To paraphrase Cyndi Lauper, kids just want to have fun. That's all they really want.
So when working out with your kids, don't think about it in the same way you think about working out for yourself.
Kids don't really understand or care too much about the intrinsic value of exercise. They probably know on some level that exercise is good, and that moving around is fun, but they're not going to do squats and bicep curls just for the sake of it.
What they do enjoy, however, is tasks. So instead of just feeling the burn or going through an exercise that they don't like because the value will come at the end, or in the future, they would much prefer to complete a task just because that task exists right now. And they will have some enjoyment just finishing the project. Children are more short-term focused than long-term focused.
Here are some tips to workout with your kids:
- So instead of a child doing 10 reps x 3 sets of squats, you could get them to touch their bum to a soccer ball as many times as they can in 30 seconds. Then challenge them to beat their score (and it helps if you join in)!
- You should also involve them in constructing the workout. Allow them to choose an exercise, or to invent a silly movement that you both have to do. Deep down kids just want to feel like they belong.
- Another thing the little monsters love is competition. A good old-fashioned race, of any kind, always seems to put a smile on their faces (it's your call whether you let them win or not).
For winter activities, weather is a factor. Here in Vancouver, it doesn't snow much, but it does rain a lot–something I'm familiar with coming from Ireland. For this reason, you might look at doing some indoor activities.
Winter workout ideas:
- You can have games at home where you disguise exercises as tasks. You can set up an obstacle course, e.g. crawl under the coffee table, jump over the couch, the floor is hot lava, etc.
- Or you could get out amongst the weather. If you do have snow, snowball fights use up a lot of energy.
- Splashing in the puddles is something that I've never seen a child say no to.
- Then there's more obvious things like indoor rock climbing, swimming, indoor soccer, and the like.
The Value of Exercise
Depending on the age of the child, this may be a great opportunity to start teaching them about more traditional exercise and the value of exercise. If they really enjoy some of the tasks you give them, show them how they can get better through practice. You can teach them a little bit about body mechanics, and educate them on the importance of quality nutrition from their food. This will set them on the road to a natural, healthy lifestyle.
A lot of adults view exercise as a chore. Chores get put off.
If a child understands the value of physical health from an early age, it will always be in their interest to stay fit and healthy. If they relate it to having fun and connecting with their loved ones, then they will get more intrinsic enjoyment from it.
This is also a chance for you to expose them to different sports and activities, so that they can find one that they're interested in that they may pursue later on in life. A big mistake a lot of parents make is getting their kid into only one sport far too early. This has been shown to create mental burnout, overuse injuries and simply put, a lack of enjoyment.
So there you go, parents–hopefully this can help you get, and keep, your kids active.