Ah yes, it’s that time of year where us Northerners have stopped dressing in our winter clothes, and some of us brave parties have even started to make the transition to open toe shoes *gasp*.
We’re well into what the calendar tells us is ‘Spring’ but until the last week or two, we haven’t really felt the benefits of this transition season. Most of my family and friends, and Canadians lol, have agreed that we are likely to skip right over Spring and land in Summer – a fact that couldn’t be more evident based on the flip-flopping temperatures of late. I don’t mind though; any weather that allows me and my family to frolic outside is considered a seasonal win.
Goodbye, Cabin Fever. Hello, outdoor activities!
If you are like me and get stir crazy when kept indoors for long amounts of time, have no fear – the time to shake off the cold weather cobwebs is here. It’s so easy to get moving with your kiddos and loved ones, and there are so many inexpensive toys ways to do it.
Check out my top 3 no-cost ideas on how to get outside with your kids, and get in a workout for yourself!
Why it’s important for Kids: Teaches hand/eye coordination, catching and throwing mechanics unrelated to ball sports, develops anticipation and tracking skills. Once in a while, switch dominant hands for extra coordination and motor-skill training.
Sneaky fitness: Cardio, cardio, cardio. This is basically a great way of doing short bursts of anaerobic exercise which is beneficial to you and your kids. Bonus points for how pooped they will be later in the day 😉
Ramp it up a notch: After warming up with some throw and catch, why not try Frisbee Golf? This works on accuracy and aim, as well as strategic thinking. Bonus points for sprinting to the next flag or ‘hole’ with your munchkin, you could even race each other. More advanced players should try Ultimate Frisbee for an awesome sneaky workout.
2. Walking/Running Path, or Hiking Trail
Why it’s important for kids: This is the original “get outside” activity. If you live within walking, biking or driving distance from a conservation area or park, grab your fam and hit the trail. Natural scenery does wonders for kids who are hyper-active, anxious, or just really really excited about stuff. It makes a lot of sense to use that kind of environment to exert or reign in some of that energy.
Sneaky fitness: Old school cross-training. Utilize what’s around you to create a outdoor fitness circuit. Benches? Perfect for modified step ups, squats, lunges, tricep dips, pushups etc etc. Make it a game. Every time you pass a bench, do 10 repetitions of an exercise. Switch it up at each bench. You really can complete an whole body workout while you’re out on a walk!
Ramp it up a notch: How about some intervals in between your stations? Mix up walking, jogging and sprinting. Have younger kids? Make it silly. I love pretending I’m stuck in slow motion or walking like a robot when I have to go slow, then pretending I’m a superhero when I have to go really fast. Children love those kinds of variations.
Why it’s important for kids: Yes, we’ve all taken children to a playground. But have you ever played with them? I mean, really played. Playgrounds are awesome for socialization and unleashing pent up munchkin energy, but there is so much more that can be accomplished on a typical playground. You can help your child build strength, balance and flexibility, too.
Sneaky fitness: Monkey bars and anything that could act as a balance board. I dare you to swing yourself across a set of monkey bars without touching your feet to the ground; it’s hard! With some parental support, kids should take advantage of this apparatus to help build grip and upper-body strength. Start small with a few bars, holding your child up so they can properly grip. When they are comfortable doing that, let them hang alone on one of the bars so they can feel their full weight. Progress from these two stages until they can swing them selves to a few of the bars. When they have mastered 4-5 bars, go back to holding them and help them advance further down the row. If you help them to conquer small sections of the bars at a time, they are more likely to succeed swinging the full length of the bars once they have built up the strength and confidence to do so. It always helps if mom or dad gives it a shot as well. For the balance aspect, find a rock, pole, small elevated area and have your child practice his or her balance. This can also be done on flat ground for younger children. Start by asking them to raise one foot off the ground and hold it for a few seconds. Build up over time to 10, 15, 30 seconds or more. Make sure they are switching legs! Advanced level would be to balance on one foot with eyes closed – try this yourself at home, it’s not as easy as it sounds!
Ramp it up a notch: The great thing about outdoor activities for kids is that everything can be related to a fitness skill or exercise; but they have no idea! To kids, it’s just play. Which is awesome. On a playground, why not challenge each other to make it from one end to the other without touching the ground, or while only touching a certain colour of equipment, or by only using parts of the playground that don’t have any other children on them etc. Be as creative as you like, but challenge your kids to assess the situation and find a solution on their own. Whatever path they choose, follow them. You might be surprised that it is more difficult for you to follow the moves of your child.
So after all that, remember:
1- Get outside. It’s better out there.
2- Be Creative. Almost anything can be made it to an activity.
3- Make it a game. Games and subtle competitions or challenges work wonders for participation and enthusiasm.
4- Get involved. The more you participate and show interest, the more your child will.
*Please remember to always appropriately supervise your children when they are engaged in physical activity.