by Christina L. Moreland
Creating fun things to do with your kids on a regular basis can be a challenge for many of us. And what if you want to do something active with your child, but aren’t sure you can manage all the stuff – you know, the diapers, stroller, extra clothes, snacks, etc.? Well, here are some fun fitness-friendly ideas to do with your little one.
As moms, we can easily get into a rut of being Mommy all day long without much adult interaction. It’s important to feel and stay connected with others who are living in our world of frequent diaper changes, daily (maybe hourly) spills, planning good naps, and feeding every three hours. Even older kids need to be on a schedule. Fun solution? Schedule a play date with your BFF or friendly neighbor with children and enjoy the day together!
1. Family Fitness Center / Pool Combo
Many local gyms offer childcare and manage it like a preschool, including the YMCA. www.ymca.org This is a great opportunity to call up a mom friend, meet at the gym and do a group class together, such as Muscle Conditioning (or go to the weight room), Cardio Strength Intervals or even Zumba. The kids get to play together in the childcare area for an hour, and then you and your friend can migrate to the pool, where your kids can swim together and work up to a good long nap afterwards. Some facilities offer family fitness classes for children to do with their parents, ages 8 and under. Just remember, if you do more than one activity, bring extra clothes, towels and snacks!
2. Visit the Park
Another fun play date is to meet friends at the park. Many neighborhoods offer splash pads next to the park area so the kids can splash and get wet in the summer. This definitely helps to stay cool so you can swing, run, slide and visit. Make sure to take some photos! Parks with lots of mature trees offer great places to play Hide-and-Seek outside, which is another active game for children.
3. Ride Bikes / Wagon Rides
Want to stick fairly close to home? No problem! Just hop on your bikes. Retailers offer all sorts of bike trailers for children, ages 1 and up. Just be sure to check the label properly and make sure your baby or child is ready (and wears a helmet). And also consider the additional weight you’ll be pulling along with an attached bike trailer. For example, the one we bought for our son weighed 40 pounds empty and created an unstable, unbalanced situation for me. (My husband had to be the mule.) Find one that’s right for you. If your baby is still too young for this activity, you could always do wagon rides instead. Both of my boys still enjoy theirs, so it’s a good investment.
4. Garden Parties
No, it’s not what you think. I’m not suggesting you dress up in a garden hat and dress for a “family-fitness” date, but I am suggesting you and a friend swap planting services to create a fun play date for your kids – not to mention the beautification of both your properties. Here’s how it works: you and a friend agree to plant a few plants in each of your yards and let your kids participate. They can help with the watering, scattering of ladybugs after the planting is over, and even help by digging in the dirt. Being outdoors is a proven mood enhancer, and this is a great DIY science lesson for you and your kids. Just be sure to have all your supplies purchased and accessible before you begin your party. And make sure to reciprocate!
5. Scavenger Hunts
Select a few toys for your children to find and scatter them around the house or outside. Give your kids hints (if younger) of where to look for the items. Smaller children will benefit from the motor skills required to search for and pick up the items, and older kids will still enjoy the fun of “hunting” for something outside. The game keeps them moving and on the lookout for the next thing on the list.
6. Music Marathon Dance Party!
My husband and I subscribe to Pandora and Rhapsody, so we can play whatever we want with the touch of a button in our home. It’s great for entertaining, but the boys love when I play the Frozen soundtrack. They leap and pretend like they are flying through the air while singing, “Let it Go.” And remember, they are boys. This idea is gender-neutral! Invite a mom friend over and take turns playing your children’s favorite dance songs. We will often do this in the mornings before school when someone needs a little cheering up to have a good day and leave the “grumpies” at home. Dancing, for girls and boys, is such a great way to get movement and to help your child learn positive self-expression. Even my more reserved older child can’t help but laugh and make up new moves when we play music and dance.
7. Mini Golf
Although this would be difficult for moms with younger babies, kids ages 3 and up can really enjoy playing mini golf. It’s active with lots of walking, and the game of getting the ball into the hole is a fun challenge. It’s outdoors with a structured movement — following the holes 1 – 18 — and it’s fun for kids to “explore” and see what scene or prop will come up next. Oftentimes mini golf courses are nearby an arcade, so it’s a fun treat at the end for older kids to hop on a game afterwards.
8. Throw and Catch
This is a great exercise for kids ages 2 and up. Get a Nerf football or a smaller soccer ball and toss it back and forth in the house, or roll it on the floor for smaller children. As your children get older, a traditional game of baseball throw and catch is a great way to practice hand-eye coordination and get in some activity while bonding with your child. This is one of my son’s favorite games to play now (he’s played baseball since he was 4), and I’m starting to see real improvements in his ability to judge the distance and speed of the ball and adjust accordingly. Start tossing the ball back and forth while maintaining a short distance from one another. As your child gets more comfortable, gradually move further and further away from one another and practice precision.
Even smaller children, ages 3 and up, can enjoy the fun of soccer. It’s a great mobile exercise that comes fairly naturally to young kids, as it requires the simple movements of running and kicking. You don’t need to have a soccer goal accessible to enjoy this fun game, but if you have one nearby it’s certainly fun for your child to practice kicking the ball into the net. As a mom play date, your children could be the goalies while you and your friend practice getting the balls to your children to “block.” Then switch.
Bowling can be a great indoor alternative to a fun mommy & me play date, because it’s air-conditioned and there are often arcade games nestled inside of nicer bowling alleys. Smaller kids can use a sloped metal rail that puts the bowling ball into place and lets them push it down the lane without hurting themselves, and of course you can have the facility set up bumper guards on the sides so they can knock down pins. Pack a healthy lunch for afterwards.
Like adults, children need social interaction on a regular basis so they learn the benefits of peer play and can learn to gauge their own behavior with other children. Children are naturally focused on themselves rather than others when they are very small, and it takes time and development to teach them about their world outside of themselves. Giving them something fun to do while they bond with other children is a great way to teach them about the world around them.
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