Children learn their most impactful lessons at home. The examples parents present have a greater effect on the choices children later make than any other outside force. With a rising childhood obesity epidemic, parents are on the forefront of fighting health decline in their kids due to poor eating and exercise habits. Parents can teach healthy cooking, eating, and fitness lessons through conversation, but it is better understood through practice.
The school week is busy, especially if parents work outside the home. When the weekend rolls around, though, there are plenty of opportunities for families to get out of the house and work up a healthy sweat. Take a look at 10 ideas for making active weekend family plans:
- Visit a park. Enjoy being outside while providing an active place for your kids to roam freely. Set a good example by pushing your kids on the swings, climbing with them on the jungle gym and racing them from tree to tree. If you visit a park with no playground equipment, bring along a ball or Frisbee or simply let your children’s imagination create the fun. The sunshine and fresh air will enhance mood and the open space provides limitless opportunities for play.
- Plan a play date. Reach out to other families in your neighborhood, church, office, or children’s schools and plan weekend get-togethers. You can take turns hosting each other at your homes, or come up with a fun spot to meet. This provides your kids with the excitement of a playmate while giving you an outlet for adult interaction. This is also a great way to form strong bonds with other families in your social circles.
- Go for a walk. You do not have to seek out a specific walking or hiking trail to have a good time strolling. Simply take a walk around your neighborhood with your kids. Point out fun features on other homes, or create a game where your children have to count how many animals they spot on the adventure. If you have kids that are too young to walk, consider baby wearing to add a workout element for yourself.
- Spruce up your yard. Make landscaping chores fun by getting your kids involved in the action. Weed flowerbeds, pick up branches, and rearrange patio furniture (safely!) with your little ones. It will improve the curb appeal of your home and give the entire family a good reason to work up a good sweat too.
- Head to a farmers’ market. This is a smart way to get a little exercise while teaching lessons about locally grown food. Most kids are only familiar with putting food in a cart from a grocery store shelf; going to a farmers’ market provides another perspective on how food makes its way to the plate and teaches children the importance of fresh and healthy food, community support, and responsible agriculture. Many farmers’ markets even have live music, and the atmosphere always makes for a fun shopping excursion for even the littlest members of the family.
- Jump in the water. If you live near a beach, pack up your gear for a good time in the waves. If you are far from any significant body of water, visit a local pool. Kids of all ages love swimming and it is a great way to exercise while having fun. There are so many outlets for imaginative play in the water, providing a collaborative opportunity for parents and kids. Whether learning how to dive, fetching items from the bottom of the pool, or pretending to be a mermaid, swimming is always a good time.
- Stop by the library. Believe it or not, visiting your local library can be a very active experience. On the weekends, many libraries have special events that are designed to get families involved and active. Libraries are also frontrunners in the children’s fitness movement and often provide free or low-cost group exercise classes designed for kids. Take a look online at the offerings of your local library and then make it a weekend activity staple.
- Shop. Ditch the stroller and keep your kids out of the shopping cart when you pay a visit to your neighborhood grocery, home improvement, or department store. Remember that these stores are not always designed to be kid-friendly, so you will have to keep an extra eye on your children. It’ll take a bit longer, but giving your kids a taste of independence and getting those little legs moving is great for them now and in the long term as well.
- Outdoor concerts and events. Find out if there will be any local music events, festivals, or fairs appropriate for children. Often, admission to these events is inexpensive or free and it provides a fun setting for kids. Pack some healthy snacks and water to take along so you can avoid that sugar-and-fat-filled concession stand.
- Just dance. If your weekend plans get rained on, crank up your favorite tunes and declare a family dance party in the living room. Let everyone have a turn picking out the music and then dance until everyone is out of breath and sweating. Tell your kids how old you were when you liked a particular song that plays and ask them for their favorites. This simple form of family bonding can be planned at a moment’s notice and is sure to stand out in your children’s memories.
While weekends are a time for relaxation and rejuvenation, they also provide the perfect opportunity for lessons in physical fitness. Setting the standard for physical activity early in their lives will benefit your children into adulthood. By incorporating active plans into your weekends, your kids will have the advantage of heightened fitness—and so will you!
SPARK is a research-based organization that provides award-winning, evidence-based programs for Physical Education (K-12), After School, Early Childhood, and Coordinated School Health. Since 1989, SPARK has provided curriculum, training, and consultation to over 100,000 teachers and youth leaders worldwide. Visit www.sparkpe.org to download sample lesson plans, find grant opportunities, and register for free educational webinars and monthly eNewsletters.