Plan to watch the game on the weekend? Use commercials and half-time to head outside to throw the football for a few brisk minutes. Your kids are likely to join in the fun and will love seeing you get in the game. It's a simple way to help them build a healthy habit.
If your kids sleep in, eat a pancake breakfast, and lounge while they watch cartoons, their energy levels may be low. Instead, keep boredom at bay with a cleaning race challenge. Add music for some fun. The classic "Flight of the Bumblebee" by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov makes a particularly good speed-cleaning tune. Or pick other music they love. Set a timer for 10 minutes to tidy each room. Children as young as 3 are able to stack books or pick up toys.
Instead of a potluck for family and friends, organize a pet walking get-together. Time spent with animals lowers blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and feels good. Everyone will benefit from the chatter and the exercise. Don’t have a dog? Offer to walk a neighbor’s. Or bring old towels to a local animal shelter and stop to pet a few pups while you're there.
At birthday parties, take the emphasis off cake and try this energetic group game. It uses communication and reflexes.
1) Form a circle.
2) Everyone grabs the hand of someone across the circle.
3) With the other hand, grab the hand of someone else who is not next to you so everyone is connected.
4) Continue to hold hands as you twist, turn and step over arms to untangle the knot of arms.
Hangouts in the kitchen can be time for your family to bond. Don’t put out goodies to munch on while you spend time together. Instead, keep the kids (and yourself) busy with something more fun. Get the kids to stack plastic cups as quickly as possible to improve their hand-eye coordination and reaction time. Try to build a pyramid: a row of 6, topped by 5, 4, 3, 2, then a single cup.
When school and work are called off, skip the all-day TV marathon with hot cocoa and marshmallows. Instead, bundle up and get family members or neighbors to make snowmen. When you forge Frosty, you can burn up to 285 calories an hour. Get creative and give your snowman a Hawaiian shirt-and flip-flops. Or make icy look-a-likes of family members or pets.
Suggest this game as an afterschool wind-down ritual instead of snacks and TV. As two people face each other, the “leader” makes movements, such as raising an arm or hand claps. The “follower” copies the moves as if in front of a mirror. Mix in moves that require more flexibility, such as a toe touch, or balance on one foot. The faster kids move, the better workout they will get.
Have older kids take a break from video games for this old favorite. All you need is a basketball and hoop.
1) Place cones or chalk marks on the ground around the hoop.
2) Stand on a mark and make a basket.
3) Move to the next mark to make a shot. See how many baskets you can make in a row.
4) When a player misses, it’s the next player’s turn.
5) Return to the mark where you last missed until one player makes a shot from each mark.
Instead of a movie marathon with breaks only for pizza, call an active intermission. Search for free cable or Internet exercise programs that the whole family can do, like easy “10-minute workouts.” Or make up your own routine. Try 5 minutes of a high-knee march, 3 minutes of walking, and 2 minutes of jogging in place.
Many holidays are filled with one food-filled event after another. Start new traditions away from the table to spread some joy. Instead of baked goods, make holiday cards or original art for presents. Or give the gift of music with a Christmas carol performance on your street. With all these activities, you will burn calories and build a sense of community.