Staying active and fit can feel like a full-time job when you have young children.
These days, there are more and more fitness facilities that offer childcare while you work out. I tried these but it was not working for us.
Each time, of three, spaced months apart, I came back to an inconsolable child. I found that attending classes where I could bring him to be the best solution at companies such as Belly Bootcamp where I worked out during my sons first year.
Here are some other ways I found to carve fitness into my day alongside my sons when we are unable to get to a class:
Every day, if possible. Celebrate the weather with appropriate activities. Splash in the rain puddles, go to a local pool, build a snowman, make footprints in the muck, kick the ball in a field, fly a kite!
Kids don’t have the same pickiness as we do with weather – so take a lesson from them and see the world through their eyes, get caught in the rain once and awhile, and laugh (it’s a calorie burner too!). If you turn off the TV and just get outside, physical fitness is imminent.
Follow the Leader
Just for fun, copy everything your toddler is doing. They instinctively love this, because part of the stages in attachment are “sameness”. When you play copy-cat you are showing that what the toddler does is worth watching and doing too. Watch how they light up when you do this!
Toddler as Personal Trainer
One of our favourites is “stand… sit!” where one of us stands and then drops into a squat position and the other tries to do it in unison.
The other hamstring strengthener we do most evenings to burn up energy, is stair climbing. I make a game of seeing how many stairs my son can climb by counting as he climbs… and it takes the focus off the fact that I have to climb them too! Then we celebrate by running in the house to tell daddy the magic number, whatever it happens to be. Yesterday we got to 160 steps. It was fun practicing saying “one hundred and sixty” before we ran in!
Show and Tell
Babies and toddlers love to be talked to and see the world around them. My son loves to be hoisted up to look at art at a gallery, or even the apartment numbers of our neighbors homes while he works on being able to tell us what he sees. This important teaching time of course doubles as a great workout for your biceps and shoulders!
Dancing your baby or toddler to sleep has many benefits. In addition to being a great way to burn calories through weight bearing cardio, you are giving some wonderful gifts to your little one.
- they love the closeness and look forward to this special end to their day
- the motion stimulates the vestibular (inner ear) system which aids in healthy brain development, particularly the areas responsible for language and balance
- it releases endorphins that make mom/dad/caregiver happy, which baby picks up on
- music and motion help higher needs children block out the extra “noise” that can make them fussy at the end of the day
- adding dance to your bedtime routine helps your child go to sleep feeling right with the world
You know that yoga DVD collecting dust on the shelf? Pop it in and try doing it with your toddler! Rename the poses fun, kid-friendly names. ”Look, mommy is being a cat! Can you be a cat?” or “Can you make the bottoms of your feet kiss?”.
Don’t have any expectations of any longer than a 10-15 minute yoga practice. In fact, the first few times might only be 3 minutes. But if you make it part of your daily routine, your tot will start dragging out your yoga mat for you (talk about accountability!). Spending just a few minutes every day stretching has tremendous benefits for your mind, body and soul.
Let’s Play Ball!
A popular family exercise is playing sports — soccer, basketball, baseball etc. With a toddler you can still get an excellent full body workout, by assisting them in playing these games. A beachball is very inexpensive and makes an ideal ball due to it’s light weight which makes it easy to kick, carry, and doesn’t hurt if it hits someone by mistake.
For soccer, you demonstrate how to run and kick the ball. You can also help them run towards the ball so they “kick” it. For a make-shift basketball game, you can buy a small toy hoop for your wall inside your house, or make your own by cutting the bottom of a large container of yogurt. Lift them up so they can put the ball in the hoop. Other games you can play are hockey and bowling. Toddler love to knock down the bowling pins!
In Dr. Sears workshops, we teach the importance of exercise through simply committing to MOVE every single day. And how much fun is it, if it feels like “play”? The time flies as you spend quality time with your family.
Finally, remember to rest! An important part of my “fit with toddler” routine is to take a nap when I need it. Toddlers are busy! Listen to your body and take time for yourself when you need it.