Your guide to making exercise fun for kids!

We all know how important it is for kids to be active, I don’t think I need to convince you all of that. It is essential for kids to not only grow and develop the skills they need, but also to reduce the risk life style based diseases such as; obesity, diabetes and heart conditions, while improving their mental health.

But we live in a time where kids would often prefer to sit indoors and play video games instead of being active. So, how do we get kids to get up off the couch and participate in exercise?

The key to this – they have to want to do it!

Kids will play video games because it is what the enjoy doing, or at least they enjoy it more than exercise. For us to get our kids to be more active, we need to make it fun. We need to make them want to go out and be active. That’s the idea behind today’s post – here is your guide to making exercise fun for kids!

Fire up their imagination

Sometimes you don’t need equipment, all you need is your imagination. Kids have the best imaginations and have a knack of making something out of nothing. So let their imagination run wild!

Keep in mind that kids are more likely to participate in and enjoy something that they have come up with. It’s one of the first lessons I learned at university regarding behaviour change. For it to work, the idea or decision has to come from within. This lesson applies directly to this situation. Kids will be more likely to do something they decide to do compared to being told to do it. So let them use their imagination and give them control to choose (with guidance as needed). This will make them more engaged and more likely to participate frequently.

If your kid is a bit stuck for ideas, kick start their imagination with our video. From our Simply Kids series. “Move like an animal” is a great example of how you can get kids imagination firing while getting them moving at the same time. Let us know which animals your kids like to move like in the comments below!

Kids love competition

There is only one thing that kids love more than competition (aside from sugar!), and that’s winning. If we are being honest, everyone loves to win! At the end of the day, kids become more engaged and invested in physical activity if they are competing. Even if they lose, it’s a great way to teach them resilience, persistence and how to respond to not being successful.

There are endless ways of making something competitive. I’ve found that the best ways are to:

      • Have a race
      • See who can last the longest
      • Keep score
      • Try to beat a score/time from last time.

I do understand that there are some kids that don’t like competition. If that is the case, then we have plenty more strategies that you can use!

Sports are a good starting point

Sports can be a great way to get kids active. It doesn’t matter what the sport is, all that matters is that they enjoy it and want to participate. They don’t even have to play at a high level! It’s a great way for them to be social and have fun while exercising and that’s what matters.

For me, Basketball has always been my sport. I first got introduced to it at Primary School when I was 7. Once I started playing, I fell in love with it! It was so much fun and I was inspired by watching those that played at the highest level. It played a massive role in the development of my physical health and capabilities. And there is no reason why a sport can’t do that for your child too. Let them try it out, see if they enjoy it and let them be inspired by those at the highest level. After that, it’s very easy to get them involved.

But, if competitive sport isn’t appealing for your child, maybe casual sport is. Kicking the footy around, shooting some hoops, going for a bike ride or playing around with a soccer ball are great ways to exercise and have fun without having to be in a competitive environment. It also enables you to adjust the sport to fit your circumstances (space, equipment, etc.). You could even come up with your own brand new sport. Every sport is made up anyway!

Active video games!

Funnily enough, there is such a thing as an active video game! Why not use a kid’s enjoyment of video games to help them be more active? Platforms like the Nintendo Wii and X-Box Kinect provide gaming options that require the participant to move around to play. There are many options out there, so it is worth looking into, especially if you can find an option for a console you already have!

Alternatively, you could also be creative to find a way to incorporate physical activity into their favourite video game. It’s important to remember that what works for one game won’t necessarily work for others. As an example, for a sports game, maybe when you score a goal you need to complete a certain activity before being allowed to pick the controller back up and continuing the game? or could be based around competition – the losing player needs to do ten star jumps or push ups.  Let us know in the comments below if you have any ideas on ways to incorporate exercise into your child’s favourite video game!

Build an obstacle course

This is a great way to utilise your kids imagination, and another fantastic way to be active. You can use anything for any role and turn it into a full course! A tunnel made of chairs, a balance beam made of a resistance band or tape, jumping over objects, climbing onto play sets, using a skipping rope, climbing stairs, or lifting and carrying ‘heavy’ objects. The options are endless! Your course can consist of many obstacles and variations that challenge many physical components such as movement mechanics, strength, endurance and balance.

The other thing to consider is what are you trying to achieve by beating the course? Is it a race? Maybe you need to get to the end and throw a ball at a target for points. Another great option I have had success with is a memory challenge. Set up a pattern of coloured balls (or another object) hidden at the end of the course. Once you get through the course, have a look at the pattern before making your way back through the course to re-create the pattern back at the start. If you get it wrong, back through the course you go to get another look. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what it is, but the best courses have an end goal that the kids can focus on achieving.

In the video below, we show you some examples of what your obstacle course could include. Check it out and give your kids some ideas of what items they can include in their course. Let us know in the comments below what your course is made up of and what equipment you use. You never know, maybe your idea will feature in a future post!

Exercise based games

There are some really great options out there for games that require exercise. One that I use all the time is Hyperdash, and kids love it! You have a hand held controller and 5 different coloured domes. Start by placing the controller on any dome, then the music starts and it names coloured domes. You race to the colour and place the controller on the dome as quickly as you can before moving onto the next colour. The fastest time wins, or you can try to beat your personal best. It works particularly well when the domes are really spread out. For example, when I play with my sister, we have domes in different rooms in the house. We end up running all over the place and get a great cardio workout!  This is such an easy one to replicate at home, you could use different coloured cups or even paper with different markers like letters. We love a game that challenges their minds as well!

Another great option is Twister, which is more challenging for strength, flexibility and balance. Or you could go for something like Charades that doesn’t need equipment.

You could also take the opportunity to design your own active game with what you have around the house. As part of our Simply Kids series, we created a video with some games that can be played with two (or more) people using household items. Check it out below, give the games a try or use these ideas as inspiration to create your own game! Let us know what games your kids like to play in the comments below!

Adapt their favourite board game

Just like the video games, it can be a great option to adapt a board game to include an active component. Let’s use Monopoly as an example. An option would be that every time a player goes to Jail, they need to run a lap of the house. There could be a requirement to complete ten star jumps every time you buy a property. Or exercise could be used as a way to make trading more interesting. If they want to make a trade, they need to successfully complete a task within a time limit.

This strategy also involves plenty of imagination and creativity, so let us know in the comments below what exercise-based additions you have incorporated into your family game night!

Want to know more?

 Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA) recently published their new e-book “Exercise for Kids“. It is a great resource that provides a lot of information around the importance of exercise for kids, the benefits it can provide them, and how exercise can help kids with various medical conditions.

Keep your eyes open for more posts coming in the near future – there will be a new post every Wednesday!

In the meantime, here are some related posts that may interest you:

And here is a little sneak peek into some posts that will be coming your way over the next few weeks:

      • Hey kids, did you know exercise can be fun?
      • Exercise for mental health 
      • Strategies to overcome obstacles
      • Strengthening your bones

Also, keep an eye out for our brand new series “How I live strong and prosper”. In this series we’ll be chatting with Simply Stronger members and finding out what they do to live strong and prosper!

Please leave a comment below if you have any topic ideas that you would like us to discuss!

We are here to help!

Exercise Physiologists specialise in helping people identify the type of exercise that will help them achieve their goals – not just in a gym with weights, but to include in your everyday life! If you would like some assistance in determining the best type fo exercise for you to help you achieve your goals, contact us to organise an appointment to see one of our Exercise Physiologists.

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References

Photos provided by Allen Taylor, National Cancer Institute, NeONBRAND and Rafaela Biazi via Unsplash.com

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