Play Time Is Fitness

Updated: Sep 11

As a prior educator who worked with youth and families for just over two decades and a health and fitness coach I'm especially passionate about fitness and the role it plays in our lives. And I’m constantly looking for ways to motivate, inspire and empower all ages to move.

Now more than ever it’s important for our youth to move their bodies. Fitness teaches kids valuable skills, boosts confidence, supports healthy growth and development, and promotes a variety of other healthy lifestyle behaviors.

Yet studies show a large percentage of today's youth spend more time in front of devices than they do moving their bodies.

What. fitness means to a child.

Fitness educates, empowers and supports a long and healthy life. Physical activity teaches important life skills such as resiliency, problem solving, team work and fosters a healthy mind and body connection.

By obtaining regular exercise, children learn to play, reduce the impacts of daily stress, and promote overall wellness for a long and healthy life. It's during these early "play" experiences that a child is encouraged to dream, reach higher and explore their possibilities.

Why youth fitness matters.

With childhood obesity on the rise and many of today's youth sitting in front of devices more than ever before, it's especially important that as adults we provide opportunities for youth to move their bodies each day.

For children under the age of 6 play is the most common form of exercise. Play is also where children's fundamental fitness abilities are formed; running, jumping, climbing, catching, and kicking.

"Active play" is often seen at the park, on the playground, in our local neighborhoods and backyards. Learning how to navigate, feel strong and powerful in our bodies is an important part of physical development and supports overall balance and coordination, muscle development, eye hand coordination, and motor skill growth and development.

With these healthy foundations, children can continue to grow and develop, moving into more structured play activities, such as organized games and individual or team sports.

As a youth fitness specialist, it's my hope that every child is able to explore different types of movement, from free play to structured activities, so that they may find a love for fitness and appreciate all that it provides for body, mind and spirit.

Fitness supports important developmental skills such as...

  • Aerobic fitness boosts agility

  • Muscular strength supports healthy balance

  • Muscular endurance fosters coordination

  • Flexibility enhances speed

  • Body composition boosts power and improves reaction time

Here's a few fun and creative ways to get the whole family moving:

Head outside:

  • Take a walk: Take an old childhood favorite story (such as We're Going on a Bear Hunt) and creatively narrate the story will you walk through your neighborhood exploring. Incorporate a few fun physical activities (stomping, jumping, skipping) for them to do along your walk that coincide with the story's theme. Not only is this a great physical activity, it's fun and will keep the kids engaged!

  • Grab a ball: a quick game of catch, circle soccer, keep away, target toss or kick, toss to sprint & catch, spin and catch, or wall ball are all great examples of fun ball activities. Kids can squat, lunge, skip, and jump while moving the ball in different directions, making it a great way to foster balance and coordination skills.

  • Hit the local park: playing a game of hide and seek, freeze tag, capture the flag, or planning a fun outdoor adventure like going on a star wars mission are all creative ways to promote hours of play at your local park.

  • Create an obstacle course: use whatever you have on hand, 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 and zag, run, hop, jump, weave, and climb. Encourage agility by having them move forward then backward and side to side. You can even try having them navigate between using both feet versus one leg at a time fostering both mental AND physical agility!

  • Make it a family affair: what's your favorite outdoor activity: Running? Hiking? Biking? Walking the dog? Yoga? The activities you enjoy most are also our children's first experiences as they watch you do them each day. Involve your child in what you enjoy doing and they might just discover a love for it too!

Have an indoor play day (great for bad weather days!):

  • Blow up some balloons: a great alternative for indoor “ball” activities are balloons. Keep away, pick up and toss, volleyball, spin and toss or dodgeball are all fun and safe indoor "ball" activities. You can incorporate movements such as squats, lunges, skips, hops, single and double leg movements and more.

  • Walk like the animals: the crab walk, bear walk, duck walk, and inchworm are all fun for kids and offer a great way to build strength and coordination too. Ask your kids to think about their favorite animals and see if they can come up with any ideas on their own to mimic. Snake? Elephant? Crocodile? The possibilities are endless (and fun!).

  • Simon says: this traditional game is great for hours of fun. For younger children start with simple tasks such as, "Simon says take 2 steps forward," or "Simon says put your hands on your head." For older kids you can call out multiple actions in one direction such as, “Simon says take 1 step forward and hop to the right ." This type of "play" requires kids to not only move their bodies, but to actively listen too. Two important life skills.

  • Duck, Duck, GOOSE: if you have more than one child in the home or are hosting a play date this is a fun one. Have the kids sit in a circle, and assign one child to be the goose. The goose then walks 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, for the goose the child taps the person calling out “GOOSE!” The newly appointed goose must get up and try to tag the person who nominated them while they attempt to run (or quickly walk) the circle back to the now open spot on the floor. If they're tagged, the remain the goose. If they make it to the open seat in time, the new goose repeats the pattern, walking around the circle tapping, "duck, duck GOOSE!"

Memories that last a lifetime only take a few moments to create.

These are just a few examples of fun and creative ways you can bring meaningful movement into your child's day. If you find yourself stumped for creative "play" ideas think back to those moments you enjoyed most as a child. Was it playing in the yard? Building forts with friends? Riding bikes after school? Playing hopscotch or jumping rope? Most of our childhood memories are linked to the senses, enveloped in some sort of activity. And rarely is it watching hours of t.v. or playing on smartphones. It's learning to swim, camping in the backyard, fishing in the pond, and playing on the playground. Those are the memories that last a lifetime.

Are you an ambitious man or woman who's ready to feel strong, live healthy, and get fit? Discover how to take small steps to get healthy & fit without cutting out the foods you love or spending countless hours on cardio. Come join me inside my online Facebook Community - The Healthy Habits Club. It's where busy folks go for tips, tools and support they need to eat healthy, move daily, and feel good for life!

#healthtips #fitnesstips #youthfitness

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