Now we are in lockdown it's vital that we help our children to continue to flourish. As well as trying to home school our kids it's important that we keep them active. This is so essential for both their physical and mental health.
As parents our prime concern at this difficult time is to keep our children safe, but of course we also all have worries about their happiness as we go through the weeks of lockdown. Exercise provides a real boost to how children are feeling as well as keeping up their fitness levels.
Physical activity is also an integral part of a balanced education. As well as promoting health, exercise is shown to improve concentration, memory and motivation so it can also enhance children's readiness for learning. This might be particularly helpful as we try to teach our kids at home!
To encourage your kids to be active the main aim should be to make it fun! So it's good to think about your approach and how you communicate with them.
Keep the fun element in mind at all times as it's important that kids are enjoying themselves whilst they are exercising. Try to come up with a variety of different activities to keep it interesting and motivating. Make sure you are always patient and encouraging otherwise exercise could become a negative rather than a positive experience, this would make it harder to engage with your kids during future activities.
At this time, more than ever we've all got the opportunity to be great role models for our kids by joining in with them and by showing them that we enjoy keeping fit ourselves.
Here are some tips that I hope will help you to keep your kids active:
It doesn't have to be formal exercise. Remember a short while ago your children enjoyed the freedom of the school playground, so try to recreate some of their favourite games. A simple game of tag or hide and seek can be carried out even in a relatively small space.
Try setting up a small but safe obstacle course, be inventive, for example using small objects to step over, or to weave around or perhaps include a play tunnel or cushions to jump over. The course can be set up in a circle in the space that you have and perhaps challenge your children by seeing if they can beat their best time if they enjoy that sort of challenge. In my experience of coaching kids some thrive on the fun of trying to beat times but others find it a bit stressful and it could reduce their enjoyment. Therefore, see what works for your kids.
Shuttle running can be a bit of fun. Running back and forth in a small space is fine and can also be done as a relay with your child. Make it more fun by changing the way you move, for example high knees, hopping or jumps. You could make it more comical by coming up with funny actions and ask your child to suggest ideas as well. Joining in with your kids will be motivating especially if it makes them laugh too!
Other games you can play in a small space with little children are things like putting small objects at one end of a room or garden and ask them to run and get each one when you call them out. Really little ones love pretending and role playing, so perhaps ask them to move like an animal such as a frog or kangaroo.
Other physical challenges include jumping to see how high you can touch on a wall or a standing long jump.
There are obviously many ball games that can be played if you're lucky enough to have a garden. Otherwise it may be possible to play some of them indoors, such as catch which is great for improving hand eye coordination.
It's great if you're able to head out for a while with your kids. Fresh air and outdoor activity is especially important for mental well being. The vitamin D you'll get from sunlight is important too if you're forced to spend more time indoors during the lockdown. Of course you'll need to adhere to the government social distancing guidelines and keep the activity local to avoid unnecessary travel and only go out once a day.
As long as you're in a safe area, its lovely to go for a walk, cycle or run. You could challenge your kids to run with you to a marker such as the next lamp post or tree. Getting out as a family is a lovely way of spending quality time together. If you find yourself in a position of being unable to carry out your job, having more family time is a positive in these otherwise worrying times.
If your children don't feel like your planned exercise or they want to do something else that's less active then don't be too pushy or harsh. Cut them some slack! Exercise should be fun and something they look forward to. It should never be a chore or used as a punishment. If you find they aren't interested in a certain activity then back off, give them another chance but if they still don't like it find something else. It's a case of trial and error. Remember play is being active, so you could just resort to messing about and chasing after them in a fun way.
Try to mix things up so they don't get bored. Maybe have a different activity for each day. If they have a favourite perhaps focus on that if its keeping them active and happy as well as trying to encourage mixing in some other activities.
Give your children an opportunity to suggest what activity you do as a family so that they are having a chance to make choices. It will boost their self esteem if they feel like they are taking some responsibility and making decisions regarding the whole family's well being.
Avoid making exercise too regimented. It doesn't matter if you don't complete everything you hoped to do. The main aim is to keep active regularly in some way.
When your kids are doing well at an activity of course give them praise but it's important to recognise their level of effort too. When they are trying their best and being enthusiastic give them just as much praise! It's all about enjoyment and you're not there to judge or assess them. Even if they aren't keen to take part, avoid negative comments. Instead try to use positive words of encouragement. Your aim is to help them appreciate and enjoy the benefits of being active and this is more important than their level of ability. Don't let any of your own frustrations spill over into the way you communicate with them. Be upbeat, fun and supportive.
Have a disco! Dancing is a great way to keep fit. It can be great fun to do this as a family and you can make the kids laugh with some funny dancing too!
If you yourself are feeling stressed then perhaps having some fun time being active with your kids is a fantastic way of boosting your own mental health. It will hopefully make you feel more ready to face the challenges of the day.
Think about the clubs they used to attend before the lock down. Do your best to try and replicate and continue some of these activities to maintain their interest and keep some of their skills fresh. So get the footy ball, rugby ball, or whatever it is they did before the lockdown and have some fun. You might not enjoy some of these activities yourself but put that to one side, embrace it and let them see you having fun too!
As well as fitness videos there are also lots of resources online where you can find information about various sports. You'll even find instructional coaching videos on various skills. Have a look and give it your best shot at being their new coach! It can be fun to teach a new skill and you'll learn something too!
Exercise can also be a time when they can have a go at teaching you. Kids love this. If your kids went to a club like Karate then get them to show you how to do it. Reverse your roles and let them be the coach. For instance, with karate they could teach you a kata.
Set challenges that are motivating but also realistic for your kids, like running a 5K or even one mile or completing a circuit challenge. It needs to be one that they feel they want to achieve and is obviously not one set by a pushy parent!
If you have two or more kids try to make sure each one gets a chance to do the activities they enjoy. If you can, set aside a bit of time to focus on each child's individual needs and preferences.
There is some fantastic online content being pumped out daily. Joe Wicks's workouts on YouTube are brilliant and have been a massive hit with families. There are lots of others too, so maybe let your children be involved in choosing one that they like.
Perhaps have a go at some fun games where you combine learning with activity. This can be good fun and encourage a bit of extra learning. You could try some active spelling! You don't have to use my example, you can just choose your own exercises if you like.
Now and then it's fine to have a lazy day. You might be really busy working from home so don't feel guilty if you didn't have enough time. Sitting them in front of the odd film is fine. These are unusual times and we all need to be flexible.
Finally, my thoughts are with everyone at this difficult time. A huge thank you to all those working so hard in the NHS and all the key workers. My thoughts are also with all those directly affected by the coronavirus.
Stay safe x