We’re a few weeks into the summer holidays and I’ve seen a fair few bleary-eyed parents around. Weeks of entertaining your children takes a lot of stamina, especially if they are energetic! Finding activities that you can do as a family, whilst also keeping up your health and fitness journey, is a tall order. But the summer holidays can be a great time to vary up your routine and to introduce your children to an active lifestyle. Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling…
First things first, trying to get a child to do something that they aren’t interested in is going to be near-impossible. Instead, sit down with them to work out stuff that they enjoy doing and that incorporates some physical activity. If they’re a bookworm then come up with some activities that the characters in their favourite stories do. If they’re a gamer then find inspiration in their games. Even the couchiest potato can be convinced to do something, as long as it links to something they’re inspired by.
Set an example
Every child wants to emulate their parents at some point. So, the best way to inspire them to get active is to get sweaty yourself. Show them that being active is a fun thing to do, and involve them in your own fitness journey. That could involve taking them to your gym and doing a simple partnered workout (if your gym allows it) or going down the park and having a run around.
Make exercise fun and your children won’t even realise they’re being active. Create a makeshift obstacle course in your back garden or down the local park. Get some hula hoops, plastic cones, things to jump under, other things to crawl under and let your creativity run wild! Just make sure that anything you’re jumping on is secure. If you’ve got several children then try making it a (friendly) competition.
You can also take your family swimming (if they don’t do this regularly), trampolining, hiking, cycling, rock climbing, or any other local physical activities. If you’re by the beach then why not try watersports? Out in the countryside? Try geocaching. You can also use the summer break as a good opportunity to let them try new team sports – that way, they can make new friends and socialise whilst getting fit.
Keep things new and exciting and it won’t just keep your kids engaged, it’ll also challenge their bodies to work in different ways.
Use vacations to your advantage
Holidays offer another way to kickstart or alter a fitness routine. Because you’re in a new environment, you can find a lot of new activities to try as a family. Even exploring a new city can be a good way to hit your 10,000 step count. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not try a local exercise class or physical sport like caving. Some hotels also offer classes like zumba and aqua spin.
Don’t waste a rainy day
A rainy day doesn’t mean a day on the couch. If space allows, do a dance-off. This works especially well if you have several siblings challenging each other. Then there’s tech like Wii Fit that can keep them occupied for a few hours. Failing this, then focus on their mindfulness and healthy eating. Have a day where you prepare healthy food together and teach them about balanced eating. Or do a bit of yoga and meditation as a family. Remember, your family’s health is more than just their physical fitness.
Limit their screen time
Recent recommendations suggest that children should only have between one to two hours of screen time each day. That includes TV, smartphones, computers and tablets. Many children get much more than this.
Limiting screen time, or having a set time when your children cannot use any screens, means they’re more likely to find other (active) things to do. Instead of drastically making them go cold turkey, you can whittle down their screen time to the recommended amount (or close to it). Replace their screens with activities that stimulate their bodies and minds – like cooking a family dinner together, exploring the local area, or doing arts and crafts.
You can also lead by example. Many of us are addicted to our smartphones. Take it as a family challenge to do a digital detox once a week and get out and about together without your tech. Your family and health will thank you for it.
Explain why being active is important
When you’re encouraging your children to be active, you’re hopefully setting them up with a healthy habit for life. So explain why you’re doing it. Yes, it’s for their own good, but also tell them about how good you feel when you’re active, and how much freedom you gain by having a healthy body and mind.
No fitness journey should feel like a punishment. We won’t stick to an active lifestyle if we don’t enjoy it, and neither will your family. Most importantly, you need to find something that your children will enjoy and will be inspired by. Be aware of the messaging you give your children around health and fitness. Especially if they aren’t very active or if they are self-conscious. You have an opportunity this summer to create a lifelong healthy habit in your children. Lay the foundations now and your children will reap the benefits long into their future.