Active Play for Bookworms

Get your avid reader to exercise his body, not just his brain.

Girl on tree branch reading a book
Steve Prezant / Image Source / Getty Images

Having a child who's a bookworm is an enviable problem! But even kids who love nothing more than to bury their noses in a book also need active play. Too much sedentary time poses health risks, and it doesn't matter if that sedentary time is spent reading books or playing video games; bodies need to get up and move. Try these strategies to entice your reader to engage in physical play.

Walk or bike to and from the library. City libraries often sponsor summer reading programs to encourage kids to read more.

Your child probably doesn't need that, but you can take advantage of the reverse incentive, using library visits to promote active commuting. If you can't travel on foot to your library, you may still be able to add a walk in the surrounding neighborhood to your library trips. Better yet, find a park or playground nearby and tack on some playtime there to library visits whenever possible.

Read books about sports and fitness. Let fictional characters inspire active play through picture books and chapter/young adult books about sports. Or try health and fitness titles that may prompt an interest in dancing, bicycling, or even yoga.

Imagine and re-enact. Invite your child to share her favorite books and characters with you by re-enacting scenes or putting on puppet shows inspired by stories she's read.

Bring books along. When you take a family hike or bike ride, have your child stash a book or two in his backpack.

Then stop for reading breaks along the way. Plus, as you explore, be on the lookout for scenery that he can link to settings he's read about—everything from the forests of Middle Earth to the suburbia found in the Wimpy Kid series.

Visit a StoryWalk or make your own. With a StoryWalk, you read a picture book by walking along a path where the pages have been posted.

See if you can find one in your community. Or make your own (PDF) right in your neighborhood!

Read jump-rope rhymes. Borrow or buy a book of jump-rope rhymes so your child can play an active game that incorporates a reading element.

Take a moving-around break. When it comes to physical activity, frequency matters. One study of over 500 Canadian kids, ages 8-11, found that even short breaks in sedentary behavior were associated with lower BMI scores and health risk factors. The study's lead author, Travis Saunders, says this is evidence that "simply getting up more frequently is associated with better health in this age group." So interrupt your child's reading from time to time and have her stand up and wiggle for a few minutes!


Saunders TJ, Tremblay MS, et al. Associations of sedentary behavior, sedentary bouts and breaks in sedentary time with cardiometabolic risk in children with a family history of obesity. PLoS ONE, Vol. 8, No. 11, November 2013.

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