Fun Ways to Keep Your Kids Active

Don't make exercise a chore

With summer upon us, how do we keep kids active when it’s “too hot outside,” or when they want to play video games, or… you know the list of “excuses” at your house better than anyone else. Or maybe they want to be active, but since there is no physical education class or recess with friends, they can’t come up with something to do.

One idea is to let them be creative and come up with their own activity or exercise, or you can provide a few ideas for them to choose from.

As a parent/guardian, it always a good idea to have a few ideas (or a whole list) in mind for those days when it’s hard to come up with something new (or at least something you guys haven’t done in a while).

At our house this summer, we are going to continue PE “class,” with each child getting a chance to plan it (or pick the activity from choices that I provide if needed). Being a part of the planning and taking ownership over the activity will bring excitement to any child. If you are physically able, take part in the activity too, and encourage all to participate.

Be a role model to your kids so that they can observe the fun and importance of exercise to you too. You're taking part in the activity will encourage your child to want to participate in these fun and active events. For added fun and extra participants, invite neighbors sometimes.

The 2008 Physical Activities Guidelines for Americans recommends that children and adolescents should be physically active for at least 60 minutes each day.

And the activities do not need to be done in one 60 minute span. Small increments of activity done over the course of the day totaling at least 60 minutes is great too. 

Kid-Friendly Outdoor Activities 

Some fun outdoor activities to try include the following and some can easily be adapted to inside play if the weather isn’t cooperating.

  • Take a family walk. And use your imaginations. So on a “practice” walk, my children imagined and “saw” things that we could see in the mountains. Houses were snow covered mountains, the storm drains were streams, and the end of our street had the most breathtaking waterfall (and we took pictures with our pretend cameras).
  • Hopscotch
  • Scavenger Hunt. This could be in the backyard, throughout the neighborhood, or in the house. You can have the children come up with things from nature to find or hide things for them to find. If you have older elementary-school-aged children, maybe they’d enjoy coming up with clues and/or poems leading to the items to be found.
  • Obstacle Course: Use whatever you have at home to add adventure to your course. Crawl under a pool noodle “cave” suspended by two chairs, jump over a jump rope “snake,” swing across a pit of alligators, etc. Let the kids imagine all of the scenarios.
  • Balloon Ping Pong: First, have the kids make a paddle using a paper plate, a craft (or popsicle) stick, and tape. Then blow up some balloons and start your ping pong game. Be ready for lots of smiles.
  • Relay Race: Use a spoon carrying a golf ball or carry a baton that you pass on to the next player.
  • Four Square
  • The “Not Just A” Play Set Game. If you have a play set in your backyard, think of ways (or ask the kids) of how to use it in a different way. Maybe the monkey bars take you across a lava pit, and the fireman’s pole lets you slide into the ocean. The slide is actually a portal to Mars.   You get the idea.
  • Red Light, Green Light. This game is fun for all ages. And you can mix it up having the kids dribble a soccer ball or balance a book on their heads.
  • Jump Rope Routine. Maybe hop on one foot for 10 jumps, both feet for 10 jumps, then the opposite foot for 10 jumps. Or jump rope 15 times, drop the rope and run to the fence, run back, and jump rope 15 more times. The possibilities are endless.
  • Follow the Leader. The first person comes up with a move (maybe 10 jumping jacks), so everyone does that move. Then the next person comes up with a second move (let’s say flying like a bird across the backyard). So now everyone does 10 jumping jacks, then flies across the yard like a bird. Then the third person adds a third activity to the routine.
  • Family bike ride, or roller skating, or RipStiking.

Kid-Friendly Indoor Activities

  • Line Dancing. Dance along with a line dancing video, or challenge each participant to choreograph his own line dance.
  • Yoga. There are some great kids yoga videos online that combine yoga with imagination.
  • Indoor Hopscotch. Use painters tape to make your hopscotch.
  • Bubblewrap Fun. Set out some bubble wrap and let the kids jump away until all bubbles are popped.
  • Freeze Dance. Take turns being in charge of the music. Everyone must freeze in whatever silly position they are in when the music stops. To add more fun, take a picture each time everyone freezes to have some great giggles when you’re done.
  • Animal Pretend and Play. Pretend to be different animals and walk like that animal throughout the house.
  • Sock Game. First have the kids match clean socks and fold them together (bonus…they are helping with the laundry). Then have them toss the balled up socks into a laundry basket. With each toss, take a step back to make it more challenging.
  • Hide-and-Seek. A favorite indoor game for my children is for each of them to give three stuffed animals to me. Then, while the kids hide their eyes, I hide the animals. Then they get to seek.  Then each child gets a turn to hide the animals. Fun ensues!
  • Various follow the leader games. 
    • Have the leader lead throughout the house. All others follow and mimic the leader.  March, stomp, hope, crab walk, etc. your way to fun.
    • Have each child and adult write or draw moves (like prowling like a tiger, stomping like an elephant, flying like an eagle) on index cards then mix them up and put them face down on the floor.  Each person gets to flip one over and add it to the routine.

For all activities, please be sure to use the appropriate safety equipment to protect everyone involved.  Also, be sure to stay hydrated and have healthy snacks ready for those famished adventurers. The opportunities for fun family physical fitness are endless.

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