Off The Tablet, On Their Feet: Exercises For Children
For better or worse, we live in a digital age.
We have never been more informed, connected or entertained as technology is pushed to greater heights every year. However, with the average Briton spending 24 hours a week online, we’re also missing out on spending time together and going outside to exercise and play.
This applies doubly so for children. The amount of time children spend in front of “screens” has shot up in the last 20 years, averaging 6½ hours a day in 2015. Online use is also on the rise. A 2017 Ofcom report found that children as young as 5-7-year-old spend up 9 hours a week online, which goes up to 13½ hours for 8-11-year-olds.
This high exposure can be worrying for parents, especially when it comes to concerns about weight, with one in three children doing less than 30 minutes exercise a day, and emotional wellbeing, as online abusers and cyber-bullies can be hard to track down and hold accountable.
While we can’t tell you how to stop your children being bullied, abused or even manipulated online, we can instead offer ways to help keep them active without breaking the bank. With our exercises for children of different age groups, we hope we can help reduce the time they spend on screens, increase the time they spend being active and even increase the time you all spend together as a family.
Exercises For Ages 3-8
They say to strike while the iron is hot and that couldn’t apply more than to young children. Much of what will affect them in their later years begin in these delicate formative years, so you want to start them off by getting them into exercise and keeping them healthy. However, this doesn’t always pan out.
Busy schedules and short attention spans can make it very tempting to just sit the kids in front of a screen and let the pretty colours and flashing lights do all the work. More often than not however, this tells children to expect a sedentary lifestyle, making change harder later on. A child’s underdeveloped brain and social skills can also make things difficult, especially if they develop bad habits like lying, rule bending, or expecting rewards for their every action.
So, to keep their minds attentive and their bodies healthy, here just some of the exercises and activities recommended by mommypoppins.com. By keeping exercising fun at this young stage, you stop boredom from taking over and you’re even more likely to enjoy playing with your children while they do so:
Obstacle Courses – Remove any breakables from the room and create an obstacle course with the remaining furniture. This exercises their entire body without giving them a complicated workout to do.
Animal Races – A race to the finish by either hopping like a bunny or frog, waddle like a duck or even slither like a snake. This is more entertaining than a running race and can develop balancing skills in younger children.
Balloon Ball – Large packs of balloons can be bought cheaply from your local supermarket and can provide hours of fun. Give each child a balloon and challenge them to keep it in the air, or clear the room and play a few sets of balloon tennis.
Follow The Leader – Get the kids to follow your every movement to ensure they’re getting a full workout and interacting with you. For an extra challenge, play “Simon Says” with them instead, the last one standing wins!
Dancing – Turn on the music and go nuts! This can be a little chaotic (and obnoxious if they want to listen to Baby Shark for the 60th time) but its wildly entertaining for them and encourages a lot of activity in a short amount of time.
Carnival Games – This can take a bit of imagination, but a quick search online will give an idea of what you can do. “Knock Down the Cans” can be set up using stacked Tupperware and “Ball in the Bucket” can be set up using cooking pots and saucepans.
Pillow Fighting – A good, old-fashioned pillow fight is always fun, but its also a good way for a stressed or bad-tempered child to express their emotions without causing too much damage.
When entertaining children of this age, its important to keep looking up new game and activities. While they may find some favourites that they’ll want to play again and again, boredom is going to be a constant issue, but don’t worry, it won’t last forever.
Exercises For Ages 9-12
At these ages, children become less motivated by reward and less distractible as they mature. They begin to understand the full extent of their actions and the effects they have on other people so at this point, you could probably explain why exercise is good for both them and you. It also keeps you involved in their lives that little bit longer before they want nothing to do with you as teenagers.
This workout from care.com introduces low impact versions of popular exercises. This not only has the effect of making your children feel like they’re “growing up” by doing harder exercises, but may also encourage them to keep exercising and attend the gym as adults:
All-Fours Push-Ups – Start on the floor in the crawl position, hands below shoulders and knees below hips. Push your elbows out to the sides and lower your chest to the floor. Rise up, return to the starting position and repeat.
Sit-Ups – Lie down with your back on the floor, your knees bent and your feet pointed straight ahead. Putting your hands behind your head, lift your chest up towards your lap while keeping your bottom on the ground. Return to the starting position and repeat.
Step-Ups – Use the bottom step of your stairs for this exercise. Step up with your right leg then bring up your left leg to join it. Reverse the movement, return to the start position and repeat.
Jumping Jacks – Stand with your legs straight and arms by your sides. On the first jump, spread your feet beyond the width of your hips and bring your arms over your head, having them almost meet. On the second jump, return to the starting position and repeat.
Balance On One Leg – Standing straight, balance on one leg by either a) lifting your knee up in front of you or b) throwing your foot up to your bottom and holding it in place. Hold the position for 10 seconds, return to the start position and repeat, switching legs.
Ball Toss – Find a partner. Holding the sides of a medium-sized ball with both hands, place the ball to your chest then push out, tossing the ball to your partner who should aim catch it into their chest before tossing it back out. Repeat.
Do as many of one exercise as possible in 30-45 seconds, spend 10 seconds jogging on the spot, then move onto the next exercise.
If these exercises are too easy, you can make them more challenging by creating a full circuit in a clear room/garden, changing the exercise order, adding more exercises or adding props like water bottles and soup cans to act as weights. Just remember not to push anyone too far and stay hydrated.
Exercises For Teenagers
While you can encourage your teenage children to continue or join in on the exercises designed for the 9-12-year-olds by introducing more intense versions of them, don’t be surprised if they suddenly want to stop or you even receive push back on the idea.
They’re going through a difficult time in their lives and might not have the physical or mental confidence to continue exercising, so don’t get too angry at them. Try and get an idea of where they are mentally, but take your time and don’t push the issue.
The best we can recommend if they want to stop exercising is to encourage them join a sports club, teen-focused exercise classes and gym sessions or create their own exercise routines. This allows them to set their own pace and not only shows that you trust them to look after themselves, but also respect their individuality and personal space. However, if you want to keep costs down, here are some of the cheaper alternatives they can do:
Swimming – Most council-run swimming pools keep entry fees low to encourage the elderly to stay active, so your teenagers can take advantage of this too. Bonus points if you live on the coast, because it might be cold, but there’s no charge for swimming in the sea.
Council-Run Exercise Classes – With the recent budget cuts enforced on councils by the government, these classes are now few and far between, but if you can find them, use them. It may even encourage your local council to create more in the future.
“Free Sports” – While classes are in short supply, cheap-to-maintain parks and playing fields are not, so get some sports equipment and play. Some parks even have additional areas like basketball courts, tennis courts and skate parks, so there’s plenty of options.
DVD and YouTube Exercise Tutorials – Okay, so this doesn’t keep your teenagers off the screens but it does keep them active. Fitness DVDs can often be found in 99p bargain bins and YouTube fitness videos are completely free, you’ll just need to trust that they won’t spend too much time online afterwards…
It’s important to keep your kids healthy.
It’s just one of the things you can do make sure they have a better chance of avoiding obesity and sedentary-related illnesses later in life. However, what’s to say you won’t suddenly fall ill while they’re growing up? The NHS can cover a lot, but time off work and extra medical expenses can put a large dent in the family finances. This is where Critical Illness Insurance can help.
By paying out a lump-sum in event that you are diagnosed with a set number of illnesses or diseases, you can ensure that your family is covered when you’re the one who needs to be cared for. Available on its own, or as part of a Level-Term Life Insurance policy, click the button below this January for more information and your chance to get three months free gym membership. Next week: getting your family to eat healthily with meals for four or more.