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By GreatSchools Staff
Remember the good old days when kids used to run outside to play hopscotch, baseball or jump rope? Keeping fit was just a natural part of having fun. With the help of staff and youth organizations across the country, Rose Kennedy has gathered a variety of old and new games and activities into a book brimming with fitness activities, The Family Fitness Fun Book: Healthy Living for the Whole Family (Healthy Living Books, 2005).
The key to fun family fitness, she says, is to "Keep it simple and fun. If it is not something you can easily do all the time, you won't do it." She recommends not discussing weight issues or health benefits. You are more likely to encounter resistance if you say, "This will be good for you." Chances are if the activities are fun, everyone in the family will look forward to doing them, and the health benefits will be a natural result.
Family fitness night. Kennedy suggests having a regular time during the week for family fitness activities but cautions families to make it an "add-on" activity rather than a substitute for watching TV. Why not let the kids stay up a half-hour later on family fitness night? That way it becomes something special, a privilege that they will look forward to.
Kennedy likes games that are a little goofy, that involve some mental strategy, and that can involve everyone in the family, no matter what age. "When you can use your brain, too, you don't have to be the biggest, strongest or fastest to win," she notes. Here are some of her favorites:
TV tag. A variation on tag. Everyone runs around trying to tag each other. To avoid being tagged, you can squat down anywhere and yell out the name of your favorite TV show. A variation would be to yell out the name of your favorite book or book character.
Sardines. A variation on hide and seek. This game can be played inside or out. One person hides. Everyone else tries to find him. When you find the person who is hiding, you hide with him. The last one left looking gets to be the one to hide in the next round of the game.
Capture the flag. This is a great classic game for family or neighborhood gatherings. Mix different age groups on each team, if possible. Have at least three people on each team. Divide a large area into two equal halves (best at a park or large backyard). The players on each team work together to hide their flag (could be a rag, shirt or any object) in their team's territory. Designate a "prison" area on each side of the field. Players try to find the other team's flag and bring it back to their side of the field without being tagged. If they get tagged, they must wait in the prison area for a member of their team to come "free" them. The game ends when one team captures the opposing team's flag."Dads sometimes start off playing this game reluctantly," says Kennedy, "but they never finish reluctantly."
Play ball. Kennedy says she likes to keep a pink bouncy ball in her car because she can always pull it out to play catch at a rest stop on the highway or at the school playground while waiting to pick up one of her children.
Hit the stick. Another quick game to play with a ball is Hit the Stick. Put a stick in the middle of two sidewalk squares. Take turns trying to hit the stick with the ball. If you turn the stick over, you get two points.
Stone teacher. This is a good game to play on a staircase at an office building or at a school. One person is the Stone Teacher. She holds a stone in one hand and faces the group lined up on the steps below her. One person walks up to her and tries to guess which hand has the stone. If she guesses correctly, she moves up a step. When she reaches the step where the Stone Teacher is, she gets to take her place.
Walk the plank. Draw a line on the ground or floor, or put a piece of rope down. Take turns trying to walk on the line. Try walking backwards, with eyes closed or looking into binoculars that are upside down. This game is good for improving your balance.
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