As a parent, you recognize your children’s need for exercise. Young kids seem to have boundless energy, and when it’s pent up for too long, they have more trouble focusing on their homeschool work. However, as children get older, finding interesting ways to exercise can become more difficult. Many different forms of entertainment pull your kids toward the couches and chairs. Explore the importance of physical activity for kids, and find some new ways to propel your own children toward a more active lifestyle.
Three Kinds of Exercise
What’s the recommended amount of physical activity for kids? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website suggests an hour or more of physical activity every day. Aerobic activity, the kind that gets your child’s heart pumping faster, should be the main focus; but muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening exercises are also important. Pushups and gymnastics enhance muscle strength, while jumping and running improve bone strength.
While organized sports are one way to involve your kids in physical activity, they don’t always provide the level of sustained, vigorous exercise that your child needs every day. Try some other ways to integrate more physical activity into your child’s life.
Children develop at different rates. As you observe your children, note when they may be ready to progress to more challenging physical activities.
- Birth to Age 2: Moving a baby’s legs and arms gently, encouraging motor skills, and providing a safe space for the baby to crawl, walk, and explore are all crucial to early development.
- Age 2–7: At this age, kids are ready to learn new skills! Preschoolers can start pedaling a tricycle, while those in the 5–7 age bracket can ride bikes with or without training wheels. Parents can get involved by teaching their kids to play catch, kick a ball, and jump rope. When the novelty of the backyard play equipment has worn off, inventing a new game can revitalize your kids and get them back into action.
- Ages 8–12: At this stage, many kids become involved in a team sport. As important as it is to develop team skills, those group activities don’t necessarily help your child develop a pattern of fitness. Once they’re outside of that team structure, they may not have the motivation they need to pursue prolonged exercise. Consider focusing on individual achievement sports such as gymnastics, swimming, martial arts, or track. Plan family cycling excursions or long hikes together.
- Ages 13–18: Teens are often inclined to sit on the couch or in front of a computer, playing games or watching movies. They also spend significant amounts of time sitting still for their homeschool work. If your family has established a habit of hiking, biking, climbing, swimming, or running together, it may be easier to get your teen out of the house for an activity. The teen years are also a great time to encourage achievement in your child’s individual sport of choice, such as tennis or gymnastics.
Fitness Activity Ideas for Your Homeschool
Recess isn’t just for schools—it’s a valuable break for homeschool students too! During recess, provide some opportunities for action and fun.
- Set up a quick obstacle course in the basement or backyard, and time the children as they go through it.
- Tie a rope to something sturdy and turn it in a circle so that the kids have to jump over the rope as it comes to them.
- Go outdoors for a snowball fight, or have a similar battle indoors with balls of crumpled paper.
- Pretend that the floor is hot lava! Place pillows and chairs at strategic points and have the kids cross the room without touching the floor.
- Put on a workout video and ask the kids to follow along, or let them make up their own silly workout moves.
- Play a game of freeze tag. Shake things up by requiring that tagged players do sit-ups or jumping jacks before rejoining the game.
- Take a long recess and visit a local playground. Some parks have one playground for smaller children and another with more challenging options for older kids.
Realize that too much pressure can actually make your children hate exercising, so skip the “boot camp” or “coach approach” to fitness. Instead, come alongside your children and stay active with them! That way your whole family can reap the benefits of a healthier lifestyle.
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Rebecca K. is a work-at-home freelance writer, novelist, wife, and the mom of two bright-eyed little ones. She credits her success in writing and her love of books to her mom, who homeschooled three kids from pre-K through high school.