s Choice Gold and is available on DVD and download.  A companion book is due out by the end of November.  Storyland Yoga is a fun-filled adventure that infuses children with an eco-conscious message.  Two unique stories,  “Save the Whale” and “Condor Trek” engage a child’s imagination through storytelling.   The Playful Planet website also features tips and resources for parents who are interested in simple ways to instill healthy lifestyle options to kids at a young age.  At Playful Planet, we believe that if a child begins to understand that the choices they make for their own health can also effect the health of the world around them, it can create a new hope for the future.

Featured image courtesy of Flickr.

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