Spencer and Ariana in Seattle
We try to spend every weekend going for nature walks to explore our local state park. We pack a picnic lunch and healthy snack foods and spend the whole day climbing hills, throwing rocks and splashing in water. The kids love looking for bugs, flowers and unusual rocks to show each other. We also try to take nature vacations in spots that offer children's programs. We have a lot of fun together and it doesn't even feel like exercise!
Tom in Des Moines
My son, Tyler, and I signed up for a father-and-son tae kwon do class that we take two nights a week. This is a great way for us to spend time together. And we have a lot to practice at home, so we’re really bonding and have an activity that only the two of us can share. It has brought us closer and we are more physically fit, too!
Megan in Lakewood
My husband and I love to get our kids and their neighborhood friends and organize friendly games that we played when we were kids. Our favorite is “Red Light, Green Light,” where one child is "it" and stands at the finish line. The other kids spread out across the start line. When "it" yells “Green Light,” he turns away from the others and counts out loud to 10 while the other players run toward the finish line. When "it" reaches 10, he yells “Red Light” and turns back to the players, and they must freeze in their tracks. Anyone still moving gets sent back to the start line. The game continues until someone reaches the finish line and tags "it," and then they are "it." This keeps all the kids moving, thinking, and building on their coordination. My husband and I play, too!
Connor and Melissa in Ft. Worth
We make sure the kids spend at least five hours a day playing outside, and we limit the amount of time they’re allowed to watch TV or play on the computer. We also make sure they ask before taking a beverage or a snack so we can see how much and what type of food they are eating. They love to play with the ever-popular hula-hoop, as well as riding their bikes, jumping rope, and playing lawn bowling with empty pop cans.
My daughters, Morgan and Kaylee, play music on our backyard patio and practice dancing together. We love trying to come up with cute new dance steps, and we laugh the whole time! The girls love to show their dad what we've learned when he comes home and often try to get him to dance, too. Sometimes it works and we all have a blast!
Kiki in Chicago
We bike, blade, and play at the park. We are also members at the Children's Museum where there are lots of activities for physical involvement -- it really tires out my three kids every time.
Katy in Oklahoma City
I have a 19-month-old and we love to pack a picnic and go to the zoo … we make a day of it. Or we just go to the park with a couple of other families and have fun there.
My husband and our two sons have set up a basketball hoop and they shoot hoops almost every night after dinner. They also like to play catch and roller-blade together. My daughter, who is almost 3, and I love to draw pretty pictures on the sidewalk with chalk and I’m trying to teach her how to play hopscotch. All our kids also help with the gardening; it’s a great way to learn and something we can do together. We've even set up a small garden patch for each of them.
Deborah in West Jordan
One of the simplest and most effective family activities we have is an evening walk around the block during warm weather. Not only does this help us to stay active, but it’s also a great way to get to know our neighbors!
Kathleen Alfano, Ph.D.
Fun physical activities the whole family can enjoy together to stay active and in good shape can be simple things such as taking a walk around the neighborhood or playing a game of hide-n-seek in the backyard. One of the best ways you can encourage an energetic lifestyle in your family is by being physically active yourself as a role model.
In 2002, the National Association for Sports & Physical Federation issued physical activity guidelines for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. The guidelines recommend that children should be physically active from the beginning of life. Adapting a physically active lifestyle early in life increases the likelihood that children will learn to move skillfully.
And because a major health problem today is the increasing rate of obesity in children, due primarily to the decrease in physical activity, there is even more reason to get out there and be active with your child.
Here are some ideas to get started…
Join an exercise or music class for parent and child. It’s fun to meet other families and to learn new ways to interact and do things together.
Explore surrounding nature with your child, taking notice of the birds, butterflies, trees, flowers, etc. Visit your local zoo, natural history museum to expose your child to the wonders of nature. Give your child the gift of wonder and the joy of discovery of the world we live in.
Play physical games such as “Walk Like the Animals”…taking turns walking like an animal and guessing which one it is. Or, the game “Tag” where you take turns being “it” by chasing each other. Another fun family game is “Simon Says” where one person directs the others to do a particular physical activity by saying “Simon Says” before each command and then tricks the followers by not saying the intro phrase and whoever follows that command is out. And there’s always the long-time favorite action game ”Freeze” where everyone moves around dancing, walking or running, and when the leader says “Freeze” everyone has to stop in their current position, no matter how awkward.
Here’s a fun action rhyme. You could replace the word “Teddy Bear “ with your child’s name or any other word, such as “dinosaur” (works best with a three syllable word).
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear turn around.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear touch the ground.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear jump up high.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear touch the sky.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear reach down low.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear touch your toe.
Have fun with sidewalk chalk and make boxes to hop into and trails to follow, with activities to do in special squares, such as spinning around in one square, jumping in another, clapping your hands in another. You can also do silly things like wiggle your nose or wiggle your toes!
Keep supplies for picnic games and adventures handy for spontaneous trips to the park—supplies for outdoor games to play, bubbles to blow and chase, binoculars and magnifying glass to explore and discover, beach balls of different sizes and blankets for bouncing and catching, hula hoops for jumping and spinning.
Plant a family flower and/or vegetable garden, with a patch for each family member to tend.
Go to the beach; bring sand and water toys, build sandcastles.
Paint with water outside on the driveway or sidewalk.
Have a “Back Yard Blast” with a Treasure Hunt and then a Family Relay Race.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.