When your kids are little you probably feel like you’re constantly running around after them as they climb, swing and jump off anything they can find. But as they get older their enthusiasm for getting off the couch can dwindle and your encouragement to get them up and moving can make you sound like a broken record.
So to help ensure your children stay healthy and active we’ve asked Melissa – who just so happens to have seven-year-old twins of her own – for some insight into how to get them moving more than just their thumbs.
Thinking up some games to play with your kids when they are different ages and abilities can be tricky, but Melissa says there’s one game she insists you can make work for children of any age.
“Try to go down the line of having fun,” says Melissa. “Fitness fun with a game of Simon Says is a brilliant way to get the kids moving without them realising they are ‘exercising’. Simon says hop like a frog, walk like a crab or crawl like a bear, for example. You can change the challenges depending on the age of the child. It’s silly and active all at the same time. Plus you’re having time with your children.”
Simplify the sport
Not being good at an activity can be demoralizing for kids, and if they haven’t got a ‘go get-em’ attitude then often they won’t return for a second go. But with a little bit of research you can learn how to simplifying some of the sports or activities so they can practice without getting put off.
“Balloons are fantastic for not only keeping things fun but for practicing sports inside. You can use them for things like keepie uppies or to practice your tennis. Andy Murray’s mum used to tie some string across their living room and they’d switch out the racket and tennis ball for their hand and a balloon. It’s so simple but something like this can keep the whole family entertained for hours.”
Use idle time as exercise
Using idle time to squeeze in some movement is not only great for adults – think doing squats in the shower – it can work for children too.
“For example lets take cleaning your teeth,” says Melissa. “Instead of the kids just standing there brushing for two minutes, why not challenge them to stand on one leg and do it. This helps them work on their balance and they won’t realise it’s ‘exercise’.”
“For older kids they can even stand on one leg to tie their shoelaces.”
Your child might shy away from competitive sports but that doesn’t mean they’re not competitive. Make challenges enjoyable and you’ll soon see their fighting spirit.
“Even if kids don’t like losing they do actually like a challenge,” says Melissa. “Something as simple as ‘race you to the next lamppost’ can encourage them to pick up their heels.
“There is a great game my kids play with their cousins. It’s a cotton wool trail. One team sets off first and places bits of cotton wool in places along the path they’ve chosen. The other team leave ten minutes later and have to follow the cotton wool trail – picking it up as they go along – to find out where they end up. The leading team will often add some sneaky diversions as the second team picks up the pace to try to catch them up before the others have finished. Before they know it they’ve walked three miles.”
Walk it out
Exercise doesn’t have to come in the form of expensive lessons and classes. One of the best activities you can easily do with your family is completely free.
“It’s easy to say ‘jump on your bikes and go for a family bike ride’ but the reality is that not everyone has bikes or specific exercise equipment. Walking is free though and it’s SO good for you. Walk to school if you can because it will add exercise to their routine almost every day.
“Everyone thinks you have to do something to make you really hot and sweaty but you don’t really. Getting more people including kids walking would be make a huge difference.”
Use computer games
We normally urge our children to back away from the computer but there are times when the screen can be a good thing, even when it comes to exercise.
“If you can’t tear your kids away from the computer screen pick a game which keeps you fit too,” suggests Melissa.
“Xbox Kinect have a whole selection of games like Fruit Ninja or Sports. If you still have a Wii there are a load of games you can get active with. Our personal favourite is the winter sports. I mean who doesn’t love a ski jump in their living room?”