It’s a no-brainer that exercise and physical activity benefits our bodies in countless ways. But for parents, it can sometimes be a challenge to get the kids off the couch or out of their bedrooms, especially in today’s tablet-obsessed and streaming-television-filled world of technology.
If you’re on the hunt for age-appropriate activities that kids can do with the family all year round, look no further. Check out our top picks that pack a lot of health, a lot of fitness, and plenty of fun for the entire family.
The No. 1 rule
Dr. Natalie Digate Muth, a pediatrician in Carlsbad, California, and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, says the best type of physical activity for kids is fun and enjoyable.
“Rule No. 1 one is to pick something that is fun,” she says. “In the summer, that might be going for a swim, canoeing or taking a hike. In the winter, maybe it’s going sledding together, ice skating or cross-country skiing. All year-round indoor exercises like basketball and the local rec center, swimming at an indoor pool, or taking a class or lifting weights at a gym or YMCA can be enjoyable, depending on interests, ages and skill.”
Exercising together as a family has a lot of benefits, Muth says.
“In addition to the physical and mental health benefits, it helps kids develop a lifelong interest in physical activity, it strengthens the bond and relationship between family members, and it is fun,” she says.
Race to clean up
What could be better than exercises for children than to do double duty — getting them up and moving and at the same time sprucing up the house? Pick one room or assign them all and figure out who can clean up the most. It may even be practical enough that you could employ cleanup races more frequently.
Grounded — but not in their room
“Going to the playground or an outdoor fitness course are great ways to get the whole family moving together but also socializing, laughing and having fun,” says Sarah Lisiecki, a member of the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association, headquartered in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
“At the playground, in a climbing gym or outdoors on rock — is also a full body but fun workout that builds both body and mind and helps teach cause and effect, creative problem-solving and cognitive planning,” she adds.
“Indoor or out — at your local rink is also a fun option that builds endurance, strength and confidence,” Lisiecki says.
“If you live in an area that gets snow, sledding is a fun, physical activity that helps develop core, upper and lower body strength and teaches age-appropriate risk taking,” she says.
Add a bit of bounce
Considering safety first, of course, trampolines are great for cardio and a secret way to make sure your kids get some exercise. Join the fun with them and try some flips or see who can jump the highest.
A leader to follow
This is a classic game that never gets old and it doesn’t require any equipment to play. Kids and parents can take turns being the leader, directing the family to match their every move. You can also encourage children to be active by hopping, shuffling, skipping and even crawling.
If your home has hard surfaces, don a pair of your favorite socks and slide around together as a family. The kids can practice spinning around and seeing who can slide the farthest. Parents can keep score, or slide around, too.
Create your own obstacle course
Lucie Silver, an exercise physiologist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan, says you can stack household items like blankets, pillows, towels and brooms to create an obstacle course.
“Try to incorporate skills like jumping long, jumping high, going low to the ground, and going around things to assist with motor development practice,” Silver says. “Your kids will develop better if they practice development skills with you.”