Get outside and get moving!

How much exercise do your kids get each day? The CDC recommends that all children participate in 60 minutes of physical activity each day, including aerobic exercise, muscle strengthening, and bone strengthening.  Sixty minutes per day may seem like a lot, but it is important to remember that children aren’t simply small adults. Kids (especially young ones) can’t stick with any activity for an hour, and they certainly aren’t going to be excited about doing 20 push-ups or 2 miles on the treadmill. The key to get kids moving is to break up activity into several shorter sessions during the day (for example, six 10-minute bouts of activity) and – most importantly – to make exercise fun. As summer approaches and we enjoy warmer temperatures, outdoor play provides the perfect opportunity to have 60 minutes (or more) of fun with movement each day.  Here are a few ideas for you and your kids to get outside and get moving:

  • Take a “penny hike.” Walk to a crossing, then flip a coin to decide which way to go. Repeat until you make it back home or are just ready to go back.
  • Go for a ride. Depending on your child’s age, a tricycle, bicycle, scooter, or roller skates are all great ways to get moving. Don’t forget the helmet!
  • On a hot day, turn on the sprinkler. Kids can run, jump, and hop through the water.
  • Have animal races. Pretend to be a bear (walking on hands and feet), dog (on hands and knees), elephant (one arm swinging like a trunk), kangaroo (jump), snake (slither), or crab (crab walk). Be creative and let your child choose his or her favorite animals.
  • Get out the sidewalk chalk. Draw a hopscotch grid for practice jumping and hopping. Create an obstacle course where kids can practice walking on a line or running, jumping, hopping, or crawling to different shapes and letters.
  • Climb, swing, and slide. Use the swing set in your back yard, or walk (don’t drive!) to your community park. Close supervision may be necessary, but let your child do the climbing, swinging, and sliding herself. It really is safer that way, and she’ll learn so much more.
  • Go back to the basics. Teach your child how to jump rope or hula hoop. Grab a ball and play catch, kick ball, or dodge ball. These inexpensive, classic toys provide almost endless opportunities for movement and play.
  • Just send them outside! If your kids are old enough and you are comfortable with the safety of the environment, turn them loose while you catch up on chores in the kitchen (stay within ear shot and check on them frequently, of course). If they’re younger or you live on a busy street, you may need to sit on the porch or patio and supervise. But the point is that kids need unstructured play, and lots of it, to learn and grow. Rolling in the grass, digging in the dirt, playing tag with siblings, or practice “tricks” like cartwheels and somersaults are important for children to learn about their bodies and the world around them. You can’t really teach a child that he’ll get dizzy when he spins around, or that he’ll fall down if he tries to walk down a hill too quickly. He needs to learn those lessons on his own terms.

Daily outdoor play is good for the whole family, and helps establish a life-long habit of regular recreational exercise for your child. Do your kids play outside every day? What are some of their favorite outdoor activities?

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5 responses to “Get outside and get moving!”

  1. Sandy says :

    Great post, Kendra. I think people often forget how really easy it is for kids to get exercise. Absolutely, it does not have to be structured such as 20 push ups, etc. If you take your child to the park, they rarely sit down and do nothing. They move from one piece of equipment to another…. not just walking but running. Taking a walk is always great fun or bike riding. I have a neighbor who is 4 and everytime she asks to to bike ride, I try. I think it is important as adults to set the example for activity and not inactivity.

    • Joe Schreiber says :

      Great point, Sandy- setting a good example is really important across the board as a parent, and especially with activity and exercise.

  2. kendrapedpt says :

    Thanks for your comments, Sandy and Joe. Setting an example is so important, and perhaps a really important piece to all this is educating parents and caregivers on staying active so they can model that for their children. I listened to a really interesting NPR piece last week called “What’s Lost When Kids Don’t Ride Bikes to School.” One thing they discussed was that even “active” families that ride bikes or walk or hike for recreation rarely bike or walk to actually get anywhere. I’ve seen this myself – ironically, a family will jump in the car to ride half a mile to play at the park or hike a trail. Kids have no concept of using their bike or their own two legs for transportation, and I think this is something that needs to be addressed in communities. I am fortunate to live in a small town where my kids will be able to safely walk and bike to school, and we frequently walk to the park or ride our bikes to the store. But many areas (suburbs in particular) need to work on creating bike lanes and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods to make it safe and easy for kids (and adults) to get more activity.

    • Sandy says :

      I can’t agree more for bike lanes, etc but not every town has those. In Gardner, I am not sure which is more dangerous the cars or the gigantic holes in the road that swallow my road bike. This is on our Main St. It drives me crazy. A bike lane would be great.

      We also ride our bike to the store for small items. We walk or bike to the coffee shop and I will bike to our gym to workout. Many times, Michael (my son) will walk to the gas station to get a pop. It’s probably one mile each way.

      I think you are right that examples are best to reinforce what parents teach.

      I walked to school every day I was in grade school with my neighbors. That’s just what we did even with snow. That will be nice your kids can do that.

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