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How to Plan Indoor Exercise for Kids

By Kim Nunley

Indoor exercise can help combat those days of bad weather that can leave your kids restless. Get them to dance, jump, crawl, balance and stretch, even when they're stuck indoors, and you will be helping them build strength in their bones and muscles, get in better cardiovascular shape and maintain a healthy weight. Plus, kids who are consistently active when they’re young are more likely to remain active throughout the rest of their youth.

Activities for Toddlers

Incorporate exercise for toddlers, aged one to three, that develop their movement skills and improve eye-hand coordination. The National Association for Sport and Physical Exercise (NASPE) recommends that toddlers get at least 30 minutes of structured play each day and that they shouldn’t be sedentary for more than 60 minutes except for when they’re sleeping.

Make the exercises fun by incorporating games to keep toddlers engaged. A game called sock toss is played by tossing bundled up socks into a laundry basket. Alternate tossing socks so that your kid learns how to take turns. You could play follow the leader and have your child trail and mimic you as you march, crawl, roll and jump throughout different rooms of the house. The set-the-pace game asks your kid to demonstrate how a particular animal moves as you call out each one, like bunny or turtle. Play music and lead your kids in stepping, hopping or marching in place to the rhythm.

Exercise for Preschoolers

For preschoolers, aged three to five, activities should focus on continued fundamental motor skill development. The NASPE recommends for preschoolers to get at least 60 minutes of structured physical activity and 60 minutes of unstructured exercise. Except for when sleeping, they shouldn’t be sedentary for 60 minutes at a time.

The sleeping giants exercise allows kids to use their imagination, challenges them to move multi-directionally, builds agility and strengthens their heart and muscles. Tell the kids they are to pretend they are giants who enjoy jumping. Encourage them to jump up and down for practice and that they have to stop when you call out “sleeping giants.” When you say “waking giants,” the kids jump again. Continue to call out the two phrases so the kids can practice starting and stopping. You can also substitute other motor skills, like skipping as elephants, crawling as bears or walking as penguins. The sing strong game asks kids to act like a particular animal or thing while you and they sing a familiar nursery rhyme. For example, they could act like they’re rowing a boat as they sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” or act like they’re driving a bus or roll around like actual wheels while singing “Wheels on the Bus.”

Exercise for Young School-Aged Kids

Kids who are young school-aged, or six to eight years old, should get one hour or more of moderate and vigorous exercise on most days and several 15-minute bouts of exercise each day, as recommended by the NASPE. The kids shouldn’t sit around for two hours or more at a time unless they’re asleep.

The balloon exercise activity has kids perform an array of movements with a balloon. They can put the balloon on the floor and hop or take a big step over it. Have them hold the balloon while skipping around obstacles like chairs. Stand in front of your kid seated in a chair and holding the balloon and have them stand up and tap the balloon against your hand. Hold your hand up high and you can have the kid need to jump up to reach it with the balloon. You could also have your kid practice keeping the balloon up by tapping it upward and preventing it from hitting the floor or tap the balloon back and forth between the two of you. The kids feel like they’re playing, but they’re actually performing a more structured exercise regimen with traditional exercises

Exercise for Older Kids

Kids who are nine to 12 years old are physically and mentally capable of doing more strenuous and traditional exercises. First, lead them through a three to five-minute warmup, consisting of 30 to 60 seconds each of running in place, jumping jacks, toe touches, torso twists, marching in place and arm swings. Then, take them through a circuit workout of pushups, situps, squats, step-ups, lunges, jumping rope, jump squats and hops in place. Write the name of each exercise on separate pieces of paper and scatter them around the house. Have kids do an exercise for 30 to 60 seconds and then immediately move onto the next exercise until they've completed all eight of the exercises. You could also play music and ask your kids to mimic your dance moves.

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