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Making fitness a family affair

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By GreatSchools Staff

Other old-fashioned fitness

Have a hula hoop contest. Who can keep their hula hoop swirling the longest?

Jump rope. Did you know that jumping rope started out as an activity for boys in the United States? When people started migrating from the farms to the cities, the activity became popular with girls as well. Boys tended to do fancy tricks (trick jumps, crossovers, double jumping, and peppers) while girls made up rhymes and songs. So let there be no excuses from boys who think jumping rope is just for girls.

Start out slowly, jumping 30 hops, just clearing the rope, and add a few more hops as you get comfortable.

Your rope should be long enough to reach from the floor to your armpits when the rope is folded in half. In addition, ball bearings in the handles are preferable.

See who can jump the longest or bring out the old jump rope songs and rhymes. Remember this one?

A my name is Alice
And my husband's name is Arthur,
We come from Alabama,
Where we sell artichokes.
B my name is Barney
And my wife's name is Bridget,
We come from Brooklyn,
Where we sell bicycles.
C my name is _________
And my husband's name is ___________
We come from __________
Where we sell ___________.

Or find more rhymes here.

Play hopscotch, handball or stickball. All these games require nothing more than simple materials: chalk, a stick, a ball. For rules, variations and events, check

Keep a family fitness journal

Kennedy suggests that one of the children in the family be appointed to keep a log or chart of your family fitness activities. It can include what games you played each week, what your heart rate was before and after, whether you improved your time or number of spins with the hula hoop, for example. The log becomes one more way to get your family to commit to fitness activities.

Comments from readers

"On your next walk with your kids or family compete to see who can fill a grocery sack of garbage first. Talk with them about how good it feels to clean up our world and get exercise while doing it. Then whoever gets the most or fills theirs first gets out of helping with the dish's, setting the table or picks out the book, T.V., game, whatever it is your going to do that night. My daughters favorite is getting to help me make dinner. Go figure she doesn't realize it's being helpful. She just knows she's getting one on one attention with mom. :)"
"Have you heard about pickleball - the number one activiies? It is a simple game played on a badminton size court, two paddles and a whiffle ball. Everyone can have a degree of success almost mmediately in playing the game. We have written two books - Drilling for Success in Pickleball and Teaching for Success in Picklebal which would be beneficial in teaching this activity. Check out our blog site for more information. Thanks Sandy and Mary"
"'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. ' I don't think it is a good idea to let kids go to bed late to have a 'fitness' activity. Irregular sleeping schedule does more harm than good to kids. Doing special things should not affect normal sleep schedule and parents should not encourage kids to think sleep late is a privilege to earn. "
"my daughter is very smart. she catches on to things very quickly. the problem is that she does very poorly on her test. i notice she gives answers without much forethought or without really trying to understand the instructions, thus making allot of unnecessary mistakes. please help!!! i fear she is going to fail 3RD grade because of this."
"your ideas are great and simle too....some of them we have started implementing such as to walk in the playgroud ...where i teach my 4 yea old daughter cycling without supporting wheels and my 2 and half year old son run after us ...which is such a great pleasure to refreshes us all from the daily routine activities..thanks rajni"
"I wanted to be a good role model for my daughter so I started training for triathlons when she was just 2 years old. My daughter is now 4. She takes swimming lessons and she rides her 2- wheel bike (with training wheels) 3 miles while I run beside her. I wear a heart rate moniter so I can see what a great workout I'm getting. I actually burned 517 calores in the 64 min. it took for us to make the 3- mile loop to our house. We even stop and play at the playground before heading home. My daughter loves it! Just last week, my daughter told me she wants to work at the gym when she grows up. I asked her what she wants to teach and she said, 'swimming.' Kids keep us young. Everybody should find being active more fun with kids around. "
"These family fitness ideas are wonderful. I can't wait for my kids to get home from school in order to try them out. The thing I like most is that your suggestions truly are simple and it just doesn't take much to create a fun and fit approach to parenting! Thank you! "
"This is great!!! I've been looking for ideas on how to get my children more active. I'm saving a copy of this article and placing an order for Rose Kennedy's book before the end of the night!!! "
"My son, aged 12, asked for a tether ball set for Christmas and we have gotten a lot of arm and shoulder exercise with this fun, and sometimes forgotten game."
"GREAT! I copied off the games - so many good ones."
"Lisa Rosenthal, Hi! Great article. I really think everyone needs to find more fitness activities to do. I am a member of the Unity Footbag Club & I appreciate the mention in your article about Footbag. If you know of anyone in your area that would like to learn more about Footbag please contact us through or under the club section. I am in Gilbert. We have members in the Phoenix and Tucson areas. Thanks much! "
"Hello, I really enjoyed your article and will incorporate it into our daily activities. Being a father of 7 year old triplets and 4 year old twins, I strive to do numerous outdoor activities in an effort to keep my children in shape and not have them just sitting around watching the TV. You gave me some really good ideas to try out and I will send you an update on how they worked with my children. Being recently separated and soon to be divorced, I have my children the majority of the time and enjoy spending time with them doing arts and crafts and anything outdoors. Thank you for the article and tips! Respectfully yours, Paul L. Carll"