Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools and recreation centers have had to close, and organizations have canceled extracurricular activities. When restricting their activities outside the house, many families struggle to find enough activities to do at home with kids and keep everyone busy. But it doesn’t have to be a chore, even with winter quickly approaching. There are plenty of fun exercises for kids and ways to encourage everyone to stay active while having fun at home. Check out our favorite ideas for physical activities for preschoolers, older kids and the entire family!
The Importance of Keeping Your Child Active at Home
Staying physically active is crucial at any age, and children especially need plenty of activity every day to grow up strong, happy and healthy. Regular physical activity for kids can help build and strengthen bones and muscles, improve cardiorespiratory health, control weight and blood pressure and reduce the likelihood of dangerous health conditions like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, specific types of cancer and others. It’s also essential for overall mental health and can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Kids who don’t get enough physical activity are at higher risk of gaining too much weight, developing health problems, having energy imbalances and losing focus on school work. To prevent these issues and keep kids healthy, the CDC recommends at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day for all children ages 6 and up. Younger children, ages 3-5, should be physically active throughout the day to best support their health and development. While this may sound like a lot, it’s easy to find ways for the whole family to stay active — and have fun together!
Children should engage in three types of physical activity each week to be well-rounded and reap all the benefits.
- Aerobic: This type of activity is anything that gets the heart pumping and makes you breathe a little faster. It can include walking, running, dancing and more. Aerobic exercises should make up the bulk of that daily 60 minutes kids should be getting.
- Muscle-strengthening: These activities build and strengthen growing muscles and include climbing, push-ups, sit-ups, weightlifting and more. Kids should engage in muscle-building exercises at least three times a week.
- Bone-strengthening: These activities help keep bones healthy and developing correctly. Bone-strengthening activities include jumping and running. Try to include bone-strengthening exercises at least three times per week as well.
Unfortunately, as little as 24% of children ages 6 to 17 meet these recommendations and get in their 60 minutes per day of exercise. As a parent, you can encourage your children to be physically active every day, and provide fun activities and ideas for your kids. Lead by example and be active both indoors and out, and your kids will want to emulate you.
Outdoor Activities for Children at Home
Outdoor time is ideal for the whole family. Playing outside is an easy way to get in some physical activity while enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. Sunshine is essential for getting in vitamin D, and being outdoors boosts mental and emotional health. Keep kids active by encouraging plenty of outdoor play and offering lots of suggestions to make it exciting.
Backyard Gym Ideas
Turn your backyard into a gym for fun outdoor physical activity with these ideas.
- Play with outside toys: Get out the bubbles, sidewalk chalk, balls, hula hoops, jump ropes, frisbees, and any other fun outside toys your family enjoys.
- Hide-and-seek: Play this childhood classic in your backyard.
- Play fetch with the dog: Keep the pets active too with a game of fetch. Or, look up tricks to practice with your pup.
- Family sports: Practice soccer, football, or baseball skills in your backyard. Play a friendly game together.
- Hopscotch: Draw a classic route on the sidewalk, or create inspired designs for different versions of the game.
- Obstacle course: Use whatever toys and sports equipment you have to create an obstacle course for the kids, full of various things to do.
- Host the backyard Olympics: Create a range of backyard games to play, and have a little family competition. Offer ribbons, medals, or prizes for the winners of each round.
- Do some gardening: Let your kids get involved if you already have a garden. Encourage them to help with watering, weeding, and harvesting. Or, allow them to take charge of a small garden of their own! Make other yard work fun and involve kids in raking leaves, shoveling snow, and landscaping projects.
- Make an outdoor tent: Attach a sheet to some trees or drape over some lawn furniture for a quick outdoor blanket fort. Or, set up a camping tent in the backyard and let the kids’ imagination run wild. Camp outside for a night if you like.
- Water play:If the weather is warm, set up kiddie pools, water tables and sprinklers. Play with water guns or wash the car.
- Snow play:If the weather is cold, and the snow is falling, build a snowman or snow fort, throw snowballs or go sledding.
How to Keep Kids Active on the Go
Get the whole family on the move while out and about in your community with these ideas.
- Take a walk: Go as a whole family and explore your neighborhood, or mix it up and drive to a local park or another area to explore. Jog, run, hike or whatever your family prefers. If you have a canine family member, bring the dog on walks with you.
- Go for a bike ride: Let kids ride up and down the sidewalk, or go on a family ride together. If your kids prefer a different mode of transportation, encourage them to take their scooter, tricycle, skateboard, pogo stick or roller skates.
- Try a scavenger hunt: Make a checklist of things for the kids to find, or look online for downloadable lists, bingo cards and other resources. Head to a local park, or use your list during a walk through the neighborhood. Kids can check things off as they find them, or collect items from nature like leaves, rocks, etc.
- Go geocaching: Get into this fun trend that combines technology with the outdoors. Get started online — you may be surprised at all the unique treasures hidden in your community.
- Try new parks: Make a list of all the parks and playgrounds in your area, and see how many you can visit in one season. Include smaller neighborhood parks, as well as state parks and national parks within reasonable driving distance from home.
- Clean up litter: Bring garbage bags on a walk and clean up your neighborhood. Kids love getting involved and helping the planet.
Indoor Activities for Children at Home
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our favorite gyms and other indoor recreation sites remain closed. And with winter weather on its way, we may have to focus on activities for kids during quarantine they can do inside and at home. It can feel like a challenge to figure out how to make your child active, especially in a small space, but here are our favorite ideas for indoor exercise for kids.
- Throw a dance party: One of the most fun things to do with kids at home is to dance! Make it an evening routine and take turns choosing the music. Look up how-to videos and learn some new dance steps together.
- Make chores fun: Household chores are an easy way for anyone to get in some physical activity while inside, but you’ll have to find ways to make it more fun to sell this one to your kids. Offer exciting rewards for completing various tasks, make your to-do list into a bingo card or give each child a brief list and race each other to see who can finish first.
- Bring the outdoors in: When you can’t get outside, find ways to bring some of your favorites inside. Let the kids play with hula hoops or make hopscotch on the floor with painters’ tape.
- Indoor mini-golf: One of the best indoor active games for kids is an indoor mini-golf course. Don’t worry — it’s easier to set up than it sounds. Use plastic cups for the holes, and ping-pong or soft Nerf balls instead of golf balls for safety. You can make it a straightforward course or get creative and add some twists.
- Make activity stations: Much like at the gym, you can set up activity stations around the house to keep children moving. Post signs with instructions for each station, and choose age-appropriate activities for your kids. Try including classic exercises for kids at home, like jumping jacks, planks and sit-ups, or add fun and creative choices like silly walks, dancing, crab walks, etc.
- Let kids track their steps: Allow the kids to try out a Fitbit-type device or use an old phone with a fitness tracker. Challenge the family to get the most steps in each day.
- Try an exercise video: Look online for free video resources for all sorts of workouts for all ages. Cosmic Kids is a great place for younger kids to learn yoga while immersed in a fun story.
- Play a workout game: Use a deck of cards or some dice to make working out a game. Assign each number or suit to a particular activity. Choose age-appropriate physical activities for kids.
- Make a “laser” course with yarn: Zigzag some yarn back and forth across a hallway and challenge your kids to get through without touching the “lasers.”
- Play active video games: Playing video games may seem like the antithesis to staying active, but many games encourage movement, like the classic Wii Fit and the more recent Ring Fit Adventure. Have fun while staying active and challenge each other to video games like bowling, tennis, hula hoop, dancing and more.
- Follow the leader: Create a path through your house, even if it’s only from the front door to the back door. Choose a leader to name a method of movement to get from start to finish. This exercise is one of the best indoor physical activities for toddlers and will keep them busy. Let their imagination run wild as they choose to get from start to finish as a cat or dog, a car or train, a dancer, a monster or whatever they dream up. Everyone else in the game copies their movements, then the next leader gets to choose.
Tips for Staying Healthy at Home
Besides getting in physical activity, it’s crucial to ensure your children stay healthy in other ways, too. While everyone is quarantining at home, it can be easy to let healthy habits slide, but you should try to ensure everyone in the family is eating a balanced diet. Keep lots of fresh fruits and veggies on hand for healthy snacks, and limit the processed snacks and junk food. Provide healthy family meals and get kids involved in helping with food prep. Make sure kids are staying hydrated and drinking lots of water throughout the day.
Teach your child basic personal hygiene, and stress the importance of proper handwashing. Show children how to wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. They can even sing their favorite song while washing up! Ensure your kids know how to cover their coughs and sneezes with a tissue or in the crook of their elbow to help keep the whole family healthy.
It’s also critical to check in on your child’s mental, emotional and social health. Younger children may not fully understand what’s going on, but can pick up on others’ anxiety. Invite your children to talk with you about their concerns or fears, and teach them healthy ways to deal with stress.
It can be challenging for kids to stay home and not see their friends and extended family members. Find ways to stay connected with loved ones and get in some social time. Let children use video chat services to visit with friends and family. Have them read a book to Grandma over video chat, or do homework together with a friend. Try online quarantine activities for kids or apps that allow you to play board games, card games and more with your friends online. Or, go the old-fashioned route and send letters and drawings through the mail. Find a pen pal online from a different state or country your kids would like to learn about, and have them exchange letters.
Choosing the Best School for Your Children
When you’re ready to send your kids back to school, it’s essential to choose the right one. Kids get so much more out of in-person social interactions and learning together with their peers, and should be in school when it’s safe to do so. Prepare for the return to school and choose the best one for your family. Haymarket Children’s Academy offers high-quality early learning programs, as well as before- and after-school care, summer camps and more. Our campus provides a safe, nurturing learning environment where children learn through play. Contact us today to discover more, and schedule your virtual tour.