Active Ideas 1-5
1. Go for pre- or post-dinner walks
Whether you head into town or just cruise the neighborhood, building a walk into your daily schedule ensures that it won't get put off. Brookline, Massachusetts, master Pilates instructor Lisa Johnson and her husband take evening walks with 3-year-old Alex, who alternates time in and out of the stroller. To make walking more enticing, Johnson makes a sport of it. "At one house we look for a cat sitting in the window, at another we run up and down a short flight of stairs," she says.
2. Crank up the music and boogie down.
Betsy Murphy of Coral Gables, Florida, holds disco nights with her four kids and several neighbors. She moves the furniture aside, fills the CD player with dance tunes, and lets the kids take turns using a flashlight as a strobe light. "They dance for three hours straight," Murphy says. "The older ones know all the words to the songs and really dance; it's hilarious to see the younger ones try to mimic them. Their favorite song is 'Brick House!'"
3. Make a game out of household chores.
Pretend that dust creatures are invading earth and it's up to Captain [insert child's name] to save the day by capturing them with his broom, suggests registered dietitian Juliet Zuercher of Wickenburg, Arizona. "Make believe he's one of the Rescue Heroes, and have him save his teddy bears from the slimy pit of the floor by putting them safely in his toy chest," she says. Jodi Arlen of Bethesda, Maryland, turns folding laundry into a guessing game. "It started when my daughter would ask, 'Is that mine?' and it grew into 'Guess whose this is!'" she says. After her daughters, 3 years old and 20 months old, correctly identify the clothing, they help fold them.
4. Sneak workouts into other activities.
Have your toddler walk instead of riding in the cart at the supermarket, and take the stairs or walk up the escalator whenever possible. Nancy Twigg of Knoxville, Tennessee, drives partway to her daughter Lydia's preschool, parks the car, and walks the rest of the way.
5. Turn TV commercials into fitness breaks.
Invent silly names for simple exercises like squats, push-ups, and sit-ups, and then do them together till the show comes back on. "Call them princess sit-ups or Bob the Builder muscle builders," says physical therapist Peter Kofitsas, of New York City, who does the moves with his 4-year-old and 20-month-old daughters. You can also play "coach," in which you take turns "ordering" each other to "drop and give me five," or "follow the leader," in which one person leads the others in fun, simple moves like clapping, wiggling, and marching.