We all want our kids to exercise, and most of us could add more activity to our days, too. Making physical activity a family affair is a great way to achieve both those goals at once.
Creating a Family Activity Chart is an easy way to plan activities, motivate the family to get active, and track your family’s progress toward 60 minutes of active play every day
Erin Kirkland, founder of the website AKonthego.com
, says the best way to get started is to keep it simple. There are some free activity charts you can download online, or create your own as a family craft project (see example 1
2, or example
Then, identify time slots for activities, such as taking a walk, playing sports or doing active chores. Choose times of the day or week when everyone is most likely to stick to the schedule. Then work together as a family to set an easy, reachable goal.
“If you go too big to start, it becomes impossible to meet your goal, and that makes it less fun,” Kirkland said. “Set a simple goal for your family to start with, like after dinner every day, we are all going to go for a walk for 15 or 20 minutes.”
But Kirkland emphasizes that not all activity needs to be pre-planned. Spontaneous play time counts as activity as well.
“Grab a soccer ball, grab a football, or just take a little walk together,” Kirkland said. “Even something as simple as playing tag. Kids don’t play a lot like they used to and I think family play time together is very important in building and maintaining those relationships. As adults, we lose some of that sense of play and I think it is important to show your kids you can still play and have fun, and it encourages them to do it as well.”
Once your family is in the habit of being active together, you can plan longer or more intensive activities for a few days a week. None of your family activities need to be costly, either. You can choose to walk or ride bikes to school or the bus stop; use local, low-cost, or free places like public parks, baseball fields, and basketball courts; attend family nights or other physical activity events at your child’s school or local community centers; and bring along balls, kites, jump ropes, or other items that can be used for active play whenever you leave the house.
“Stop and look at what you’ve got right around you,” she said. “Don’t feel like you have to make a big monetary investment, because the important thing is to spend time together and be active and the rewards will pay off big-time.”
“I would encourage families to find a charitable organization that needs yard work and make a regular weekly or monthly commitment of time,” she said. “Find out if a senior citizen neighbor needs house cleaning or snow removal, or you could volunteer to walk dogs at the animal shelter. The kids will be proud of their contributions at the same time that they will be active and it sets the stage for more than one lifelong healthy habit!”