1. Follow the leader
“We have what’s called the power hour at our house,” says Sarah Duyker, a Vancouver-based mom of two and Bar Method instructor (it’s a class that combines interval training and isometrics). “We will all be firefighters or superheroes and take turns as the ‘leader’ or ‘fire chief’ and guide each other through drills like putting out a fire, climbing the ladder (a.k.a. stairs) and going through tunnels.” You can increase the difficulty by timing each round.
2. Build a fit fort
No playground? No worries — transform your living room into a fort and encourage your warriors to climb through. “Parents have to be willing to play too,” says Nicole Christen, a mother of three from Abbotsford, BC, who uses furniture, blankets and pillows to construct their castles. “We’ll dress up in Halloween costumes and pretend we’re fighting off imaginary creatures,” she says. (Boxes and tents work too.)
3. Pick up sticks
“A rainy day certainly doesn’t stop a great family game of Mini-sticks,” says Jolene d’Entremont, a yoga teacher and mother of three from Halifax. The basement match usually has one parent protecting the net, with two kids fighting it out for the ball while the other parent plays referee (you can take turns at this). Push the furniture to the side and clear out all breakables; the basement will take a beating. “We have the black marks and dents on the walls to prove it,” adds Jolene proudly.
4. Get your game on
Video games don’t have to be a vice. “The new generation of active video games involve much more body movement, so they increase energy expendi-ture,” says Jean-Philippe Chaput, leading researcher at the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa. Opt for games that engage your entire body, such as Adrenalin Misfits (Kinect) and Dance Dance Revolution (Wii), and make sure you have ample room to move, for better calorie burning. However, studies show kids eat more while playing video games, so be sure to swap junk food for healthy snacks.
5. Boot camp blast
Amanda Driscoll, a mother of two from Peterborough, Ont., sets up sweat-inducing stations for her kids in the basement. “We partner up for sit-ups, I teach them yoga poses, or my husband takes turns wrestling with the kids. It’s an insane workout,” she says. Other options: Try one minute each of shuttle runs, jumping jacks and knee-ups, and count how many your kids can crank out in 60 seconds. Set a timer and when the buzzer sounds, move to the next station.
6. Shake your booty
“We love music and silly dancing,” says Michelle Paradis, a mother of two and founder of Baby Busy mother-and-child dance classes in Calgary. “The kids love that we scoop them up, dip them down and twirl them around.” Up the fun factor: Turn off the lights and try a dance party in the dark with flashlights and glow sticks.
7. Thrill of the chase
You can’t beat a game of chase, especially with the wee ones. Add a pre-chase countdown to build anticipation (that way they learn their numbers too) and make like a monster to make it more entertaining. Rrooaarr! As kids get older, transition to games of tag.
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And don’t forget the healthy snacks!