Wheelbarrow Races, Silly Walks and More Fun Ways to Get Kids Moving

In the sweet old summertime, are your kids stuck to screens indoors? It’s time to get those little couch potatoes up and running. So we checked in with youth fitness specialist Sandy Mahoney to learn creative ways for parents to get  kids moving.

It’s not as hard as you may think, she says, if you customize your approach. “Some kids like to be challenged or seek out competition, while others need greater motivation,” she says. “But all kids from athletic to non-athletic like to have fun.”

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Mahoney has made it part of her life’s work to get kids of all ages moving. She  tailors her activities according to their responses each day. “What motivates and excites kids one day may not the next. So I know to be flexible with my options and allow them to have an active role in what they want to participate in,” she says. Her advice to parents: ”Lead by example and get creative.” Some of her suggestions:

  • Get kids to an outdoor track. Challenge them to find different ways to get around the track—without walking forward. They can skip, walk backward, shuffle sideways, walk like a bear, or squat and then jump. They can have a wheelbarrow race. These are all great ways to move their bodies and they require no equipment.

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  • Try games. Mahoney suggests two: balloon volleyball and a relay race with props and silly movements. Each has hidden fitness components. Balloon volleyball can be made more challenging by standing on one foot. A wacky relay race can involve an easy fitness component such as 10 kangaroo jumps. Use your imagination.
  • Create your own obstacle course. Try conventional and unconventional uses of hurdles, large dice, hula hoops, beach balls, swim noodles, bosu balls and rope ladders. You give your kids an opportunity to express themselves, work together, and create their own fun. It’s all part of fitness.

The best way to motivate kids, Mahoney points out, is through example—and praise. “Make a big deal out of small successes, not necessarily winning,” she says. “Riding bikes as a family, going for nature walks, tossing a ball around, joining after school fitness/sport programs, and playing with them are all ways to increase physical activity and decrease sedentary time.”

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