Toss Out the Chips -- Toss the Pigskin
Game watching on the weekend? Instead of focusing on snacks, use commercials and timeouts to get everyone off the couch and into the yard for a few brisk minutes of passing the football. Children are often more comfortable practicing sports with family than with peers, and are likely to join in the fun (not realizing they are forming new, healthy habits).
Rev Up Slow Saturdays With Extreme Cleaning
Sleeping in, a pancake breakfast, lounging while watching cartoons -- all can drag kids' energies down. Instead, keep boredom at bay by challenging the family to a cleaning race. Add music for some fun: "Flight of the Bumblebee" by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov makes a particularly good speed-cleaning tune. Set the kitchen timer for 10 minutes to tidy each room. Children as young as 3 are able to stack books or pick up toys.
Put Together a Pet Parade
Instead of inviting friends or family for a potluck, organize a pet walking get-together. Interacting with pets decreases blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and feelings of loneliness. Everyone will benefit from the chatter and the exercise. Don't have a dog? Offer to walk a neighbor's pet, or gather and deliver old towels to a local animal shelter -- petting a few pups while you're there, of course.
Get All Tangled Up
For more to do at birthday parties than gobbling cake, try this energizing group game. It uses communication and reflexes.
1) Form a circle.
2) Everyone grabs the hand of someone -- except the people beside them.
3) With the other hand, grab the hand of someone else who is not standing next to you, so everyone is connected.
4) Have fun twisting, turning, and stepping over arms to untangle without unlocking hands.
Try Stacking Instead of Snacking
Hanging out in the kitchen can be family bonding time. But instead of filling every lull with snacks, keep the kids (and yourself) busy with something more fun. Speed stacking plastic cups improves hand-eye coordination and reaction time. Have kids try building a pyramid: a row of six, topped by rows of five, four, three, two, then finally a single cup.
Snowed in? Build a Friend
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 build snowmen. Building your very own Frosty can burn up to 285 calories an hour. Get creative by making a tropical snowman clad in a Hawaiian shirt-and flip-flops, or even icy likenesses of family members or pets.
Put the "Play" in Playtime
Suggest this game as an after-school wind-down ritual instead of snacks and TV. As two people face each other, the “leader” makes movements, such as raising an arm or clapping hands. The "follower" copies the moves as if looking in a mirror. Mix in moves that require more flexibility -- such as reaching for toes -- or challenge balance by standing on one foot. Then switch leaders. The faster kids move, the more of a workout.
Get Off the Couch, Go Around the World
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 around the ground.
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. When you miss, it’s the next player's turn.
4) When it's your turn again, return to the mark where you last missed. Play until one player makes a shot from each mark.
Turn Movie Night into Moving Night
Instead of settling in for movies 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 five minutes of high-knee marching, three minutes of walking, and two minutes of jogging in place.
Make Your Holiday Treats Calorie-Free
Many holidays are filled with eating event after eating event. Start new traditions that spread some joy instead of spreading your midsection. Instead of baking, make holiday cards or original art for gifts. Or give the gift of music by caroling. Between the shopping, crafting, rehearsing, and walking, you'll be burning calories and building a sense of community.