For many adults, fitness may be something they think about all the time. I see people “checking in” at their gyms, posting about their killer “boot camp” workout, finding alternatives to dressing on their Whole 30 journey, and discussing sugar addition. But beyond health or PE classes at our kids’ schools, how do we integrate a healthy lifestyle into our kids’ daily routines (and not make it seem like such a chore)?
The logical component is allowing them to see us living healthier lives. Do we model finding workouts that work for us and use fresh, nutritious ingredients in meals without creating a sense of shame involving diets and fads that can’t be sustained or won’t last? Do we impose an impossible standard of health or beauty for ourselves (model fitness) versus honoring where we are as individuals? This is the one body they will have, and we should celebrate that as the amazing machine that it is by incorporating maintenance into our daily lives.
We wouldn’t neglect to brush our teeth. We shouldn’t neglect this. The question then becomes how we can do this in a healthy way that engages the family and doesn’t create some kind of damage that our kids will discuss one day with their therapist. It seems like an impossible task, especially if you as the parents are not really sure where to start, and you don’t want to break the bank. I have tried and tested numerous things for my own family, and these are the ones that made the cut for us:
1. Go Noodle
Go Noodle is a free family resource that incorporates mind, body, and emotional health in a fun and interactive website designed to draw kids and parents into good habits without seeming too restrictive or demanding. There is truly something for everyone: videos incorporating pop songs and follow-along dance moves that raise your heart rate and engage your muscles; videos leading calming breathing exercises for dads and moms at the end of a long day with two hours of middle school math homework ahead of them; short clips with young, engaging entertainers who tell kids and parents how to make healthy, affordable, and tasty lunch choices; and tutorials on how to be an encourager to those around you with notes of kindness. You could spend months at a time on this website and not exhaust its resources, and again, it’s FREE, so bonus on financial health too.
2. Les Mills Born to Move
The Les Mills International company, based out of New Zealand, is intent on making global health a priority. To prove it, they provide many of their “Born to Move” videos for free on their website, catering to children ages 4-16, with age-appropriate moves for each group. The videos start simply, encouraging young children to be comfortable with who they are and how to interact in a healthy way with others. As a child grows, he or she can progress through the videos, which offer yoga, strength training, and cardiovascular moves to cover the gamut of workout possibilities. Once your child has grown through the Born to Move program, and they (or you) are ready to move on to something with a little more rigor, you can become part of the Les Mills On Demand system, which offers subscription services for a monthly price that is a third of the cost of a monthly gym membership and which can be done in your own home. This program grows with you and your family and offers workouts for every interest and every body.
3. Yoga Pretzels
I love inexpensive ways to make learning or working out fun and cooperative. This sweet set of cards does both. They are truly appropriate for the very young (three years old) and above. Teaching the names of yoga poses while also displaying them in kid-friendly illustrations, the cards allow children or parents to work solo or incorporate team building by allowing parents and children or siblings to find the paired poses. There is also a game included that makes the yoga poses a little more competitive once poses have been mastered, so your young yogis can advance. Yoga Ed, the company that produces Yoga Pretzels, just recently released another set of cards, called Mindful Kids, which takes the mindset of yoga into the realm of mindfulness, dividing the cards into five sections to help children “feel grounded, find calm, improve focus, practice loving-kindness, and relax.” In today’s high-stress world, kids and their parents could benefit as a healthier family through practicing mindfulness.
4. Chop Chop Magazine
I was introduced to this after telling a friend that my young daughter and I wanted to start cooking meals together but expressed my disappointment that most recipes were difficult for my daughter to follow. She recommended Chop Chop Magazine to me, but it is much more than just a magazine. While you can purchase cookbooks or a subscription to the magazine itself, the website provides tons of healthy, delicious recipe options that are not too overwhelming for kids or parents. These recipes are all based on the principles in the company’s mission statement, which states their goal as a company is to inspire families to cook real food together, acknowledging the fact that cooking and eating together may be the first step in helping solve unhealthy relationships with food that can form at a young age.
5. Just Dance
Okay, so I know everyone already knows about this, but Just Dance really is such a fun, manageable workout, already set to great music and available to you through multiple gaming systems for a low cost or on YouTube for free. My youngest daughter’s kindergarten teacher would allow them to do a “brain break” to kid-appropriate Just Dance videos after a strenuous math lesson or reading time, or really anytime during the day when it seemed like monotony/stress was setting in. The kids loved it, and it got them out of their chairs and moving while helping create a sense of joy and community. I’m a high school PE teacher, and my students beg to do this. They list reasons why we should turn on the screen, but they really don’t have to do much to convince me that the workout is intense!
The journey to being a healthier family isn’t a one-stop shop or one-size-fits-all mentality. What works for one might not work for the other, and there are lots of different dynamics to creating a healthy lifestyle. It’s easy to get discouraged on this journey, but remember that it begins with a single step, and what starts as a small decision to change something for the better can have a ripple effect, creating stronger bodies, but also stronger families through incorporating fun and diverse health routines.