Kids don’t always want to exercise. Frankly, many parents don’t either. However, you can miss out on a lot of benefits if you avoid sweat and dirt. Read on to learn ways you and your family can safely, creatively, and enjoyably go outside and stay active.
First, a few safety tips…
Encouraging kids to give up the screen and play outside can make some parents anxious. Today, we’re more aware of kidnappings, scary diseases, and other hazards that make us want to keep our kids in bubble wrap. It’s rarer and rarer to see unsupervised children having adventures in the neighborhood. However, this belief may just be a perception created by today’s media. Use this as an opportunity to teach your kids street and safety smarts:
- Encourage helmets for activities like biking and skateboarding. Helmets save lives. Some kids might think helmets are “uncool,” so make sure your kid has plenty of choosing power for theirs. Take them shopping and let them pick a high-quality helmet with cool graphics and a comfortable fit.
- If your kids have allergies or asthma, always remind them to bring their medication. Buy a few extra emergency products, just in case. Pro-tip: you can find significantly cheaper asthma and allergy drugs like Advair and EpiPens online with Canadian pharmacy referral services like Rx Connected.
- If your kid doesn’t have special health needs, they can still get scrapes and bruises. Have your kid carry emergency bandages in their backpack and teach them how to properly clean and treat wounds.
- Have a family code word. In case an emergency happens and you require someone else to fetch your kid, teach your kid not to follow anybody unless they say the code word.
In general, use common sense, not paranoia. Young children shouldn’t be out late at night, of course, and adults should always supervise kids playing in less-populated areas like campgrounds and parks.
Why stay active?
If germs are what you’re worried about, consider this: kids who get dirty have stronger immune systems. According to the hygiene hypothesis, the reason why well-developed countries have higher incidences of allergies and asthma is because children’s immune systems are too sheltered from germs at a young age.
Outdoor activities to help you stay fit
Besides sports, there are plenty of things you can do to stay fit. Health benefits aside, play allows families to bond and practice good communication, problem-solving, and teamwork skills.
- Build a treehouse (or other structure).
Construction is hard work! Just ask the next construction worker you see. Almost all kids love the idea of having their own fort, treehouse, or other play structure. You’re not limited to a fort. You can also build a:
- Bird feeder or birdhouse
- Skateboard ramp
- Catio (a safer outdoor space for the family cat!)
- Teach your kids how to grow food.
This is a way to trick your kids into helping you with chores while getting them outside and moving at the same time. Kids might not like the idea of helping mom and dad water plants and pull weeds, but they may be more excited about growing their own food. You can designate an area of the yard they are responsible for and teach them valuable knowledge about plant biology. Having a plant “pet” can also teach kids responsibility.
- Double-dutch or other fancy jump rope games.
Jump rope games are great because you don’t need a lot of space or equipment. Jumping rope as a group in games like Double Dutch can also build teamwork and co-operation skills because everyone has to work together. Furthermore, skipping is a very intense sport, so expect to burn lots of calories.
- Shadow tag, flashlight tag, and other derivatives
Your kids might quickly grow out of tag, but “alternative” tag games can be your answer to this problem. Flashlight tag is perfect for a camping trip or if you live near a wooded area. Shadow tag can become a summer pastime.
If your kids are fans of franchises like Harry Potter, they can bring their favorite magical worlds to life. For example, you can play Quidditch by using household brooms and making the rule that it must always be between your legs. Hula hoops on the ground can be used as goalposts. A person that runs around and hides can be the Snitch!
For more rules, look up the International Quidditch Association. It’s a thing.
- Make up your own game
Encourage your kids to make up their own game. Kids are naturally creative, but if they need a little extra help, they can base their real-life game on a video game, TV show, or other thing they love but usually sit still to enjoy. Encourage wacky costumes, props, and complex rules. Use traditional items like balls and goals but also use pool noodles, stuffed animals, tables and chairs, or whatever else you can think of.
- Local attractions
Have the entire family go on a fun outing to a local attraction. Museums, aquariums, and galleries often have family passes so you can save money. Plus, going out gets your kids active, exploring, and learning about the world around them.
- Hiking, birdwatching, fishing, camping etc.
For the outdoorsy kid, the possibilities are endless. Hiking is an obvious choice, but simply setting up and maintaining camp keeps you on your feet too. This is also a good opportunity to teach your kid life skills like how to start a fire, tie knots, read a compass, and outdoor safety.
When you’re trying to get your family outside, you’re not restricted to traditional sports! Get creative and go explore; you might just find a new hobby that makes you healthier without you even realizing it.