Adults call it working out. Kids call it playing.

I am unsure at what age exercising becomes a chore. However, for many of us that is exactly what it is – a task we regularly put off but know we should be doing for our own wellbeing. Children, on the other hand, view exercise in a vastly different way. This is because they do not do it to achieve an end goal. It is not for the objective of getting fit or for general health. For kids, keeping active is above all else fun. It is an enjoyable part of life and something children truly look forward to. If you watch a child as they jump on a trampoline, ride a bike or play chasing with their friends, you will notice the pure joy and exhilaration on their faces. The fun in being active is so clear and yet, as adults many of us seem to have lost that thrill.  The happy endorphins released during exercise keeps children coming back for more. I think we could all take a leaf out of their book and benefit from finding the fun in fitness again. 

Interacting with our children is especially important during these tough times. Kids are restricted in seeing their friends, family members, teachers and more. Their world has become drastically smaller and this can influence their mental health. It is understandably difficult for children to understand the reasons why everybody is having to stay at home. Fortunately, we live during a time when contacting loved ones and friends is easier than ever. Children can easily keep in contact with their friends and family members online. However, this can have its downsides too. Screen time needs to be monitored and limited in order to make sure kids are not spending too much time online. Encouraging children to keep active is so important as it is not only good for their physical health, but their mental wellbeing also. As mentioned already, kids love to play and be active – so why not join in? This will be great for parent and child alike, as well as stimulating a child’s need for social interaction. Keeping fit while keeping the kids happy – what more could you ask for?

Next time the youngsters want to head out and create a chalk hopscotch on the street, why not join in? Give them some ideas for additional exercises they could add such as jumping jack spot or skipping rope circle. Maybe they would like a twenty second run on the spot or a dance zone? Soon enough you will have a fun and creative circuit for the whole family to enjoy making their way around. Not only is this great for keeping yourself and the kids active – it also gets those creative juices flowing as they think about fun new exercises to add to their circuit. Why not turn it into an interactive street boardgame? A giant interactive Snakes and Ladders can be created out of just chalk and concrete and is another fun way of getting outside and keeping active! There are so many possibilities and now is a great time to encourage kids to be creative in every aspect. Lead by example – an enthusiastic approach to finding fun new ways of keeping fit will pass onto kids and is a great way to continue their healthy relationship with exercise.

As tempting as it is as an adult to get the daily exercise done and over with during a thirty-minute workout video, there are more enjoyable ways to incorporate exercise into our daily routine. Incorporating regular activity throughout the day can be much more affective for fitness, mental health and is ideal as a break from working at home. Having assigned exercise slots during the day for you and the kids is an excellent way to keep them busy and active, while doing the same for you! So why not try a 10 a.m. morning dance off to start off the day? What is stopping you from a 2 p.m. post lunch race around the block? How about an evening game of football out the back garden? Short, active breaks are so important for keeping fit, but also for making sure kids are engaging in daily social activities which is so important for reaching developmental milestones. It is vital to play with children and be active during this time as they are missing the social interactions of school and extracurricular activities.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought unprecedent and difficult times upon us all. While the thought of curling up on the sofa binging Netflix all day every day is appealing, the way we act around our children now will influence their outlook during the rest of this time. Including regular exercise and play time in your daily routine will we keep kids mentally and physically fit, while also encouraging a lasting healthy relationship with fitness. It is wonderful thing that children naturally love to be active and this passion should be maintained for as long as possible. While we should encourage this positive relationship with physical activity, we should also recognise the amount our kids can teach us. What a wonderful time to embrace the joys of childhood and learn the fun of keeping fit from our kids. Try not to look at exercise as a chore with any particular outcome or goal – just get a bit silly, get creative and have some good old fashion fun!

Author:  Ruth Walsh, After School Manager, Tyrrelstown

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