By Sue Breding
“Ready to go play?” asks Miles’ dad, Russell Horton.
“Yes!” two-year-old Miles responds gleefully.
With that exchange the duo kicks off their shoes. In stocking-feet, they hit the enormous room at a local Valley gymnastics center for the facility’s open play hour.
Miles’ father is wearing a T-shirt instead of the white coat he usually dons as a pediatrician at Banner Health Center in Queen Creek. He used the word “play” with his son and, while jumping up-and-down together on a trampoline, walking balance beams or hoisting up on ring apparatus looks like play, it’s really about exercise.
“One of the most important things parents can do is model that a healthy lifestyle is a priority,” says Horton, DO. “We used to have him in classes here, but this way we can burn energy together.”
When families come to Dr. Horton seeking advice when their child has a Body Mass Index (BMI) in the unhealthy range, he “prescribes” that the parent take a good, hard look at their own lifestyle choices.
“It can’t be just the overweight kid who is targeted, it never works,” says Horton.
As a bonus, this time does double-duty as quality time.
Let these creative ideas help you turn every day into an opportunity to get fit and have fun together.
Have outdoor exercise adventures
Nicole Cottrell, a busy mom of three, spent 2014 focusing on her personal resolution of eating more healthy foods and boosting her activity level.
To her delight, she noticed her daughter began asking for grilled chicken instead of fried chicken nuggets. Her son started enjoying more outdoor play. Nicole then began a quest for creating planned activities they could do together where they could get their hearts pumping.
“We’re a hiking family; it gets us out in nature, but when we hike we collect specimens.”
At the park she and her husband set up non-competitive exercise challenges where they ask the kids questions such as, “how many pull-ups can you do?” or “how fast can we run to that tree and back?”
They also do “family fitness carnivals” complete with tickets they get at an office supply store. “We set up stations, like a jumping jacks area for example. Once they finish the activity at a station, they get a ticket and they earn rewards.”
Walk the Dog
Two furry friends are just what the doctor ordered in the Willis home. “One of my favorite times of the day is when we walk our Huskies Blu and Shadow,” says Jennifer Willis, MD, a mother of three young children and a family medicine physician at Banner Health Center in Verrado.
“Dogs help with stress, depression, high blood pressure and exercise motivation,” states Willis. In her home, the four-legged family members get excited when they see their owners preparing for an outdoor adventure, which inspires them to exercise.
Take a Pre-or Post-Dinner Walk
Dawn Sorenson, MD, a pediatrician at Banner Health Center in Maricopa suggests the whole family heads out for a five-minute walk after dinner every day for a week. “The following week, bump it up to a 10-minute walk and start charting your progress,” Dr. Sorenson says.
Sorenson is mom to Ava, 7, and Thomas, 4. “If you bombard your family with sweeping changes, that’s probably not going to work,” she explains.
“But positive reinforcement builds momentum, as does celebrating small victories.”
Other options to mix things up could be a family jog or bike ride.
Get Splish-Splash Time In
When Candice Wood, MD gets home from her job as an OB/GYN with Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center, her children know it’s the signal they’re going to get soaking wet.
As a family they love their backyard pool, but the kids are not in swimming around alone. Dr. Wood says she stands in the water and asks 4-year-old Lauren and 2-year-old Gordon to “swim to her.” “Soon they are doing laps and they think it’s great fun while I am thinking about how it’s great exercise,” explains Wood. “Swimming is great on the joints, it’s wonderful for the heart and it’s something they can enjoy for a lifetime.”
Much to Dr. Wood’s delight, after years of pushing her children in a stroller during her morning jog, Lauren has recently asked to run with her. “I even took a video the first time she did it because it was just such a fun moment and it was so cute,” Wood exclaims.
Seek Out Indoor Activity Centers
Cottrell and her kids now jump for joy often as they can as they have become huge fans of indoor trampoline parks. Dr. Horton’s wife found out about their neighborhood gymnastic center’s open playtime. Each Friday, their children are pushed with them in strollers as their parents do a morning run, then they all head out for gymnastics.
“Oh! You found a jump rope, Miles!” Dr. Horton says as his son makes his way around finding one fun thing after another.
As they play, seven-month-old Jane has never taken her eyes off her daddy since the minute he placed her on the soft mats with a large block and a cone. “Can you reach the cone Jane?” Dr. Horton asks.
“She’s army crawling,” he laughs.
Even though she’s a baby, it’s easy to sense that Jane already knows fitness is fun because daddy is not sitting on the sidelines, catching up on work with his laptop while the gym staff watches her. He is right there engaged and making it a memorable morning for all three of them.
Create Your Own Backyard Obstacle Course!
Materials needed: 4+ kitchen or lawn chairs • 1 spool of white yarn • 8-10 hula hoops • 3 jump ropes • Chalk • 1 package of paper plates (cut out holes from the inside to make paper rings) • 10 full water bottles • 1-2 bags of water balloons (filled and ready to go) • 8-10 plastic cones • 8 small cardboard boxes If you don’t have all the materials listed, just improvise and have fun!
Instructions: 1. Warm Up: Start by having the kids do 25 jumping jacks in place to warm up their muscles and increase their heart rates. Make sure they count out loud. 2. Spider Web Crawl: Arrange 4 [or more] chairs in the shape of a rectangle. Tie yarn to one chair and create a web by weaving it around the other chairs. For this part of the obstacle course, the kids will have to crawl on their hands, knees or stomach from one side of the web to the other, and must avoid touching the web. 3. Hula Hoop Run: Take 8-10 hula hoops and place them down on the ground creating a “tire run.” 4. Tight Rope: Next, grab the jump ropes and place them in a straight line on the ground. This will be known as “walking the tight rope” where their balance will be a key component. You can also choose to have the kids jump rope for a few minutes somewhere within the obstacle course as well. 5. Hopscotch: For the next obstacle, use the chalk to draw a hopscotch board on the ground for the kids to jump across. 6. Ring ‘Em: Next, set up water bottles in the same triangular shape as bowling pins. Have the kids throw the paper rings at the water bottles to see how many times they can get the ring to land around them during a 3-minute period. Have them drink some of the water before moving on to the next obstacle! 7. Weaving: For the next obstacle, grab the plastic cones and set them up in zig-zag formation about five yards apart. Have the kids sprint from one cone to the next until they reach the tenth cone. To make this more difficult, try having them alternate between sprints and backpedaling. 8. Water Balloon Fight: To celebrate completing the obstacle course, have water balloons filled with water and waiting for them at the end for a friendly water balloon fight and a nice cool down.
Reminders: • Be sure kids are well hydrated before, during and after they participate in the obstacle course. Also, do the activity in the morning to avoid heat and UV sun exposure. • If your kids are prone to injury, set up the obstacle course on a soft surface like grass, or strap on some protective gear like elbow and knee pads.
Banner Children’s GO KIDS! can help families track progress and find fun ways to stay healthy.
To learn more, visit www.BannerChildrens.com/gokids.