Expert advice on how to help your kids GET and STAY fit while having a little FUN!

Meet  Erin Murray – Move and Learn teacher at  St. Luke’s Little Saints – Presbyterian Church

The New Year is here, and with that many of us focus on starting out 2019 with the goal of improved fitness and health.  Diet, exercise, meditating and twisting ourselves into a state of eternal (well at least for 15 minutes) bliss is definitely on the brain.  But this year, adults aren’t the only ones who should be focusing on fitness in the coming year, the kids can get in on the goal setting as well! 

With that in mind, we’ve enlisted the help of Erin Murray, fitness teacher with Move and Learn at St. Luke’s Little Saints Presbyterian Church Preschool in Dunwoody, to help with some go-to moves and advice on how to put a little FUN in fitness for the kiddos. I asked Murray – the fit and active mom / teacher – some questions on how to help get our kids off devices, computers, TVs, (anything with a screen!) and move their entire bodies instead of just their tiny fingers.  Here are some of Murray’s top tips, as well as some sample exercises to help you and your kids reach your fitness goals!

Q:  Erin, what strategy do you suggest we parents try to help get our kids active and outdoors? 

A It’s a good idea to try to have 10 – 30 minutes set aside in your day for active play. The key is to keep it easy, fun, simple, and have options for everyone so that it can become a routine. Anything from simple games of hide and seek, a scavenger hunt, bike riding (or any riding toy), tossing or kicking a ball, and side walk chalk games like hop scotch.  As for getting them outdoors, personally I try to let my kids play outside if the weather is nice right after we pick my son up from the school bus. It’s good to let them have free play outside after being in school all day.

Q: Speaking of outdoors, can you recommend outdoor activities / exercise the whole family can easily set up and enjoy in their own back yard or driveway?

A: Creativity and focusing on what your kids/family are interested in is the key. Themes are always fun, and you would be surprised at how many things you have in your own house that can be used for active play outdoors! My favorite for all skill levels is jumping contests: collect a variety of different sized stuffed animals or even blocks and see who can jump over them, making the items higher each round.  Relay races are also super fun and easy. Creating relays helps get the more creative kid or ‘maker’ excited about exercise and can allow for team work.

Q:  Can you name a game that is good for all levels and ages to increase fitness?

A:  Not everyone is going to be super coordinated, so a game of tag football is not going to be the best for all kids at all ages. Find something everyone can enjoy and feel good about. Balloons are always a favorite. Both little and big kids love bouncing a balloon around either solo or in a group. I dare you not to smile while bopping a balloon around. You can make a simple paddle with a paper plate and craft stick or use your hand.

Q:  What would be a good goal for a family to set for outdoor activity / exercise?

A:  Set reasonable expectations. Maybe don’t start with a 10 mile hike… start small.  About 20 minutes is usually the duration that works for most. When the kiddos are older, you should include them in asking what sorts of things they like to do, would like to try, or places they would like to go to get activity in.  Everyone benefits from fresh air and movement.

Q:  We live in a very active community. Can you suggest a few fun ways or places in our community for kids to get active?

A:  Neighborhood walks (or bike rides) are always a good idea. Turning it into a neighborhood scavenger hunt is even better. Have a list of items to look for on your walk, like a house with a red door, a street sign, colors, shapes, animals etc. My family also loves the Dunwoody Nature Center. It has so much to offer in terms of looking for things in nature, hiking, or just enjoying the playground. Also, hunts are fun for everyone and not just for Easter! We did a turkey feather hunt around Thanksgiving using craft feathers and a bucket with pictures of a turkey taped on it!

Q:  To keep our kids fit, what should we model as parents when it comes to diet and fitness? 

A:  Model good behavior, offer opportunities, and keep things positive.  Both exercise and food should be a positive experience that kids enjoy, understand, and feel the benefits of. Encourage kids to try new activities and foods, even if it is just once or twice. If it’s a no go, try it again at a later time and encourage good choices. Also, allow your kids to work out with you even if it is only for one or two minutes.  It lets your kids know exercising is important in your family.