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Along with helping children learn how to read, how to talk and how to play well with others, parents are responsible for teaching their kids how to move.
The first step to walking is a parent holding a child’s arms up while they stumble along. That’s helping them learn how to move, as is supporting them on the monkey bars those first few times, showing them the difference between a run and a skip and moving that baseball bat so they’re holding on to the right end.
As children get older, we may think we’re done helping them learn how to move. They can walk, run and jump, after all, and we get busy. With packed solid days, sometimes (OK, most of the time) it’s impossible to even consider adding anything to the schedule.
But learning to stay fit and active is never over, and helping your kids learn to move doesn’t have to be a chore. You don’t have to schedule it. You don’t have to add anything to your family’s already hectic day.
At Active for Life, we’re busy parents just like you. We know how difficult it can be to find time, but we also know how beneficial it is to encourage working movement into everyday activities. So we asked each other to share some fun ways we practice fundamental movement skills with our kids at home, just by tweaking the things children do every day anyway.
There’s no need to announce that it’s time to work on skills. By making it fun for kids, they won’t even realize they are practicing movement skills. They’ll just enjoy the activities. The added bonus is you might end up getting some more help around the house!
- Hop to it: After breakfast, have children hop or skip to the bathroom to brush their teeth. If they are hopping on one foot, make sure they switch legs on the way back. This is great for leg strength, foot quickness and balance.
- Catch a snack: Instead of putting snacks directly into their backpacks, let your kids toss them instead! It will help develop hand-eye coordination and targeting skills. This works well with oranges, bananas, boxes of raisins and apples, too, if they are protected from bruising.
- Sock toss: While the kids put away their laundry, have them throw a rolled up sock into the air in front of them and catch it with their non-dominant hand. When this becomes easy, get them to do it while moving around. This also helps with targeting and fine motor coordination.
- Step on the crack: During the morning walk to school, have your kids develop balance skills by walking along cracks in the sidewalk as if they are on a tightrope.
- Be a stork: At the grocery store or anywhere else you’re waiting in line, balance on one foot. Don’t forget to change feet periodically. When this gets easy, increase the difficulty by having them raise their hands above their heads while balancing.
- Kick it: On the way home from school, kick a rock along the sidewalk. The purpose is not to kick the rock hard or far, but to keep the same rock in play. Make sure your kids have their heads up and are keeping the sidewalk safe for other pedestrians.
- Stair jump: If your kids are old enough to do this safely, have them try walking backwards down the stairs. Work on leg strength by having them jump up the stairs with both feet. As they get stronger they’ll be able to clear two stairs at a time.
- Do the can-can: While the kids are helping put away groceries, challenge them to balance cans on the palms of their hands.
- Backwards brush: Before bed, see if your kids can brush their teeth with their non-dominant hand. Make sure they re-brush with their dominant hand to avoid a disappointed dentist.
- Laundry shoot: Your kids can throw their dirty clothes into the laundry basket by shooting them in from a couple of feet away. As their accuracy improves, increase the distance.
Even choosing just one of these a day will help your kids develop skills like balance, throwing, catching, jumping and kicking.
Want more ideas like these? Join the conversation at the Active for Life Facebook page and tell us what is—and isn’t—working for you.
Sara Smeaton loves to be active and healthy but is known to her colleagues as the ‘lowest common denominator’ when it comes to sports knowledge. She doesn’t let her lack of sports skills and experience stand in the way of raising two active children with her also-non-sporty husband. Sara is a senior writer, editor, and social media team captain for Active for Life, a nonprofit organization committed to helping parents raise happy, healthy, physically literate kids. Follow Sara on Twitter: @SaraSmeaton.