As weather gets warmer and the school year ends, many families are thinking about scheduling summer activities. For kids of all ages, this might include summer camps, family travel, learning a new hobby or playing a sport. While summer activities can be a great way for children to stay physically active, summer fitness doesn’t have to be scheduled.
“One of the roadblocks for families is always this idea that fitness has to come from a class or a sport or something that is structured and scheduled,” says Jennifer Brocker, DC, DICCP, president of the ACA Council on Chiropractic Pediatrics. “That’s not true. Sports and activities are great if your kids are super engaged in that stuff, but that’s not available to everybody. It’s really about helping them build good habits of going outside and creative play.”
There are plenty of activities that families and children of all ages can do around the house or the neighborhood to stay physically active during the summer. “Simple things like just going to the park together are a great way to keep kids active, especially if you can walk or ride a bike to the park,” Dr. Brocker says. Here are a few of her favorite summer fitness ideas for families:
Go for a Walk — And Make It Fun!
Walking around the neighborhood is a great way to exercise as a family, and making the walk engaging can be fun for everyone. Turn your neighborhood stroll into an adventure walk by adding a scavenger hunt component. Have kids look for a certain number or type of objects or point out things in the neighborhood that start with each letter of the alphabet. You can also work together as a family to learn more about the world around you by identifying plants and animals. “Any time that you can make just taking a walk really creative, it’s great fitness: the whole family’s out walking together, and most of the time the kids won’t notice how far they’ve walked because they’re paying attention to something else, so it’s a nice way to get them to walk farther, also,” Dr. Brocker says.
Build a Home Obstacle Course
Home obstacles courses, like adventure walks, are a mix of fitness and family fun. Using objects from around the house, work together to design an obstacle course in the yard, and then take turns attempting to complete the course. Try out different combinations, difficulty levels, or instructions. “It’s super fun to see how creative kids can be in designing obstacles, it gets everybody working together, and then you have this way to spend time together and do something creative that’s also fitness-based,” Dr. Brocker explains. “It keeps kids super engaged, and a lot of times they can build hard courses that are a challenge for parents to get through. It’s a way to be creative and fun with no rules.”
Rainy Day Fitness
For those days when the summer sun isn’t shining, there are plenty of things children and families can do to stay active indoors. A home obstacle course is still possible with some adaptations. “One of my favorite indoor obstacle courses for my kids was to take yarn and spread it between different points in a hallway,” Dr. Brocker says. “It’s like a laser field that they have to climb through like spies.”
Yoga is also an option for indoor exercise. YouTube channels like Cosmic Yoga offer story-based yoga practices designed for kids. “It’s one of my favorite things to recommend for kids who are anywhere from kindergarten to about 10, 11 years old,” Dr. Brocker says. “Yoga is such a great activity for kids. It promotes a lot of connection to your body, it provides a lot of calm, a lot of stretching and strengthening, so it’s a great all-around activity. And parents can absolutely do it, too.”
Family Fitness: Benefits and Safety Tips
In addition to physical health benefits for everyone involved, exercise can have mental health benefits for children and adults. Getting kids up and active, especially outside, gives them a break from screens, which can be good for them both physically and mentally. Staying active has been shown to benefit mental health, and family fitness can strengthen bonds between family members of all ages.
“Any time that you’re doing things as a family, it helps that attachment and bonding, even when your kids are older,” Dr. Brocker says. “It’s a way to stay connected where you can continue to build the attachment and bond that you have as a family. When you’re doing physical things together, it boosts everybody’s mental health at the same time, everybody feels connected, and that really helps support development for kids.”
Safety is always an important consideration when doing physical activity, and there are certain things to keep in mind when exercising with children.
- Choose age-appropriate activities and items. A home obstacle course for a two-year-old is going to look different from a home obstacle course for a 10-year-old. Don’t put kids in a position to do things outside of their physical skill levels.
- Pay attention to children’s limits. Kids are attuned to their bodies’ limits. Take breaks from strenuous activities like swimming or jumping on a trampoline, and listen if your child says they’re ready to stop exercising.
- Stay alert. If you’re walking in the neighborhood, have smaller children hold your hand so they can’t wander into the street. During any sort of water activity, don’t ever put children into a situation where they could be over their heads. “If they can’t touch the bottom, they need to be with you, even if they have a flotation device on or with them,” Dr. Brocker says.
Additional water safety tips include walking instead of running on pool decks and ensuring that backyard pools have fences or other safety guards around them. Dr. Brocker recommends survival swim lessons, which are available in some places for children as young as six months old.
For more health and wellness information, or to find a chiropractor near you, visit ACA online at www.HandsDownBetter.org.
Reviewed by the ACA Editorial Advisory Board. The information in this post is for educational purposes. It is not a replacement for treatment or consultation with a healthcare professional. If you have specific questions, contact your doctor of chiropractic. To find an ACA chiropractor near you, click here.