We keep being told how fat Americans are. God bless America, the land of plenty. But we do want to be fit, in spite of all the cheeseburgers. Actually, I like to be fit because of the cheeseburgers. That way I can eat all I want. Unfortunately the best way to encourage fitness in your kids is to exercise yourself. One of the cardinal rules of parenthood is to be a good example. Kids model their parents behavior for good or ill. Here are some family fitness ideas to get you started.
Get your kids involved in fun sports, then when they’re old enough, have them lift weights with you, do the exercise video together, go to the pool as a family, or go on a run together. This is how you teach lifelong fitness.
Here are some fun ways to stay fit as a family:
- Go on regular walks together. Make a tradition of an after dinner walk around your neighborhood or area.
- Play outside. We have a trampoline and we love going out in the evenings and cheering each other on, playing, and learning new tricks.
- Set up park days. Take the whole family to a park and play together, Mom and Dad too.
- Game actively. With interactive, active video games you can play while you exercise – We play on our XBox Kinect and have AWESOME competitions. We have so much fun that we hardly realize how much we sweat!
- Invite the kids to join in as you do aerobics or other fitness activities. Make it a family affair.
- Have regular fitness challenges. We do a fitness challenge once a month where we record how many sit-ups, push-ups, etc. we can do. We also have foot races together. We write down our results and try to be our record month after month.
- Have a family Olympics. Include events like relays, wheelbarrow races, disc throws, ball toss, an obstacle course, balance beam, and hammer throw. We even made little medals out of ribbon and mason jar lids.
But along with the exercises, you also need to teach moderation in eating, both in amounts and in kinds of foods. These are the kinds of things that schools attempt to teach, but can only really be learned incrementally day by day in your own family.
- We try lots of new foods all the time so our kids are used to trying lots of flavors. Our kids aren’t as picky as a lot of kids because we eat such a variety of new foods and recipes.
- We include lots of fruits and vegetables – cooked, raw, and even pureed inside of things. Our macaroni and cheese and pancakes are both made with carrot puree inside. Every casserole I make gets vegetable purees snuck in. Cauliflower, squash, and carrots are my favorite add-ins. I just steam the veggies until they are tender and then put them in my blender to make a smooth puree. I use a little water added to the blender to help the vegetables get silky smooth.
- We limit the amount of processed foods and refined sugars we eat. You can’t help but develop a taste for all the sodium and sugar that is in packaged foods. I really think this is one of the main reasons for picky eaters. We aren’t perfect at this. I don’t keep any foods from my kids, but I also don’t regularly buy chicken nuggets and Cheetos. I know that homemade chicken with rice and vegetables is far better.
- Teach your kids about foods and health. Talk about what you’re eating and what foods fuel their bodies or bog them down. Spot the healthy things on your plate.
- Grow a garden. My kids will eat vegetables they’ve planted, grown, and picked without questions. They feel pride over their garden plots and enjoy eating their harvest.
- Make going out to eat a special occasion, not a regular event.
Eat well and exercise as a family, because when you take care of your body it helps your minds and spirits to be happy and healthy too!