Three months into the first lockdown in 2020 and the most common worry amongst parents, besides everything else, was how to keep children physically active.
If you look at the scenario, truly the past 18 months of pandemic and the life our children have been leading, is quite unreal. It simply goes against the very nature of kids to be living a life indoors.
And even now, as the coronavirus crisis continues, parents everywhere are struggling to keep children active, healthy and occupied.
Well, it’s a legitimate concern.
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Excessive sitting is often linked with various health risks, low self-esteem and decreased academic achievement in school-aged children and youth.
The benefits from an active lifestyle include:
- Improved concentration and learning
- Strong bones and muscles
- Improved health and fitness
- Better sleep
- Well developed coordination
- Higher confidence and socio-emotional skills
While in adults being active is often linked with exercising, for kids being active is literally every activity they do in the day- from playing to running to even climbing the stairs.
On average, toddlers and young children should spend at least 180 active minutes in a day. This need is all the more important, especially whilst we are in lockdown due to Covid-19. Even though there are restrictions in place for being able to go out from home, there are loads of different ways we are able to keep children active during the lockdown.
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So if “how do I get my kids to move more and stop sitting all day in front of laptops, phones and televisions?” is a big question in your mind, here are a few fun ways to keep kids active during the lockdown-
1. Back to basics- Let. Them. Play!
Yes, you got it right. Everyone, especially children love to play, and it’s a great way to get everyone up and about. Be it hopscotch or pretend play or even hide & seek- every kind of play keeps the child active. Have you noticed those jumps on the sofas? Or those movements while the little one tries to hide under the table? Each of these play ways help the children stay up & running and ditch the screen time. So when play is on, please do not fret!
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2. Nurture the little Yogi
Yoga is the most fuss-free physical activity that you can imbibe in kids- no props, no equipment, no specific venue or location- children can indulge in kid-friendly yoga poses anywhere, anytime! Yoga promotes flexibility, self-awareness, agility and concentration amongst children. Simple yoga poses can be easily adopted as part of the child’s routine. It goes without saying that as adults we need to model all these aspects for children to embrace the same.
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3. Involve them in household chores
We talk so much about imbibing life skills in children but often miss out on practically involving them in the most basic aspect of these skills, that is, involving them in day to day activities. If your kids don’t want to run, bike or walk but would lift a bucket of water or a sack of flour, then be it. At the end of the day, the idea is to have them physically active.
Vacuuming, gardening, laundry- these are some routine chores that have helped me not only get support from my children but also kept them active throughout. Putting clothes for drying, watering the plants, folding clothes, laying or clearing the table – all such simple activities keep the child active and work on several skill sets of children.
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4. Treasure hunts
Treasure hunts are great fun, easy to organise and children can do them in lots of different places. I think this has been our most favourite discovery of the lockdown period. The best part being, the treasure hunt can be played anywhere and you do not need anything except a list of things (treasure) to find and a curious kid!
You can plan a treasure hunt indoors (like hunting shapes, textures, colours) or in the park (finding a leaf, feather, twig, pebbles etc) or even when you are out for a family car ride (spotting a unique shaped cloud, road signs, specific coloured car etc). It’s not only exciting but also one simple way to keep the child active.
5. Indoor games
Encouraging children to be more active, without making activity one more draining chore is sometimes tricky. Children tend to refrain from anything that comes on to them as a “task” or “activity”. When I realised this, the mommy-mind in me came up with some interesting indoor games that are not only engaging but also involve a lot of movement. A few such games are –
- Chase bubbles and dance
- Balloon play
- Paper cup ping pong
- Dance & freeze
- Balancing beam
- bear crawls and crab walks
The primary goal of parents should be to find a way – any way – to encourage children to get up and move, at least a little. Getting some kind of physical activity every day greatly improves their mood, sleep and, of course, their health. Playing active games can also help children and young people to: develop their imagination, improve their self-confidence, learn about risk and concentrate.
One of the best investments that we did during the lockdown was buying cycles for all of us. Plus it’s one outdoor activity that is safest to indulge in during pandemic times. Every individual is on their own- safe and active! We as a family have allocated 15 minutes of cycling time every day. It’s a wonderful exercise for us all and also a great way of adding some adventure to our family time.
Dancing together is fun and lifts pulses and spirits. A simple dance-off is a great active play idea. Or “set up a disco” in the living room stringing holiday lights and creating a cross-generation family playlist. You can plug in aerobics too and go one-two cha cha cha…!!!
8. Outdoor sports/ games
Whenever possible get outside too, wearing masks and gloves as required. Use chalk to create a hopscotch course on a sidewalk. Blow bubbles and have your kids catch them. Play tag or Frisby.
Keeping required protocols in place, you can go to open green spaces like parks and involve children in simple sports like football, cricket, badminton etc. All these games can be played with just 2 players and you can easily maintain social distancing in these scenarios.
Playtime for all
The underlying message to all the parents would be that please do not try to be a PE teacher. It’s important to encourage your child and find activities they (as well as you) enjoy. This way your child will not find the exercise a chore and they are more likely to stick at it. If we make exercise too prescriptive, it will be yet another thing to make many parents feel they are failing, and children resentful. So go ahead and have fun!