It’s no secret obesity is on the rise in the United States and that an overall sedentary lifestyle is almost the standard these days. Our children are growing up in an era far less focused on physical fitness than the one we did, and the majority of kid-based hobbies these days are ones that involve moving the thumbs rather than moving the body. It’s an epidemic we’ve battled in our own home and one that we feel strongly about fighting against. So how do we get our kids up and moving and falling in love with fitness? We lead by example, share tips along the way, and encourage, motivate, and inspire as much as possible.
Fitness really can be fun at any age, and it’s important for every level of development too! I’m breaking down how we introduce fitness into the lives of our toddlers to our teens and every stage along the way, as well as what areas we like to focus on for each age group.
Toddler Tips: Monkey See, Monkey Do!
If you’ve peeked at my social media through the past few years, you’ve surely noticed a “monkey see, monkey do” trend happening with Miss Ruby Lane. This girl, as with most kiddos this age, wants to be like her mama and imitates nearly everything I do. As heartwarming as it sounds, it also puts the parenthood pressure on to make sure I’m “on” at all times. Leading by example is the best way to teach at this age because they naturally have a tendency to want to do what you do.
Ruby loves popping in on mom’s and dad’s workouts, and while we don’t want to turn her away from joining us, we also want to make sure she’s safe. At this age, kids should NOT be using real weights even if they beg and plead and the weights are very light because this can cause a lot of damage later in life, and it’s just not safe. To eliminate this issue, we invested in a pair of foam weights for Rubes, and she loves them! She can copy the moves we do without us worrying about her safety.
We also encourage a lot of creativity at this age! Ruby watches what we do so much that she pretty much fancies herself a fitness instructor. 😉 She’s developed a few moves of her own, like this ball plank, and while it’s in no way a “real move,” it’s real to her, gets her excited about fitness, AND gets her up and moving. I’ll take it!
Elementary Age Tips: Gamify!
Cash’s age rage, the elementary age, is all about making fitness fun! At this age, kids just want to play…as they should! So getting them up and moving requires some gamifying. Cash’s fave show is American Ninja Warrior, so his favorite way to work out is with some ninja-style circuits!
Running, jumping, climbing, and obstacle courses make this kid a happy camper. We also make Cash earn any electronic/screen time he wants with some exercises: 10 burpees = 10 mins of screen time, one circuit = 10 mins of iPad, etc. Having him earn his screen time limits the amount of time he’s sedentary and also teaches the valuable lesson of keeping active!
Kids are so wrapped up in video games, YouTube videos, etc., at this age, that it’s so important to kick off their love of movement, working out, and fitness during the elementary years to set them up for a lifetime of staying active. Not to mention, encouraging activities like obstacle courses with kids increases their motor planning skills, which is important for long-term athletic success!
Need an idea for a fun, easy circuit for your kiddos? Try this one! It’s one of Cash’s favorites! Set the clock for 10 minutes and have your child do as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes of the following exercises:
- Walk the line
- 10 box jumps
- Agility ladder
- 10 froggy leaps
Tween Tips: Stretch it out!
Before I jump into the to-dos with tweens, let’s just brush over the to-don’ts. This age is highly emotional. Kids are entering those lovely awkward years, their bodies are changing, puberty is knocking on their door, and hormones are going crazy. It’s so important, especially with our girls, to make sure we are being body positive as we encourage fitness. One of my favorite ways to do this is through promoting fitness and athleticism through stretching + body weight workouts.
Marley is super into gymnastics right now, so this kind of workout interests her SO much. She’s always looking for ways to become stronger, more flexible, and overall more athletic to fine tune her skills as a gymnast. If your kiddos aren’t budding gymnasts, that’s okay too! Teaching appropriate ways to stretch the muscles and complete body weight exercises (i.e. planks, lunges, etc.) is so important at this age. Those kinds of movements are the absolute foundation of all fitness and are important for long-term success in weight lifting and working out.
Teen Tips: Lift It Up!
For this age group, we do basic/foundational moves that they can eventually build on and add the appropriate amount of weight to. You’ve probably seen me working out with Matix at the gym, and we started every movement using only his body weight.
By using body weight, you’re giving your teen time to nail that form BEFORE adding any extra resistance. Form > everything. Building proper form is absolutely essential at this age for so many reasons. Of course, we know that bad form in lifting can lead to injury, but using incorrect form consistently and repeatedly will actually train your body into naturally performing these lifts the wrong way for a lifetime. Good ol’ muscle memory!
Matix will soon be entering into the realm of high school sports, so helping him reach his peak level of strength and fitness is important. While we certainly don’t push him into strength training, we do encourage it as he will NEED that strength to be successful in high school-level athletics.
Keeping Fit from 6 months to 60 Years
Still feeling a little lost with the who/what/when/where/why of kids’ fitness? I know it can be tricky, and knowing exactly what to do with your kids, when to start it, and how to do it can be tough. Keep in mind that just like all of us, our kids develop at different rates, and their gross motor skills may develop slower or faster than the kid next door, and that’s okay! If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, just keep it simple. At the very least, just get them up and moving. Whether it’s a family room dance party or a walk around the park, encouraging a little movement every day will have an incredible long-term impact. Try some of these tips + tricks if you’re needing a little more help!
- Just. Have. Fun. Do activities your kids enjoy—help them realize that moving your body is fun!
- Let them help plan the activities.
- Always focus on creating a strong and healthy body, NEVER on body image or weight loss/weight control.
- Set the example. Make sure they see you working out regularly.
- Make fitness a family affair—do it together!
- Likewise, make family fitness a culture in YOUR family. If you struggle with family fitness, work to make it your family’s new normal!
- Make fitness a part of every day life. #priorities
- Scale activities to your kids’ current level—meet them where they are now!
- Proper form is #1, just like with mom and dad. Educate yourself first on proper form, and if needed, have your child learn from a fitness professional who is certified to work with kids.
- Remember that it’s all about learning good habits and having fun, not hitting some too-old-for-them fitness goals. They’ll have plenty of time for that later on when their bodies and minds are mature enough to be successful safely AND they’ve already developed the important basic skills.
- Take them shopping to make sure they have the correct, quality shoes for their activities. Shoe shopping is always fun with kids, right? (I’m looking at you, Matix 🤔).
- Lastly, teach them that fitness is a “get to,” not a “have to.” Adopt this perspective yourself—total game-changer right there!
What’s your favorite way to introduce fitness into your family? Any fun ideas I can share with my readers? Comment below!
And here are even more ideas for kids’ (and family) fitness!
Powell Pack Workout | Deck of Cards
Screen Time Killing + Boredom Busting Workout for Kids of All Ages (even 40+!)
March Madness!!!! A Powell Pack Family Workout
Beach Babes Family Fun Workout for Kids
Back to School Workout Ideas: From Toddlers to Teens to You!
5 Spring Break Activities for a Fit Family