As a prior Pre-K through 5th grade educator I am passionate about inspiring, motivating and empowering our youth! When I first created my health & fitness company I knew I had to have a program specifically designed to inspire and empower youth fitness - and Fun with Fitness does just that! By putting the fun back in fitness we are able to offer youth the opportunity to explore fitness in ways instill confidence, support healthy growth and development, and promote healthy lifestyle behaviors. This week I am sharing a few of our favorite fitness tips and ideas - so rain or shine you can find a way to get more out of your play!
What is the role of childhood health and fitness? To educate, empower and support a long and healthy life! Fitness experiences teach life skills, resiliency, problem solving, team work and the importance of a healthy mind and body. Through regular fitness activity children are able to play, reduce the effects of daily stressors, and enjoy a long and healthy life. It is also during these early meaningful experiences that a child is encouraged to dream, reach higher and explore their possibilities.
Why youth fitness matters. With childhood obesity statistics rising and many of today's youth steering toward more sedentary activities than ever before, it is especially important that adults provide opportunities for youth to be physically active in safe, fun, creative and meaningful ways. For children under the age of 6 play is the most common form of exercise. Play is also where a child's fundamental fitness abilities are formed - running, jumping, climbing, catching, and kicking. "Active play" is often found at the park, on the playground, in our neighborhoods and backyards. Learning how to navigate, feel strong and powerful is an important part of physical development and crucial to supporting overall healthy balance and coordination, muscle development, eye hand coordination, and motor skill growth and development. Once these healthy foundations are established, children can continue to grow and develop, eventually moving into more structured play activities, such as organized games and individual or team sport activities. It is my hope that as a child moves through different types of structured play experiences they discover a love for fitness and the freedom a body in motion can provide, that they continue to pursue, foster and enjoy that feeling for a lifetime!
Did you know that fitness activities support important skill abilities?
Aerobic fitness supports agility
Muscular strength supports balance
Muscular endurance supports coordination
Flexibility supports speed
Body composition supports power and reaction time
How can you incorporate more fitness into a child’s life?
Take a walk: Take an old childhood favorite story (such as We're Going on a Bear Hunt) and creatively narrate the story as we you walk along your neighborhood exploring. Not only is a great physical activity, it's is fun and will keep the kids engaged! Be sure to incorporate some fun physical activities (stomping, jumping, skipping) for them to do along your walk to coincide with your story's theme.
Grab a ball: a game of catch, circle soccer, keep away, target toss and/or kick, toss to sprint & catch, spin and catch, or wall ball are all examples of fun ball activities. Have the kids squat, lunge, skip, and/or jump while moving the ball in a variety of different directions is a great way to build and enhance balance and coordination skills.
Hit the local park: playing a game of hide and seek, freeze tag, capture the flag, or planning a themed outdoor adventure like going on a star wars mission are all fun ways to promote hours of play.
Create an obstacle course: use whatever you have on hand or is in your environment, such as cones, different size balls, sticks, large rocks, masking tape, and sidewalk chalk, to make a fun obstacle course where kids have to zig/zag, run, hop, jump, weave, and climb. Encourage agility by having them move forward to backward, and side to side, and try having them navigate between using both feet versus single leg movements.
Make it a family affair: what is your favorite outdoor activity? Running? Hiking? Biking? Yoga? Often those activities we enjoy most are also those that our children are first drawn to. Why? Because we are regularly modeling those great activities for them! So the next time you head out for that Sunday run, hike in the hills or bike through the neighborhood, invite your kids along and make it a family affair.
Have an indoor play day
Blow up some balloons: a great alternative for indoor “ball” style activities are balloons (and less possible damage to your surroundings!) Try keep away, pick up and toss, volleyball, spin and toss or dodgeball. You can incorporate walking, lunges, skipping, hopping, single and double footed movements as they move balloons in different directions to further challenge balance and coordination.
Walk like the animals: the crab walk, bear walk, duck walk, and inchworm are all fun ways to incorporate strength building activities into everyday play. Explore what other types of animal walks you can think of to mimic - kids love to come up with their own!
Simon says: the game of mirrors where one person is Simon and leads the group to copy their behaviors. For younger children start with simple tasks such as, "Simon says take 2 steps forward," or "Simon says put your hand on your head." For older kids try calling out multiple actions in a step by step sequence such as, “Simon says take 1 step forward, lunge out to the side then hop back 1 space." Kids are also working on their listening skills as they have to follow directions and repeat the action only when “Simon Says!"
Duck, Duck, GOOSE: have all the children sit in a circle, appoint one child to be the goose and have them walk around the circle of seated children, tapping each person on the shoulder or gently on the head saying “duck” until they reach who they will nominate as the next goose, then the child taps that person calling out “GOOSE!” the newly appointed goose has to get up and run after the first goose who is running around the circle to take that newly appointed goose's spot. However, if the new goose is able to catch the first before they can sit down then the first person remains the goose.
These are just a few examples of creative ways you can incorporate more play into a child's day, but there are many, many more! If you find yourself stumped for creative "play" ideas think back to those activities you enjoyed most as a child. Was it playing in the yard? Building forts with friends? Riding bikes after school? Playing hopscotch or jumprope? Taking off on your skateboard or scooter? Ever notice how many of our most memorable childhood experiences are linked to some sort of physical activity? That is because the physical process of play engages the senses, fostering the mind, body and sprit connection through sight, sound, smell, taste. Memories that last a lifetime only take a few moments to create.