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COVID-19 is keeping us at home, but kids still need to get moving every day. In fact, the added stress of living through the pandemic makes it more important to include physical activity in each day.
Here are some practical ways to get some exercise during the stay at home time.
Many kids today don’t know the simple active games parents and grandparents played as children. Here are a few, favoring the ones that can be played with a small number of players:
- Follow the leader: one player is the leader, and walks (or runs or moves in other ways) through the house or yard. The other players follow closely, copying all the leaders’ moves. To make this competitive, anyone who makes a mistake in following is out, and the last successful follower becomes the new leader. Many of us grew up singing the song from Disney’s “Peter Pan” while playing this game, and your kids might enjoy that, too.
- Kick the can: an empty can is placed in the middle of the play area, and a space is designated as a holding pen for “prisoners.” One player (“It”) covers his or her eyes and the others hide. After counting to 100, It tries to find all the players. Any player touched by It must go to the pen. Any player who kicks the can without being touched by It frees the prisoners in the pen. It wins by getting all the prisoners into the pen. If the names for the positions in this game are uncomfortable, let It be the shepherd gathering sheep instead of prisoners.
- Obstacle course: use household objects to create an obstacle course around the back yard or through the house. All players must crawl through, jump over, or use other agreed-upon moves to get through the obstacle course.
- Mother May I: one player is the mother. He or she stands at one end of a hallway or one side of the back yard. The other players take a position at the other end of the hall or the other side of the yard. Each player asks, “Mother may I–” and then describes a motion, such as, “Mother, may I take three crab walks?” If the Mother says yes, the player takes those three crab walks, going as far as possible toward the Mother. The Mother is allowed to say no. Once a player reaches the Mother, he or she wins and becomes the next Mother. This game rewards creativity, since a player can make up movements and the Mother must try to guess what they will be and how far they will go.
- Older kids can learn to play more sporty outdoor games, known as lawn games, like badminton, horseshoes, or pétanque. The outdoor sports many kids know, such as soccer or softball, require large teams. Lawn games like croquet are less commonly played, but can be played with smaller numbers — often as few as two. Just Google the rules and you will find instructions and video lessons.
There are plenty of chores to do when the whole family is staying at home! Choose an hour of the day to spend as a family doing chores that require some physical effort. Here are some chores that involve plenty of movement:
- Tidy up, taking all items that are out of place back to their places.
- Weed the garden.
- Scrub all the surfaces in the bathroom with a non-toxic cleaner.
- Do the laundry, from gathering laundry throughout the house to folding dry laundry and putting it away.
- Mix and knead bread. Let adults put it into and take it out of the oven. Rolling and cutting out cookie dough can also involve muscles.
- Sweep and mop the floor.
- Wash the car.
- Traditional calisthenics: schools used to include calisthenics in their schedules, but many no longer do. Some Northwest Arkansas students have P.E. assignments like “Walk in a circle” or “Do 20 toe touches.” These fun activities may not last more than a minute or two, and won’t challenge students or burn energy in an engaging way. In fact, only 16% of teachers in an Education Week survey said that P.E. is easy to teach at a distance. Consider following a calisthenics class on YouTube. There are many options, and it could be fun to try out different classes. Look for classes lasting about 30 minutes, including children among the participants, with comfortable clothing. Here’s a family-friendly one to start with:
- Dance: dance can be about artistic expression, but it’s always a fun way to get heart rates up. You can just put on your favorite music and dance around in a family dance party, but something a little more structured can mix it up and add some learning. The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has a series of 5 minute dance lessons from around the world, including traditional African and Latin styles, as well as the Charleston. The Clock Dance shown below is good for the whole family, even the youngest.
- Timer exercise: start the day by setting timers throughout the day with Siri, Alexa, or timers on your computer. Make a list of physical activities, too, such as running up and down the stairs, doing 100 jumping jacks, or running to a tree and back. Then, when the timers go off, everyone must get moving.