The importance of exercise for children cannot be overemphasized. Some sort of exercise or physical activity is essential for healthy development in children, and parents and caregivers should encourage physical activity in children as much as possible. This is a particularly pressing problem in the U.S. and Western Europe, where obesity among children has increased dramatically over the last 30 years.
The good news is that there are many entertaining games and physical activities that parents and caregivers can teach kids, and the best news is after children are used to physical activity as part of their daily schedule they enthusiastically participate in these fun physical activities.
Outdoor Games and Physical Activities for Kids
Tag games have long been a popular playground activity. There are many different kinds of tag games, but all involve running or chasing and are excellent physical exercise. One popular version is freeze tag, where you are “frozen” if you are touched by “it” but can be “unfrozen” by being touched by another player. There are also team versions of freeze tag.
Other outdoor activities for children include running games, racing games and relays, which are especially good with larger groups of kids, and not only are good exercise but offer good opportunities to practice cooperation and promote pro-social behaviors.
Another great exercise-oriented outdoor activity is a tug of war or even a multi-way tug of war. And tug of wars are more than another fun activity for kids or adults of all ages, they also help develop communication and cooperation skills as well as strategic thinking.
Indoor Activities for Children
Having fun playing with balloons is an excellent relatively low-energy, but highly entertaining activity that is suitable for both toddlers and young children. There are many fun balloon-related activities, ranging from balloon juggling and chasing to balloon stuffing or even balloon volleyball. Children under the age of four should be carefully watched, however, as small balloons or popped balloons can present a choking hazard.
Stretching exercises are another great indoor activity. Fun and easy stretching exercises such as the “chicken stretch” or the “snake” are excellent indoor exercise activities, and are good both for warming up and cooling down before and after physical activity.
Music and dancing is another method way to get kids involved in physical activity. Children are naturally musical. Even toddlers who can barely walk often sway and dance when they hear music. And music is also good therapy for kids who are upset or even just feeling a bit out of sorts on a particular day.
You can also organize fun pantomime and role-playing games like mirror image (where two children imitate each other) or Giants, Wizards, and Elves (a role-playing game where Wizards beat Giants, Elves beat Wizards, and Giants beat Elves). These kinds of activities provide both exercise and give kids a chance to stretch their imaginations.
Yoga for Kids
Over the last couple of decades yoga for kids has become almost as popular as yoga for adults. There are scores of books and videos on the subject and many yoga studios now offer yoga for kids classes. Most of these classes focus on entertaining animal poses and movements, and are usually designed to be fun and easy. And most importantly kids will almost inevitably get a good workout in a half-hour yoga class.