There are kids who would prefer to draw than to dive. Kids who prefer to read than to run. And kids who prefer to investigate than to inline skate. Just like the clothes you prefer to wear, sport and physical activity is a matter of personal choice and taste.
But no matter how much a kid likes sport or not, being active and moving everyday is good for all kids. So how do you get your non-sporty kid to be active? Try these tips to incorporate what they love with movement.
There are kids whose world revolves around performance arts. Whether it’s drama, music (instrument and vocal), dance, magic, or circus arts, there are many ways to combine their love of arts with movement.
When showing your child how to juggle, start with easy objects such as beanbags (they won’t roll away when dropped!). Have your child work on throwing one in the air and catching it. Move to throwing the beanbag from one hand to the other. When they’ve got that mastered, add a second beanbag, one in each hand. Have them throw one in the air and when that one gets high enough, throw the other. Throw along with them and show them that you often drop a beanbag or two as well! Before you know it, they’ll be moving on to a third beanbag. And then balls, rubber chickens, and bowling pins. Note: if you’ve got extra young ones, this balloon juggling activity always goes over well!
2. Hula hoops
Hula hooping is not just for waists anymore (but that’s a great place to start)! Get your kids to try:
- spinning their hoop on their wrists (can they pass the hoop to their other wrist while keeping the hoop spinning?)
- spinning the hoop on one ankle while skipping through it with their opposite foot
- spinning a hoop on each arm
And here’s a list of 7 other things you can try with a hula hoop!
3. Music parades
Kids love marching and making noise (or is that just my kids?). Choose “instruments” from around your home. Bang a pot and a spoon. Fill an empty container with nuts or dried beans for shaking. Bang pot lids together. Use ribbons for twirling. Sing. Inside or out, kids will love performing for their siblings, parents, neighbours, or pets.
Homemade stilts will take your kids to new heights (see what I did there?). You’ll need a pair of beach pails, tin cans, or paint drums, and two lengths of cord or fine rope (one for each can). Drill or use a hammer and nail to make a small hole on either side of each can near the top. Thread the rope through each hole and pull the rope pieces up on either side of the can until they reach your child’s thigh level. Tie a knot at the top of the ends to make loops. Have your child stand on the cans and pull up on the loops as they walk. They may not see above the clouds but they will definitely love the feeling of being taller than they were!
5. Hacky sacks
Have your child drop the hacky sack and use the inside of their foot to kick the bag straight up. Keep practicing until they’re comfortable with kicking the sack straight up and catching it. Next, try doing the same with their other foot. Can your child drop the sack, kick it straight up, and catch it using the back of their foot? The outside of their foot? Their toes? Eventually, kids will be able to kick their sacks from foot to foot, back and forth with friends, and combine different kicks to perform really cool tricks. And if kicking isn’t their thing, here are a few other options.
6. Pogo stick
Kids will feel like they’re soaring when they hop on a pogo stick! Options include foam jumpers for the smaller kids in the family and pogo sticks designed for kids five and up. Some come with lights which flash with each jump or counters for keeping track of how many jumps your kids have made.
Many kids are fascinated by and curious about what makes things work. They ask questions about astronomy, computer technology, how things grow, electricity and magnetism, states of liquid, dinosaurs, outer space, anatomy, and more. Get your scientist out from behind their microscope or computer screen and keep their inquiring minds (and the rest of their bodies) active.
7. Boat builder
What makes things float instead of sink? Have kids build a boat out of loose parts from nature and home, and see if it can stay above water in a kiddie pool, bathtub, local fountain, pond, or lake (with parental supervision). Can your kids make a boat that will float? What toys can you place on the boat without it sinking?
8. Entomology (bugs!)
Kids will dig looking for bugs! There are so many varieties of bugs to search for and so many questions to ask. Do roly-poly bugs really roll into a ball? Can you catch lightning bugs in a jar? Can you count the spots on a ladybug before it flies away? Look under rocks, on the leaves of bushes, or dig in the mud to find various types. Look for ants and what they’re carrying on their backs. (Fun fact: ants can carry 10-50 times their body weight!)
9. Skipping stones
Skipping stones involves rocks and water, two things that kids already love to play with. On the shore of a large, calm lake, pond, or river, have your child find and throw a flat, smooth stone across the water so that it bounces. The aim is to see how many times their stone can skip before sinking. Techniques involve holding the stone between their thumb and middle finger palm-side up to release the stone on the water, using their non-dominant hand. Children can try using different weights or shapes of rocks, throwing when standing straighter or bending, or holding the rock different ways.
10. Reaction time tests
Your brain controls your reactions to things. Kids can play games to see how quickly they can catch something as it’s falling. Have one child stand directly in front of another while holding an object. Without letting the other know they’re going to drop it, have them let it go. How quickly can the other child catch it? This can be played with objects of various weight or size. Kids can measure how far the object dropped before they caught it and keep a record for each try.
11. Astronaut play
Kids love learning about outer space. Is there life on other planets? How can they become astronauts? To give them the tiniest sensation of being a moon walker, strap sponges on your kids’ feet and have them walk on pillows. Or give them cardboard boxes, and help—or let them work on their own—to build their own space ships.
12. Fort building
Get into nature and have your kids use all their engineering skills (whether or not they can name them as such) to build a fort. How should it be designed to keep upright? What elements can be used to keep it safe from the elements?
Many kids are tremendously devoted to protecting the earth now and for the future. Keep them learning and moving with actions they can use to help preserve the air and water, and to protect animals, plants, and humans.
It’s well-known that plants, trees, bushes, and flowers improve the quality of the air we breathe. Join in with your kids at a local tree planting group, plant vegetables, and flowers in your garden, on your balcony, or at a local community garden. Plus, here are some other tips and tricks for gardening together.
Mix the Swedish term “plocka up” (pick up) with jogging and you get plogging! Picking up garbage keeps plastic out of waterways and keeps the earth cleaner and greener. Grab the kids, the neighbours, gloves for everyone, closed-toe shoes, a couple of garbage bags, and pick a safe route through your neighbourhood or around your local park. Remind your kids to avoid dangerous pieces of litter such as needles, glass, and batteries. Maybe you could take the kids to their schoolyard to see what they can pick up there too.
15. Pick your own fruits and veggies
Head to a local farm or orchard and discover how great it is to dig, pick, and get the absolute freshest produce you can.
16. Clean air actions
Chat with your kids about air pollution and see if they can come up with ideas to cut down on it. Wanting healthier air to breathe will inspire your kids to walk, bike, or scooter to school instead of being driven.
17. Loose part toys builder
Kids who are in the know about environmental issues are aware of the need to cut down on plastics. Encourage your kids to search in nature for loose parts for play instead of purchasing plastic toys. It’s amazing what games and fun kids can devise out of a pile of sticks, a basket of stones, a group of pinecones, a pail of sand, or, and especially, mud!
There’s so much in nature that kids are interested in. Take your children on a hike and observe birds, flowers, and insects. Find stumps of trees and count the rings to discover the trees’ age. Hop over tree roots. See if you can spot the tallest tree. Look for nests. Getting into nature and seeing it in all its splendour will inspire your kids even further to keep it clean and protected. And if you have little ones who aren’t the biggest fans of hiking, here are 8 ways to make hiking more fun.
The crafter/fine artist
For many kids, the process of designing and creating is a major activity in their lives. Whether it’s through painting, drawing, sculpting, decoupaging, crafting, or fashion design, kids dream and see the world in a magical way.
19. Sidewalk chalk
There are so many activities to keep your creative kid engaged with chalk. Your child can unleash their inner Monet or Warhol and gift their neighbours with beautiful designs up and down the street. Have your child create a spectacular hopscotch board and play along with them. Encourage them to make a maze to travel through on their trykes or scooters. Have one child lie down on the ground and have another trace around their body. Voila—a mannequin for dressing with (chalk) clothes and accessories. And here are some more fun active chalk games to try out.
20. Rubbing art
Rubbing art is kind of like recreating an item without a photograph or scanner and it’s an awesome way to get kids engaged and moving. While it’s mostly done with leaves, rubbings can be made with all kinds of objects.
Find a cool leaf and place it on a hard surface. Cover the leaf with a piece of white paper (printer paper is a great choice). Make sure the paper is secure by using a piece of tape at either end or holding the paper for your kid. Using the side of a crayon or pastel, gently rub across the surface of the leaf. Kids will be amazed to see the leaf recreated! Find different types of leaves. Use different colours of crayons. If you walk around the neighbourhood, what else can they find that magthey want to make a rubbing of? Maybe the bark of a tree? An engraving? There are so many items that your kids can bring to life.
21. Bubble pop art
Bubbles aren’t just for popping! Mix two parts washable paint with three parts bubble solution. Lay paper on grass or hang a tarp, an old sheet, or a large piece of paper on a wall or fence. Provide your kids with different types of bubble wands, and a few tubs or cups of bubble solution with different colours. Have your kids blow bubbles from close up or far away to make paintings that will blow (pun intended) their minds!
22. Nature collage
Collages are the piecing together of multiple items to make a new one. People often use photos or letters they’ve clipped from magazines and glue them onto paper to make designs. Take a walk around your neighbourhood, in a park, or on a hiking trail to find items your kids can use to make a nature collage. Can they find feathers, leaves, maple keys, or shells?
23. Fly swatter painting
Provide your kids with fly swatters and washable paint and watch them create spectacular designs. Spread paper on the grass or hang it on a fence. Have your kids dip a fly swatter in the paint and have them flick the paint on to the paper. They’ll be the new Jackson Pollock on the block!
24. Rock statues
Rocks can be piled together in so many ways to make wonderful statues. Go on a rock walk and find rocks of all shapes and sizes. Can your kid design a rocket ship with their rocks? A mountain? A tall tower? A creation with no form at all? There are no limits to a kid’s creative mind.
So maybe your child isn’t “sporty.” But that doesn’t mean they can’t be active. Learn alongside them about what it is they love and let their interests guide you to incorporate them into action.