If your children normally get their exercise through their participation with organised sport clubs, it can be challenging to find ways to keep up their fitness at home while the restrictions during COVID-19 are easing and sports clubs have not reopened yet.
Heading outside and giving your children room to burn off their extra energy is great when you’re free. However, if you’re trying to keep up full-time hours by still working from home or , you’ll need some indoor ideas too.
Luckily, we’re used to finding ways to entertain even the most active of children in all sorts of indoor spaces. Here are our top tips for keeping kids active.
How much physical activity do children need every day?
The government’s Department of Health recommends that all young people (5 - 17 years) get at least an hour’s worth of “moderate to vigorous physical activity per day involving mainly aerobic activities.” They do say an “accumulated” 60 minutes of exercise, so you don’t have to keep your children moving for a full hour. However, it’s a good time to start noticing how long your children spend doing highly aerobic activity throughout the day so you can adjust if necessary.
Children need at least an hour’s vigorous exercise each day.
In addition to the hour’s moderate to vigorous exercise, the Department of Health also suggests several hours of light physical activity. Again, this can be made up of various different activities throughout the day, and might come easily if your children are naturally active.
However, as well as incorporating physical exercise into your child’s day, you also need to think about how you can limit sedentary behaviour. The Department of Health says we should break up long periods of sitting and keep sedentary screen time to no more than 2 hours.
Of course, if you’ve been trying to manage learning from home as well as letting your children watch their favourite shows or catch up with friends on the iPad, you might find it hard to keep to 2 hours. However, this is a good guideline to start with, recognising that we’ve been working through highly unusual times recently.
8 exercises for kids during COVID-19 lockdown
Now you know how much your children need to exercise, here are our ideas for making easy.
1. Use online PE lessons
British fitness star Joe Wicks has become a global sensation during lockdown with his online P.E classes. While he releases P.E with Joe at 9 a.m U.K. time, you can always head over to his YouTube channel to grab the latest session at a more convenient time.
Another great option is connecting with your children’s usual clubs or activities. Lots of providers have found ways to move online during lockdown, so your children might still be able to practice with their usual gymnastics, martial arts or tennis coach. Not only has this kept them fit, but it has allowed them to connect with familiar faces and maintain their social routine. While restrictions are easing, most clubs are still waiting to hear from the government as to when they can reopen.
2. Build on their natural interests
Even if your children’s clubs aren’t online, you can still use their hobbies to encourage exercise at home. It’s also worth asking them about some of the things they do outside of the classroom at school, especially when it isn’t strictly P.E.
You might find they enjoy a visiting dance teacher and their recent lessons about the ocean, for example. Challenge them to come up with an under the sea dance that lasts three minutes, with costumes and music. Not only will this keep them entertained for quite a while, they’ll be moving the whole time too.
Of course, if they’re footy or cricket mad, then setting up a small space in your garden for practising their skills is a great option too!
3. Take scooters and bikes instead of walking
Not all children are fans of a long walk. Offer them a scooter or bike, though, and they’re often happy to be out for much longer. Even if you walk, they can still go ahead a little way and double back to you.
No matter which way you do it, remember to pick a route that your children can manage. Little legs can only go so far, and their current fitness and stamina comes into it too. It’s worth picking a route you can easily shorten or extend depending on how they’re doing. Start short so as not to put anyone (including yourself) off future adventures.
4. Leave sports equipment in view
Normally we’re fans of tidying up after every activity. But, you’ll want your children to take every opportunity to get some exercise.
Let them leave cricket bats, tennis rackets and footballs out so that the equipment catches their eye again and again. Make sure it’s easy for them to help themselves to their bike or scooter, if you’re happy for them to be outdoors without you. Show them how to access their favourite online class.
This encourages your children to choose their own physical activity, reducing the amount of effort you have to put into making sure everyone’s getting their exercise.
Encourage your children to choose their own physical activity.
5. Design a family Olympics
When you’re not busy, get involved in your children’s fitness activities. We love an at-home Olympics. Pick a country or town to represent, take responsibility for one activity each, and have everyone pick what their prize will be if they’re crowned as winner.
Maybe you’ll want someone else to take charge of dinner, while your children might want their bedtime pushed back for one night only.
Activities don’t have to be complicated. Our favourites include:
- Fastest in sack jumper (use old garden sacks or even dust sheets tied up).
- Best dancer (we like to pick a theme).
- Most jumping jacks in 60 seconds.
- Best basketball shooter.
6. Calm everyone with yoga for body and mind
Yoga is not only great for keeping us moving and building muscle, it’s also good at helping both children and adults relax through gentle movement and calming visualisations.
A great option for children who prefer their exercise to be part of their creative play, Cosmic Kids Yoga’s YouTube channel has sessions based around Frozen, Harry Potter and many more popular movies and characters. Cosmic Kids Yoga also does mindfulness sessions, has a playlist dedicated to calming your children and offers a yoga disco.
We also like The Karma Class, who are currently offering their ‘Karma Homes’ while we’re in lockdown. They offer meditation, mindful movement, breathing exercises and plenty more.
Yoga’s a great activity for you to do with your children, and it doesn’t have to take very long.
Everyone can use a little yoga.
7. Gamify physical activity
Gamification is about turning activities into challenges and offering a reward. Create a chart for all the activities your children enjoy doing and have them put a sticker up every time they do one of them.
You could have columns for all the activities and total how many they do each day or record how well they do them. For example, if your child loves soccer, log how many times they scored a goal. If they’re tennis fans, see how long they can keep up a rally. Even timing your children with a skipping rope can work and Joe Wicks’ P.E classes count too!
Choose what they get a reward for - perhaps for doing more than five activities, or for improving on something they did yesterday. Then decide what kind of reward you’re offering. Rewards we like to use at home include:
- An extra bedtime story.
- Choosing Friday night’s movie.
- Extra video calls with friends and family.
We usually avoid rewards related to food, especially sugary snacks.
8. Set a daily exercise time
Try scheduling a set time to work out together. This way, your kids get used to the new routine, and know that they have a certain amount of time to play before you come together.
Set an alarm a few minutes before and task your children with setting up, getting everyone’s water bottles ready. They can even make sure younger children are set up with toys before the rest of you begin. You can even create a playlist they can load up on the iPad, or let them play their favourite songs during ‘preparation time’ so the whole activity feels like a treat.
Staying active beyond COVID-19
Making sure children stay active beyond lockdown doesn’t have to be a challenge. The key is in thinking about what they enjoy and what they actively choose to do so you don’t have to force them into it. Lots of children naturally want to move about as they play, and with our tips you can guide their play to make sure they’re keeping active every day. We know that we’ll have lots of fun physical activities organised at OSHC for when everyone is returning into the classroom.