Once upon a time, keeping your kids active, fit, and healthy during the long summer break from school was a no-brainer: you sent them outside. The world was their playground. There, children could run, jump, climb, wrestle, and play to their heart’s content—or at least until suppertime.
Today, safety takes precedence over tree forts and hide-and-seek far from parents’ watchful eyes. But staying indoors all the time is dull. Parents need to find other occupations for kids besides the sedentary pastimes of TV, videos, and computer games.
The fact is, children need lots of physical activity. Exercise—either structured or as play—is not only important for growing muscles and bones and enhancing physical coordination, it has a huge positive effect on the thinking and problem-solving skills everyone needs as adults.
According to the National Institutes of Health, children should get at least an hour of moderate physical activity every day. (“Moderate” exercise gets your heart beating faster and makes you breathe harder than usual.) Fortunately, plenty of activities qualify—and many of them are just as good for moms as they are for kids.
Which is, of course, an excellent way to get your kids moving this summer. Exercising with them—and making it light-hearted, fun, and in no way chore-like—will motivate and tickle them. And don’t forget: your own attitude toward physical fitness and activity will influence theirs—maybe for the rest of their lives. So …
Being a Healthy, Fit Family Needs Preparation
To get the most out of exercise, make sure that you and your kids have everything you need to fully enjoy it.
- Get good shoes. They should fit properly, providing protection and cushioning for the foot. Make sure they have good arch supports and a wide toe-box with a little extra room at the end.
- Wear weather-and-activity-appropriate clothing. This includes hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen when you’re playing outdoors on hot, sunny days.
- Stay hydrated. Bring water along with you and remember to stop and drink 6-8 ounces now and then.
- Have first-aid ready. Put a couple of adhesive bandages and some anti-bacterial wipes in your pocket just in case someone stubs a toe or skins a knee.
- Wear proper safety equipment. Riding bikes, skateboards, scooters, and in-line skates mean wearing helmets, wrist guards, and knee and elbow pads to help avoid serious injury.
Try These Easy Family Fun Fitness Activities
Some of the best kid-friendly exercises are the simplest and the most fun—and they’ve been around for ages. Don’t forget to join in yourself!
- Get some jump ropes. Bet you didn’t know you can burn through hundreds of calories an hour by skipping rope! Click here to learn some jump rope rhymes that’ll make it even more fun.
- Get a Frisbee. Flying disks are inexpensive and loads of fun. Running, jumping, twisting, turning, laughing… it’s all good.
- Take a family walk. Set a pace that gets your heart beating, breathe deep, and enjoy this easiest of exercises. Combine the walk with another form of exercise, like flying disks at the park, and it’s a surefire win-win.
- Get a Hula-Hoop. Hooping is another high-energy calorie burner.
- Play … Tag on the lawn at home, or at the park. Chase fireflies. Play Simon Says. Draw Hopscotch squares and hop. Play Red Light, Green Light. Try your luck at Mother May I? Go to the playground and swing, slide, hang from the monkey bars, and do chin-ups. You too, Mom!
All the other outdoor summer activities, like swimming, team youth-league sports, camping, hiking, and bike riding still apply, too. The most important thing is to move—and have a great time doing it. For more information on staying healthy this summer visit healthline.com.
What are you doing as a family to stay healthy and fit? Which ideas here will you start to implement? What activities do you want to share? For great family fit ideas from my very own 12 year old Fit Kid Chef please visit Eat Healthy Play Hard.
Leslie Vandever is a mom, a professional journalist and a freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience. She lives in the foothills of Northern California.
- Get Active. (2013, Feb. 13) National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved on May 29, 2014 from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/wecan/
- Exercise and Children. (2011, March 20) MedlinePlus. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved on May 30, 2014 from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001977.htm
- Everyday Ideas to Move More. (2013, Feb. 13) National Institutes of Health. Retrieved on May 30, 2014 from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/wecan/get-active/activity-plan.htm