Finding the time to fit a solid workout in is a challenge for everyone, but even more so for those caring for small children. Little ones require our constant attention for their safety and development. Not everyone can, or chooses to use childcare services, so carving out even twenty minutes for workout time can seem impossible. While consistent, focused physical training is optimal, don’t discount the many other opportunities for you to be active during your day.
It’s important to remember that any physical activity can be beneficial to your overall health, so you don’t need to be in your sweats at the gym to be working out. Too often, caregivers sit idly by watching toddlers play, missing out on the opportunity to be physical themselves. By getting your little ones active, you can be engaged right alongside them, bringing benefits for all of you. Keep in mind the wisdom of George Bernard Shaw, who wrote,
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
Being active with little ones can be beneficial for them too; children also need regular, daily physical activity. Also, by getting your toddlers active, you have the opportunity to develop their gross motor skills, a critical developmental focal point. This is a great age to introduce them to fundamental sport skills, such as catching and throwing a ball, sidestepping, jumping, and kicking. Other skills developed by active gameplay are sportsmanship, taking turns, and fair play.
There are countless ways to be active with toddlers, both indoors and outdoors. Indoor active games include hide and seek, living room obstacle courses, yoga, dance parties, and pilates. There are many age-appropriate physical activities and movement videos available, so do some research to find one that suits you and your toddlers’ personalities and interests. If you are rolling around on the floor, performing action-based songs like “Head and Shoulders” and “Wheels on the Bus,” you are active. Try to put a ton of energy into every move to ramp up your heart rate.
Or, take advantage of nap time or while they play under your supervision to get an at-home workout in. With a safe space, and some affordable, effective resistance training gear, you can get a solid workout completed in less than thirty minutes. There are countless workout videos available online, geared for an at-home workout. Take a trip to your local pool; keeping little ones safe and active in a pool setting is a fun, rewarding way to get your heart rate up.
Many community organizations and gyms offer exercise sessions that cater to caregivers and children. Others may offer an “open gym” time where you can access a safe gym space full of exciting and challenging fitness equipment. These may include mats, climbing apparatuses, tunnels, balls, and more! The key here is again not to stand by and observe, but get into the action!
Get in some callisthenic style exercises such as pushups, jumping jacks, burpees, and high knees running. A short but intense workout is great for your body. Your little ones will find your actions hilarious, and they may want to join in. Keep it light and fun. Your focus should be on doing what you can when you can. Be positive, keep going; your exercise can be broken down into mini-sessions throughout the day.
Getting outdoors opens up enormous possibilities for you and your toddlers to be physically active. Try to avoid sideling yourself as much as possible; instead, engage in active play.
Play tag, chase, and kick a ball around. Pull them around in a wagon at a brisk pace. Invest in a stroller that allows you to walk, jog, and run while you explore neighborhoods, parks, and forest trails. If you can, place your little one in a backpack-style baby carrier and hit the trails. The outdoors offers the additional opportunity to learn about nature and experience new environments.
Challenge your cardiovascular system by trying to keep up with your toddlers. Channel your inner child, and give yourself the freedom to be silly and play with them. Model a healthy lifestyle for your children. Show them that self-care is for everyone and needs to be done daily. You will serve as an inspiration and role model by demonstrating your joy in being active. Being present in that moment of play is a fantastic time to bond with your little ones and create meaningful memories.