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3 Inexpensive Ways to Make Exercise Fun For Your Children

Guest post by Kristin at Children’s Church Ministry

I’m always looking for fun and inexpensive ways to encourage my children to be active. Here are a few of my favorites:

Roll the Dice

I made “Fitness Dice” set by taping cardboard with clear packing take on large blocks we had on hand. One block contains the numbers 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14. The other has exercises listed on each side: crunches, push-ups, arm rolls, jumping jacks, squats and toe touches. We take turns rolling the dice and doing the number of repetitions of whatever exercise we roll.

Play With a Parachute

Remember those fun parachute games we used to play in elementary school and at summer camp? I ordered a six-foot parachute from S & S Worldwide for our family, but an old flat or fitted bed sheet would work for most of the 39 different parachute games detailed here.

Pick a Card

We have a really fun set of Superman Fit Deck cards with activities listed on each card. Each child can pick a card and then we do the activity/exercise. You you could easily make your own deck of fitness cards. Just use 3×5 index cards and write out lots of exercises and fun little activities that can actively be done in an enclosed space (leg lifts, lunges, bunny hop, back extensions, “swimming,” etc.).

I don’t want my kids to struggle with laziness or obesity and the character and health problems that are accompanied by those, so I am trying to overcome my own bad habits and instill in them a love for great health and fitness. The biggest points I try to emphasize for myself are to set a good example, do healthy activities with them (not just watch from the sidelines), and have fun!

What are your favorite ways to make exercise fun for your children?

Kristin McPherson and her husband Chris head up the children’s ministries at Union Baptist Church in Florien, LA. They have six kidlets of their own, ranging from six months to eight years old. Kristin runs the website Children’s Church Ministry.

photo credit

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37 Comments

  • Melissa says:

    My kids play organized sports, no more than one sport at a time per child. While they practice, I walk around the walking track in the park, so they see that exercise doesn’t end when you are no longer playing organized sports! We also have a trampoline and a tire swing. My kids are usually good about playing outside and not watching too much tv, but if they are glued to the tv, I send them outside and set the timer. Most of the time, they forget there is a timer set and play until I tell them it’s time to come in and eat! And, we have bikes and scooters. When my husband and I work in the yard, the kids ride their bikes and scooters. Also, we geo-cache. This doesn’t provide extreme exercise, but it involves outside and walking, so it’s way better than watching tv! We really try to just set an example of activity.

  • Suzy says:

    I love the idea of the parachute! What fun memories. I am going to look into ordering one. Thanks

    We just got back from a bike ride. 🙂

  • Stacey says:

    I sooooo needed this post. My 6 yr old won’t play any team sports so we struggle with getting him excited about fitness. I think you have motivated me into my next blog series…Children’s fitness challenge. I plan to use the dice and parachute ideas both. Thanks!

  • Happy says:

    The link to her website doesn’t work.

  • Maggie says:

    Great post! We take our kiddo hiking when we can. One of our city parks has some beautiful hiking trails that we take him on and we are only about an hour away from several state parks, which make fun (and fairly inexpensive) little day trips.

  • Healthcare Saving Mom says:

    I wrote a blog post similar to this one – getting my son off the couch was easy by getting him a pedometer!

    http://www.healthcaresavingmom.com/2011/03/pedometer-madness.html

  • Julie says:

    We try to go to one new park every week.

    Our town has LOTS of parks and it is fun for the whole family to play someplace new (different play structures/trees/kids to play with). We almost always bike to the park, too, even if it means hauling my son in the bike trailer 30 minutes across town!

  • Megan says:

    Great post! Thanks for the new ideas. One thing our kids love is doing things with a stopatch (“how fast can you run around the park,” etc.). We also play “crazy balls” which is kind of like dodgeball, the four of us will take about ten balls and just start running around and throwing them at each other – the boys absolutely love it.

  • Melody says:

    Yeah, I tried the link too and it didn’t work for me!

  • Melissa says:

    Cute ideas! Although I had to smile at the thought of trying to keep my boys active….they’re 2 and 1 (and I’m pregnant, 7 months) and they NEVER stop moving it seems like. =) I suppose most of the temptation is mine at times to let them watch t.v. so they will pause for a moment…. 😉 They would much, much rather play outdoors!!

  • Kimberly says:

    Thanks! Great ideas! I am going to use the dice one. My 2-year-old will love it!

  • Amy says:

    I walk around the block while my 1 1/2, 3 & 5 year old ride their bike, push car & big wheel. Sometimes we go around twice.

  • I think people were alot healthier when exercise was not something they did, but a part of daily life and work. So, for us, that is what it is!!! We walk whenever the weather is nice, we ride bikes. I do jumping jacks while waiting for the microwave to cook or waiting for things….I often while sitting at the computer do leg lifts and arm circles.
    We are always busy doing something active that they enjoy……roller blading, bikes, climbing trees, playing tag, playing running games…..but also other things like gardening, raking, mowing the lawn, kneading bread, painting and other activities that work many muscles. If you don’t have need for it at your house, check if friends do.

  • Thanks for sharing. We like to do family activities outside especially during the summer months. There are so many wonderful “free” activities you can do as a family – go on a nature treasure hunt, a walk & a picnic, hiking, bike rides, flying kites, strawberry picking and so many more fun activities.

  • Katie says:

    Thanks for the idea! I am making some dice for my 3 year old! I think she will love it!

  • Julie says:

    Great ideas! I love this topic because it is such a serious problem. We have been doing some one mile “fun” runs with our boys (5 & 7). I would love to see more about this topic…

  • Kristin says:

    Thanks, Crystal, for featuring my article today.

    Even as I’m sitting here my boys are out jumping on the trampoline. Here are some trampoline game ideas: http://www.trampolinegames.com/trampoline-game-ideas.html

    Hopscotch and Four Square Games: http://education.alberta.ca/physicaleducationonline/teacherresources/toolbox/a_k_3/a_k3_15.pdf

    My kids like to do stopwatch activities, too. When they get too antsy while homeschooling, I’ll tell them to jump up and run around the house real quick; and we’ll time them. We use the stopwatch for rolling races, potato sack races, etc.

    I’m loving reading everyone else’s ideas, too!

  • Courtney says:

    My kids are very active and play organized sports year-round. They also love to ride bikes, rollerblade, ride horses, and just run around and play outside.

    One indoor activity they are crazy about is table tennis. We play it on our dining room table with one of those nets that can fit onto any table. The cost of the net, paddles and ping pong balls was about $20. It has brought our whole family many hours of enjoyment 🙂

    • Rae says:

      that’s a neat idea. We definitely don’t have room for a table but I never thought about using a regular table. We don’t have a dining room table just a fairly small kitchen table but it’s rectangular so maybe it would work. I’ll have to look into that. Thanks for sharing

  • All great ideas. As kids get more plugged into electronics, playing outside could easily get to be a lost art if parents are pushing their children to be more active.

  • Character problems related with obesity? Huh?

    • gwen says:

      exactly my first thought. I don’t go with the laziness problem, either. I’m overweight, but I also have a PhD. I wouldn’t consider myself lazy or having a character problem.

      • Yeah….that might be a bit going overboard! I know alot of people who struggle with weight and it is not a character issue.

        • Crystal says:

          I definitely agree. I think some people have weight issues as a result of a lack of discipline, but others have physical issues, etc. that are playing into their weight issues. I believe the author was referring to obesity that results from a lack of self-discipline and poor lifestyle habits/choices.

    • Heather says:

      I did a double take at that too, but upon a second look, I think (and hope) she meant to pair “laziness” with “character problems” and “obesity” with “health problems”. That’s the order that they are in, if you look back at her sentence. She said “laziness OR obesity”, ie. two separate issues (you can be thin and lazy). Separate sentences would have been clearer.

      • Mollie says:

        I did the same. I own (and sometimes name) my extra pounds, but I also own the responsibility that comes with being a good steward of the physical body God has given me. I cannot accept that we’re created to be obese.

    • Kristin says:

      Hi, I’m the author of this piece. The “or” is there for a reason. Laziness = character problem; obesity = health problem. Laziness can, however, absolutely result in obesity. Not to say that all obese people are lazy. But my thinking here is that my kids have a much smaller chance of becoming obese if they learn to love being active versus develop a love for watching TV and playing video games.

      At 5’3″ and 170 pounds, I think that I am actually classified as obese myself. I have been through nine pregnancies in the past nine years, and that has taken its toll on my body. My husband and I are both currently working to lose weight, as we believe that it will bring glory to God, allow us to have more energy, and help us to better serve & enjoy our children & ministries. We also want to set a good example for our kids so that they, hopefully, will never have to struggle to overcome excessive weight problems.

      I meant no offense to obese people. That is entirely not the goal or point of this article.

  • Mollie says:

    We make our children march in place while watching television, and only purchase active games for the gaming console (they get about an hour weekly). If the weather cooperates, we head to the park after dinner for power-walking (parents and teen) and running off the WOOHOO! of the day (little ones). I find it helps all of us sleep better at night. 🙂

  • nikki says:

    i enjoy doing yoga. my boys 3 & 4 do yoga too. i recently bought yoga cards from barefoot books. 50 cards with visual and verbal directions easy for parents and kids to follow. the boys love to pick news each week

  • Pamela says:

    Believe it or not playing with balloons can be a great way to get moving. This is great if you have kids, like mine, who aren’t “outdoor” kids but are active inside. Blow up some balloons and have them running around to prevent them from hitting the floor. Five push-ups, jumping jacks, etc., to whoever misses. Also, it’s a great way to play volleyball! Try it! Great activity for rainy days.

  • Lisette says:

    Heck, are stoked when I take 5 minutes to count how many jumping jacks they can do! Easy enough!

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