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7 ways to get kids moving

How can you help your kids to move more?

The Sport England Active Lives survey for 2018/19 shows that only 47% of children get enough exercise. The COVID-19 lockdown hasn’t helped, as it has meant many children spending extra hours on screens. In a survey, 82% of parents said their children’s screen time had increased during lockdown, and 30% said they were having an extra four hours of screen time per day on top of online schoolwork.

How much exercise do children need?

Children need plenty of exercise to stay healthy, and the government recommends that kids get an average of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on at least five days of the week.

Moderate intensity exercise means raising their heart rate and getting them a bit out of breath, but not so they can’t talk; vigorous exercise involves activities that get them that bit more puffed out. The child doesn’t have to do all the exercise in one session – it’s fine to do shorter bursts throughout the day.

How can I encourage my kids to exercise more?

Here are some ideas to encourage children to be more active:

1. Give walks a purpose

Going for a walk can seem a bit boring to some children. But a scavenger hunt sounds a whole lot more exciting. Give your child a list of things they have to find on their walk and a bag to put the items in.

If you’re heading into the countryside or to the local park, you can give your hunt a nature theme. For example, you could ask your children to look for a white flower, a leaf of a particular shape, a pinecone, a feather and so on. You’ll probably need to tailor your list to the season. The Woodland Trust website has some great ideas for nature scavenger hunts for kids. You can really get your children running around if you challenge them to see how many items they can find within a time limit. Or, if they’re with friends or siblings, you could introduce an element of competition.

You can use a similar idea if you’re just going for a walk around the streets. Only this time the children could ‘hunt’ for things such as a red front door, a yellow car or a funny-shaped tree.

2. Borrow a dog

A dog provides a great incentive for kids to get outside. If your child loves animals but you can’t have your own dog, you can always get involved in walking someone else’s pet. The Borrow My Doggy website connects potential walkers with dog owners in their area who would appreciate some help with their pooch.

3. Try some indoor games

Being stuck indoors doesn’t have to stop children from getting some exercise. Clear a space and try these:

  • Balloon keepie uppie. See how long your child can keep the balloon in the air. You can make it more difficult by restricting how they can touch it, such as feet only, or with one hand behind their back, or keeping more than one balloon in the air.

  • Balloon volleyball. Tie string between furniture to make a ‘net’. A single child can even play on their own by running to the other side of the net while the balloon is in the air. How long can they keep it up for?

  • Bubble wrap bounce. Lay some sheets of bubble wrap on the floor and get kids to jump up and down on them until they’ve popped all the bubbles.

  • Advert challenge. If you’re watching TV together, every time the adverts come on have a competition to see who can do the most star jumps, sit ups or other exercises before the programme starts again.

4. Do the Daily Mile at Home

The Daily Mile is an initiative that encourages nursery and primary schools to take children outside in the fresh air for 15 minutes of running, jogging or walking every day. If your children aren’t at school, or if their school isn’t taking part in the initiative, they can still do the Daily Mile at Home. On the website, you’ll also find lots of fun family fun challenges you can do on your daily outing.

5. Learn some dance routines together

Kids who don’t like sport may be a lot more enthusiastic when it comes to dance. You can find lots of dance tutorials online that are suitable for children. In Oti’s Boogie Beebies, Strictly Come Dancing star Oti Mabuse demonstrates some simple and fun routines for young children. Don’t forget to join in as well.

6. Get a them kids’ fitness tracker

Most kids love gadgets and there are lots of trackers for children on the market, with a price range to suit all budgets. As well as keeping track of their steps, calories burnt and amount of time active, trackers can also monitor their sleep quality, and remind them to get up and move around if they’ve spent too long sitting in one spot.

7. Sample lots of different sports and activities

The key to a lifelong exercise habit is to find an activity that your child really loves. Not all kids enjoy the more obvious things like competitive team sports or swimming, so have a look around and see what else is on offer at your local leisure centre or other venues in the area, then take your youngster along for a taster. It might be martial arts, indoor climbing or skateboarding that gets them really hooked on exercise. 

Getting fit as an adult?

If you want to get fit as an adult, why not find your inner 'big kid' and have fun with the tips above? Alternatively, check out our guide to getting fit in 3 months, and 1.