Read how these parents keep their kids moving and exercising after school to inspire your own healthy activities.
During the summer, kids are an energetic whirlwind: From camp activities to swimming lessons and running through sprinklers, you rarely have to worry about where they're getting their exercise.
But once school is back in session, staying active as a family becomes a challenge. Unless your child is naturally drawn to after-school sports, it's easy for physical health to go out the window—especially when kids are buried under a mountain of homework and distracted by their electronic devices.
Thankfully, there are plenty of creative ways for kids to get moving once the last school bell rings. We spoke with three moms to learn their unique parenting techniques that add fun activities to the family planner.
1. Take group walks. Get your family into the habit of taking walks in the neighborhood after dinner. Not only will kids get some fresh air and exercise, but it's a great opportunity to bond, said Danielle Faust, family lifestyle blogger and mom of two in Florida.
2. Sign up for sports. Of course, after-school sports are the most obvious way for kids to stay active. But sometimes, the competitive spirit or time commitment of school teams isn't a good fit. "Most communities still have local soccer or Little League teams that are a game and a practice a week," said Jennifer Nevins, founder of keepsake box company Savor.
3. Be inspired by your kids' interests. What do you do if your son or daughter is more of an artsy soul or computer geek than an athlete? Faust suggested using their natural interests as inspiration for activities to get them moving: "My kids are really into Minecraft, so we play tag but I tell them they have to move like a Minecraft character."
4. Get into the competitive spirit. There's nothing like a little competition to stoke a kid's motivation to get off the couch. "If everyone has an activity tracker like a Fitbit, you can give little rewards for the best step count," Faust said. "That will make siblings run to compete against each other!"
5. Go on nature hikes. Hikes may not get your heart pumping as much as soccer practice, but they're a great opportunity to sneak in some physical activity while bird watching or looking for collectibles to use for craft projects, Faust suggested.
6. Take advantage of indoor play spaces. So many of these physical activities require the cooperation of the weather. But what if it's too cold or rainy to run around outside? "There are lots of indoor play spaces popping up all over the place," Faust said. "We love bounce houses, indoor trampoline parks, and even "American Ninja Warrior"-style gyms for kids!"
7. Encourage "old-school" games from your childhood. Do you remember when you used to play games of pick-up basketball with the neighbors? There's no reason why you can't pass your childhood games onto the next generation. "When I was growing up in Brooklyn, we were out all day and night playing games on the street," said Lori Lite, parenting author and founder of Stress Free Kids. "Try stoop ball, hopscotch, or jump rope. Parents: get out your old jump rope and you can join in too!"
8. Take the stairs. Encourage the whole family to ditch the elevators and escalators for stairs. Per Nevins' suggestion, you can even make a game out of it with stair races if you live in an apartment building.
9. Run together. If you're a parent who likes to stay in shape, you may be used to going on morning jogs by yourself—but there's no reason why kids can't get involved too. "My son, who is 8, loves to go on runs with me," Nevins said. "The sense of accomplishment makes him feel great. Plus, we add things like taking turns counting off the light poles as we pass them, and the time goes by."
10. Put on a YouTube tutorial. "Yes, that thing that often keeps them from any physical activity can also be a source of great (and free) exercise for all different ages," Nevins said. She suggested checking out kid-friendly exercise tutorial videos on YouTube.
11. Get in touch with your inner "om." "Try out activities like pilates or yoga where you can take a more spiritual or metaphysical approach to exercise," Faust said. There are even YouTube channels (like Cosmic Kids Yoga) that teach kids yoga poses through storytelling.
12. Organize play dates around physical activities. Make exercise a social activity! "The same kid that has zero interest in running or taking a walk with you will jump up and down to do an ice cube relay race or a three-legged race with his friends," Nevins said.