Are you struggling with getting your kids to move more without making it feel more like punishment than fun?
Helping kids move their bodies more prepares their minds and behaviors for greatness.
Exercise for kids should be a tool, not torture!
Kids are born to wiggle and giggle and when they don’t get enough movement, their behavior, focus, and attention span can suffer.
Like most moms, I struggle with my kids behavior, focus and attention span and have seen drastic improvements in our day’s simply when they move their bodies more.
Happy kids make happy moms and like they say, “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t ‘nobody happy!”
These 25 fitness activities for kids will feel like fun, not exercise.
And the best part is that you can even join them so you can burn some calories and stress yourself!
So make movement fun for your kids and see for yourself the improvement in their behavior!
Oh, and yes, I know it can feel like pulling teeth to get them off the couch and moving. That is why making movement fun is important!
Benefits of Physical Activity For Kids
When kids are more active, their bodies and minds are better equipped to move and think they way they should.
Exercise improves the way the brain functions which gives a greater ability to learn by being able to process new information better. Other benefits of exercise for kids includes:
- Improve Overall Quality Of Life
- Kids who are more physically active are more likely to have more motivation, focus and success in school. Exercise gives the mind a break from stressful, emotional thoughts that even children experience. The release of “feel good” hormones helps improve their overall outlook on life.
- Builds Confidence
- Have you ever noticed how excited and proud your child gets when they learn to ride a bike or are able to swim on their own? Mastering new physical skills helps build confidence.
- Improves mood and behavior
- Exercise physically changes our brains to releases hormones called endorphins that help you to feel good, improve mood and focus. Children who struggle with controlling their some of their behavior benefit greatly from simply being more active to stimulate positive brain activity.
- Better able to handle physical and emotional challenges
- Young children can get very frustrated because they struggle with learning to express feelings and emotions. Exercise is one the best tools for teaching anyone, including children, how to cope with stress or emotional challenges they face in life.
- Strengthens The Heart
- The heart is a muscle and it never stops working. It needs to stay strong to help pump blood through your body and exercise is the best way to keep your heart strong. Children should be able to run and play without feeling exhausted and physically fatigued.
- Builds Strong Muscles and Bones
- Kids need strong bodies and bones to be able to participate in activities they love such as bike riding, swimming, playing games.
How Much Exercise Do Kids Need?
Yes, I know your days are already jam packed and you barely have time to get enough physical activity yourself let alone your kids.
But what if I told you that you could drastically improve your child’s behavior, focus and learning, listening skills and overall health and happiness just by encouraging them to move their bodies more?
Teaching your children to love and appreciate the movement their bodies can do will set them up for a very healthy future and that is what we all want, right?
Studies show that kids are spending more than 7.5 hours a day in from of a screen (phones, tablets, TV, video games etc) and 18.5% of kids age 2-19 are considered obese and only one in three kids are physically active every day. (1)(2)
What is even more alarming is that kids as young as 2-3 years of age are being diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety, depression and mental health issues.
I assure you that encouraging more movement in your kids is not punishment. It is necessary!
These are the exercise guidelines (source)
- 60 minutes of structured play
- This does not have to be done all at once. It could be broken up into smaller increments like 20 minutes riding a bike or scooter, 10 minutes playing catch, or a 30 minute swim lesson.
- 60 minutes of free play
- This is anything other than structured play such as playing on the playground, exploring outside or playing pretend at home.
- No more than 60 minutes at a time of sitting still.
- If I, as an adult, struggle with sitting still for extended periods of time, think how hard it is for kids!
For toddlers ages 1-3 years old, the recommendations are the same except structured physical activity should add up to 30 minutes a day instead of 60.
Making Fitness For Kids a Priority
Children are born to move.
Research has shown that exercise is one of the best tools for coping with stress or anxiety because it physically redirects thoughts involved with worrying to areas of the brain involved in coordination and focus.
This means that when your brain is stuck feeling stressed or worried, exercising reroutes those thoughts to help your brain focus on exercising instead of stress or anxiety.
Exercise can change the chemistry of the brain to increase certain hormones that help improve self-regulation which leads to an improved ability to focus and control behavior.
Physically moving our bodies allows us to literally “work out” any stressful or anxious energy.
Have you ever had a stressful day at work or with the kids and just felt a strong urge to move your body?
Keep You Kids Motivated…and You!
It is very hard to keep your kids motivated to stay active when you struggle with finding motivation for your own workouts!
However, your kids should also be one of your greatest motivations to live an active and healthy lifestyle.
Younger children learn more by what we do than what we say. (source)
So when you struggle with finding motivation for your own workouts or physical activities, remember that you are inspiring and teaching your children to be active every time they see you move your body.
We use an activity tracker that my kids can actually cross off their fitness activities for the day.
They will love the sense of accomplishment and so will you!
Energy Busting Fitness Games Your Kids Will Go Crazy For
These are all exercises that you can do too. Make it fun and join in with your kids to burn some extra calories and bond with your little ones.
They will have more fun doing it with you!
Get creative, have fun and add some of your own favorite movements!
Burpees are one of my favorite exercises and if your kids are old enough, add this to your exercise list! These are a GREAT exercise for you too!
1. Pick a Stick-Popsicle Stick Exercise Activity
Write 20 fun exercises on popsicle sticks and place them in a jar.
Let your child pick a stick and help them do the exercise written.
Repeat for 10-15 popsicle sticks or do them all for a fun challenge!
2. Letter Matching
Cut and fold the letters on sheet number and place them in a hat or bowel.
Let your child pick a letter and help them to match the letter on sheet number one then do the exercise listed.
Continue for 10-15 minutes or longer!
3. Red Light, Green Light, Yellow Light
Cut the circles out and put them in a non transparent bag.
Every 15 seconds, pick a dot and yell the color to your kids.
Red- Freeze in a crazy position
Yellow- Move very slow
Green- Move as fast as you can or go crazy with dance moves!
4. Roll The Dice (2 Dice)
Let your child roll two dice and work with them on adding the numbers or counting the dots.
Find the number on the exercise list and perform the fitness activity listed next to the number.
Continue for 15 minutes or longer.
These foam dice are so fun and safer for little ones.
5. Animal Adventures
Ask your child to pick an animal and act out how that animal moves for 30-45 seconds.
Make it fun and keep rotating animals for 15 minutes.
Animal Exercises for Kids:
- Gallop like a horse. Try alternating the front foot.
- Pretend your arms are the trunk of an elephant
- Roar and be scary like a lion
- Crawl like a bear
- Quick small hops with feet together like a bunny
- Make big jumps like a frog
- Pretend to make a shark fin with your hands and swim like a shark
- Waddle like a penguin
- Flap your arms like a bird and run around
- Balance on one foot like a flamingo
6. Stretching and Calming Exercises For Kids
- Downward dog
- Forward fold
- Childs Pose
- Legs on a wall pose
- Happy baby
- Reverse table
- Bridge Pose
- Up dog pose
- Wheel pose
- Bird dog pose (balance table pose)
More Fun Fitness Games for Kids
- Wheel Barrow Races– Hold your child’s feet and let them try to walk on their hands
- Balloon games– blow up some balloons and play tennis or volleyball. You can also have your child hit the balloon as hard as they can then do an exercise as many times as they can before the balloon falls.
- Make an obstacle course- Create a course that allows them to move their bodies in every direction and movements that require focus and balance. This can be walking on a strip of masking tape, then crawling over and under chairs then doing a bear crawl. Shoot for 7 different movements.
- Play free dance
- Jump on a mini trampoline– My kids go crazy on this thing!
- Have a pillow fight
- Play good ol’ Twister
- Play tag
- Go for a bike ride
- Practice Jump Rope or Hoola Hoop
Remember, we need to prioritize movement in kids long before they become at risk for obese and mental health struggles as adults. Exercise should be a tool, not torture!
Brooke is a certified Prenatal and Postnatal Exercise Specialist with a Bachelors of Science degree in Kinesiology-Exercise Science. She is also a mom of 3 girls with more than 15 years of experience in health and fitness. Brooke’s goal at Struggles of a Fit Mom is to help motivate, educate and inspire other busy mamas who struggle with finding time, energy and motivation to take care of themselves in the chaos of motherhood.