I compare my three year old son to a Labrador retriever frequently. Very frequently. Without a workout to release his energy, he bounces off the walls. As soon as he wakes up, which is no later than 7:00 A.M., he drags his blanket across the hall and into my room, he sweetly climbs into bed next to me, and informs me that the sun is awake, and that we need to go downstairs and get chocolate milk. This feels a little bit like a dog bringing you a Frisbee and instructing you to throw it. “Why are you not as pumped as I am to live this brand new day?” There is no bargaining or reasoning with him. The sun is awake, and so must also be.
Animal Workout For Kids
Begrudgingly, I pull myself out of bed and explain that we will be having regular milk instead of chocolate milk. We post up at the kitchen island while he drinks a full cup of milk. I let out the dog and pour some kibble in her bowl. My son immediately asks to play outside, or go to the zoo, or have ice cream, or go to the beach. For him, each day is overflowing with possibility. Nothing is off limits. I love this about him. But it also drives me pseudo-insane.
From the second he wakes up until he goes to bed at night, my son goes full-tilt, or what he calls “jet speed.” We don’t stop. We don’t take breaks unless someone has asked that we clean up our toys. He runs laps around the kitchen table and does flips over the couch. The sun is awake, and so must we also be.
Because of his love for life and boundless energy, I sometimes find myself frustrated with him. Why won’t he sit still? Why can’t he just watch some TV so that I can shower, or do laundry, or just sit down? He seems to be constantly getting into something that he shouldn’t. I will inevitably find myself raising my voice and getting impatient with my kid, for being a kid, and this is not fair.
What’s Good for Mom is Good for Baby
I don’t know why this took me so long to figure out. It’s silly really. I was never an athlete at any capacity, and never very fit, until after having my son and needing to lose the baby weight. I have since adopted a lifestyle of (mostly) clean and healthy eating and exercising regularly. It started out with me just trying to drop some pounds, but I found that I had more energy and felt better than I did even when I was younger.
When I was pregnant my daughter two years later, I stayed moderately active throughout the whole nine months, and consumed much less fried chicken the first time around. I felt so much better – the pregnancy was easier and the recovery was easier too. At this point, it just seems silly to not be exercising and eating well. It’s what’s best for your body! So why the heck wouldn’t it be good for your kids too?
How to Get Your Kids to Workout Too
My own personal routine consists of 5 days strength training, and two 30 minute runs per week. If I am feeling ambitious, I add some HIIT training in here and there. It was while doing the HIIT training that I discovered I could tailor some workouts to my kid. He saw me doing jumping jacks and told me that I was star fish! He thought it was so cool! His reaction inspired me to create a “workout” for him and the kids that I babysit.
Exercise benefits everyone, even toddlers. Yes, it helps to get out some extra energy (thank God!). But it also helps lower their risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes later in life. It helps to regulate blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and helps strengthen their little bones. And it makes for happier kids.
Now, I am not making my son run laps, or lift weights. (Actually, it is recommended kids don’t start strength training of any kid until around age 8! But after that, there are tons of benefits.) And he would not do that anyway. Our workout is fun and imaginative. We make loud animal noises, and sometimes race across the living floor.
We live in Ohio. The winters are frigid and the summers are blistering. While my son never feels the temperature is too extreme, I don’t like to have him outside for too long, and so he gets restless. When the weather is great and we can spend most of the day outside, I feel no need for supplemental activity. But when its too hot, or too cold, or too rainy, or windy, we have family workout time to avoid boredom and make sure the kids get a healthy dose of physical activity.
I usually gather the kids, mine and the ones I babysit, around 10:00 A.M.. This is during their free play time, long enough after breakfast and before snack time. They all form a line along one wall of my living room and we do some big stretches and deep breathing, kind of like mini sun salutations, to calm and focus everyone and loosen up their little muscles.
Then we get to it! Sometimes we will play some cool dance music. (My son happens to be on a Credence Clearwater Revival Kick.) Sometimes we just use our voices to thoroughly act out each move.
The layman’s term for these is “jumping jacks,” but the kids find it a lot more fun to pretend to be a starfish. I find it extremely amusing to hear the answer to the question, “What do you think a starfish says?” 10 Reps of these.
Hands and feet on the ground and in a slightly widened stance, knees up. For this exercise, each kid starts with their feet touching the far wall, and we race across the room, using our best bear “Rawr!” This is one of their favorites, so we usually end up doing more than one race.
Starting position is a low squat with hands on the floor in front of the legs. Then, with a very determined, “Ribbit!”, jump up into the air return back to your squat. 10 reps of these too. This exercise is hard. Sometimes the kids are super excited to be frogs, and other times we don’t complete all 10 reps.
Another oldie but goodie from elementary school gym class. Start out on all fours, but with your belly facing the ceiling. Walk sideways. More races across the living room. The little kids sometimes have a hard time executing this one and end up just crawling instead.
Elephant Trunk Bend
This exercise is another good one for the animal sounds! Stand tall with your feet together and hands high in the air, touching. Bend over, creating an arch with your back. Touch the ground if you can. Then lift your hands back up into the air, mimicking the way an elephant lifts and lowers its trunk. (Sidenote: I don’t know that elephants actually do this. But the elephants in The Jungle Book did it.)
I gauge how much energy the munchkins need to shake out, and decide if we need to repeat the exercises. Sometimes we repeat them one, or even two times. To wrap up the workout, we do some more stretching and work on slowing our breathing. We do a few more mini sun salutations and give each other high fives for a job well done.
My child is a Labrador retriever. If not exercised regularly, he destroys the house and drives me crazy. Since we started doing our workout regularly, my son is calmer during the day, because he knows he will get the opportunity to go crazy and run around like a wild animal. Bed time happens with fewer arguments. He has an increased appetite and fights me less to eat his healthy foods. WE ARE FANS and will definitely be making this a part our routine for the long haul.
- What activities does your child love to do?
- Do they participate in your fitness routine with you?
- What tricks do you have to encourage healthy habits in your kids?