A large part of helping your child stay healthy is regular activity and exercise. A common form of exercise for children is sports. Whether it’s outdoor or indoor soccer, basketball, gymnastics or dance, there is a wide range of activities that can help get your child moving and keep them healthy.
But what if your child isn’t interested in sports? There are some kids who choose not to participate in group sports activities. And that’s okay! Your child can still lead an active, healthy lifestyle. Here are some awesome alternative activities for the child who might be reluctant about sports and other physical activities.
One of my favorite things to do with my son in the spring, summer and fall is to take after-dinner walks. We live in New Jersey where the late afternoons are mild. After dinner just when the sun is beginning to set, my son and I put on our sneakers and walk a few laps around the block.
Not only is walking a great form of exercise, but it’s also a special time for us to chat. We talk about his day at school and he always asks about mine. My son is fascinated by cars and is constantly pointing out his favorites along our journey. Sometimes we walk two laps, sometimes three. Other days, when he’s feeling energetic, we take the “long” way around the entire neighborhood.
My son is also very social and our walks are not only a physical activity but a social one as well. We often see our neighbor walking her Jack Russell, Buddy. My son stops to pet his head and put out his hand for a lick. Our neighbor is an older woman but my son is very patient and respectful. He answers her questions and lets her pinch his cheeks. His favorite part is giving Buddy a treat. She carries Betsy Farms snacks in her coat pocket. Before we part ways, my son asks Buddy to sit and laughs as he grabs the treat from his fingers, wagging his tail and hopping on his rear legs.
Bike riding is a total body workout, for both child and parent. Whether you’re riding on a flat surface or uphill, biking works the legs, back, stomach, and arm muscles. Load up your bikes and take your child to the park. Most parks have walking and bike paths that provide a nice, flat area for riding. You’ll also enjoy some sightseeing opportunities. Parks are also a great place to teach your child to ride their bike.
Choosing a bike that allows your child to stand with their feet flat on the ground is the best type for teaching kids how to ride a bike. It’s also suggested your child starts by gliding and balancing without using the pedals. Once they’ve mastered gliding while holding up their feet, they’re probably ready to start pedaling!
Play at the Park
While you’re at the park enjoying a bike ride, take a break and allow your child to play on some of the equipment. You’d be surprised to learn how much physical activity can be found on your basic jungle gym!
Climbing the stairs of the slide is a great way for your child to use their leg muscles. Monkey bars and other climbing apparatus provide coordination skills and help build upper body strength. Even the swings are a healthy alternative. It takes effort to pump your legs and gain momentum on the swings. The movement of your child’s body works their core muscles and arms. Most parks have fields and basketball courts as well. Bring a ball and shoot some hoops or challenge your child to a race in the field.
If you enjoy at-home workouts, invite your child to join you! Be sure to choose a workout that is appropriate for their age. Many online apps and websites offer workouts that you and your child can do together.
Go Noodle, which was originally designed for classrooms, is a great resource for interactive stretching, dancing, and other age-appropriate workouts for kids. Beach Body, one of the largest fitness organizations on the market, now offers family-friendly workouts as part of their online subscription. Check out Shaun T’s Kids Fit Club.
Trust me, just because these workouts are designed for kids doesn’t mean you won’t sweat and work your muscles too!
If your child is either too young or lacks the interest to join organized sports, don’t worry. Children have different interests and skill levels. There are countless ways for your child to get their daily dose of exercise and have fun doing it. Just as sports teams offer certain benefits like social interaction and camaraderie, these alternative activities offer their own benefits like independence and family bonding.
Now get out there and get active!