With the current situation regarding COVID-19, schools are closed and extracurricular activities are cancelled, but this doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to encourage our children and teens to soak up the sun and stay physically active!
Keep yourself and your family moving
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), children ages 5-17 should be physically active for at least 60 minutes each day at a moderate to vigorous intensity level. Most of the 60 minutes should come in the form of aerobic activity (anything that gets a child’s heart rate up!) and activities aimed at strengthening muscles and bones—like running, jumping and turning—should be included at least three times per week.
Bonus! As you may have guessed, accumulating more than 60 minutes provides an even greater health benefit…and each bout of exercise counts, as long as the total adds up to 60 minutes!
Outdoor activities for young children
Here are some fun outdoor activities for elementary age children to try:
- Create a driveway/sidewalk obstacle course with chalk. Draw out a path to run or bike along. To make things even more fun, add in activities along the way like, “jump to the next line” or “hop on one foot along the circles.” Use miscellaneous items from the garage like jump ropes or cones to add to the fun!
- Design a new game! Help your child brainstorm their favorite games and combine them to create a new game that is completely their own.
- Have a friendly competition with your child or have them see how much they can improve in something like running to the mailbox and back, standing jump distance, or how far they can throw a ball. Measure their progress each day and get them excited about their improvement!
- Capture the flag; this fun game can still be played without teams! Take turns hiding a bandana or even an old sock in the yard and see how long it takes the other person to find it.
- If you’re looking to go a little further than the driveway, print out or make a neighborhood scavenger hunt sheet and take your child on a walk. Have them bring a pencil to cross things off when they see them; see if they can find everything before the walk is over!
Indoor activities for young children
As we’ve experienced already this spring, the weather isn’t always reliable, so here are some ideas keep them physically active indoors as well:
- Dance! Either have your child make up their own or use child friendly free YouTube videos to follow along with. Then they can teach their new skills to others in the household!
- Play balloon volleyball; blow up a few balloons and try to keep them from touching the ground.
- Make your own game of charades by writing activities like “jumping jack” or “riding a bike” on paper then take turns acting them out!
- Play yoga Jenga! With each piece pulled out, learn a different yoga pose to practice! If you don’t have Jenga you can write yoga poses on popsicle sticks, place them in a container, and take turns pulling a stick.
- Start a game of freeze tag; this could be a fun activity for a basement or other open space!
Indoor activity ideas for teens
For older children and teens, especially those involved in sports or other organized activities, they may be missing social interaction with their teammates and friends as well as physical activity. Here are some ideas for them to stay connected and active:
- Set up a hangout with friends or teammates via an online platform
- Many sports teams and coaches are offering online training sessions or drill practice; have your teen inquire about these opportunities with their own team
- Set up a training or physical activity schedule with a friend or group of friends to keep them active; the shared schedule can help them stay motivated!
- Ask your teen about their specific health goals and create a plan with them including steps they can take to maintain a healthy lifestyle
Incorporating movement into your home routine
Taking breaks throughout the school day at home can have a beneficial effect on children’s and teens’ academic performance as well. A study following teens into high school has shown that increased physical activity is associated with a higher GPA! Scheduling physical activity into their new routine may also give them something to look forward to, especially if they choose their activity.
Physical activity is a great mood booster as well, another reason to encourage your child or teen to get up and be active throughout the day. A study involving school children has shown that even 15-minute breaks in the school day for physical activity can improve alertness and overall wellbeing. Taking a break to do physical activity can help reduce fatigue and improve attention and performance when it’s time to get back to schoolwork.
In addition to staying active, there are other ways to support your child’s wellbeing during this time, including:
- Create a daily routine
- Find ways to involve the entire household
- Keep a positive attitude
- Embrace creativity!
Teens may have slightly different needs than elementary age children when it comes to support during this time; it is important to ensure they are:
- Staying connected to peers in a positive way
- Their questions regarding the pandemic and its consequences are answered
- Their health needs are being met and they are being mentally nurtured as well as physically.
Need help structuring an activity routine for you or your family? Our exceptional physical therapists at the Des Moines University Clinic can help. We are currently offering virtual appointments for patients, and are sharing our special classes and programs on our Facebook page. Visit the DMU Clinic website or call 515-271-1717 to learn more.