Activities for Children: Fun games and tools for a fit family

These ideas for children activities and healthy tips from fitness contributor Nicole Irlbeck will make it a lot easier for you to motivate the whole family to move more. As parents, we know health and fitness is important for everyone in the family. But are your kids really on board?

It’s Saturday morning, and you want to head outside for a jog. But the children are engrossed in their own activities and want to play their video game one more time, the laundry hasn’t been touched in a week, and you have somewhere to be by noon.  Sometimes it feels like it’s never the right time to exercise.  Everyone has their reasons, and it is especially hard to get up and going when you have more than a couple people you are trying to motivate to move it.  Wouldn’t it be nice if your family, and especially your kids, were the ones begging you to get out and play fun games that get the whole family moving outdoors?  Here are some healthy tips to turn the tables so your kids are the ones helping to motivate you and vice versa. 

Talk Up Health and Fitness It may seem like your kids are indifferent, but it is in their DNA to want to help others (Michael Tomasello, “Why We Cooperate”).  Talk about how important health and fitness are to you. Tell your children how much it means to you that they participate in the activities as well.  Kids also listen to every word you say.  If you talk about how much you’re dreading your weekend run, they likely won’t be on board.  However, if you are always dreamily babbling about how great you feel after a workout and how strong your body is now that you went out and did something for your health and fitness … they will want some of those good vibes too.  Be sure to ask your kids how they feel after they do some healthy children activities too so they can connect their lively smile with the skipping they just did down the block.

Turn Fitness into Fun Games I can still remember my mom saying, “I bet you can’t get to your room to get your shoes and back by the time I get the car started …”, and off I went to try to beat her.  There was no reward; just the challenge alone was enough.  Some kids are motivated simply by the “dare” while others will need a little different coaxing.  Consider adding in fun games like tag, mirroring games, races or physical challenges that provide more exercise.  Pbskids.org has some great health and fitness ideas for families to try.  There’s no need to make it a competition, just a way to spice up the movement to make the children activities fun and engaging for interaction between you and your kids.

Teach Children About the Benefits   Teaching your children the benefits of physical activities doesn’t mean they need a scientific background on the subject of health and fitness.  All you need to do is teach them little things, like “jumping makes my bones strong”, or “stretching my muscles gives me relief.”  The bonus is that these are positive mantras that kids can add to their thoughts for life. Thus, you are laying the foundation for a lifetime of health and fitness.

Let Online Tools Help You Consider asking your kids what goals they want to achieve or what they like to do, and then use an online tool to track their progress or motivate them to keep participating. In addition to popular food games, ZisBoomBah’s Challenger Calendar, for instance, is a great online game for kids and parents to manage goals and tasks, and track everyone’s progress. Children love to earn ZBB point for completing activities. They can use their ZBB points to dress up their antvatar. 

Geopalz is also a great tool for tracking walking for kids, and Lift is a shoe in for adults to track progress and get the support of friends and family.  ZisBoomBah also has an amazing new e-book that includes easy-to-follow healthy tips and daily ideas for physical activities children and parents can complete together: “21 days to a Healthier Family.”  This healthy eating and fitness program includes everything from grocery shopping tips to fun games for families you can repeat to see how you improve over a 3-week period.  This resource is a must for all families who want to move more and eat healthier! 

Did you know … It’s proven that online tools are indeed useful. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that the volunteers who used a mobile app for health accountability and attended nutritional classes lost an average of 15 pounds over the course of a year.

Ultimately, parents always need to check in with their kids and make sure their attempts to increase activity aren’t making their children weight obsessed.  Our culture is already flooded with messages that tell our kids they aren’t thin enough, pretty enough, tough enough or smart enough.  Make sure to celebrate all health and fitness related actions … and take time to stop and grab an ice cream cone every now and then, too! Especially after an active afternoon filled with fun games and children activities.

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