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How to Keep Up with the Kiddos--and Burn Off All That Energy

By , Hillary Copsey
The news is full of reports about childhood obesity and sedentary children with their bottoms glued to couch cushions and their eyes trained on electronic screens.
But for me right now, with a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, the reality is more like children bouncing off the walls and forcing me to get off my bottom to run around the yard with them. Young children are full of energy and can't help but want to master their new motor skills. The trick is harnessing and keeping that joy for movement and exercise.
Here's what we're hoping works:
Get yourself moving.
This is easier for my husband, who runs marathons, than for me. I would much rather sit with a good book than toss a ball. I never have been an athlete. My 4-year-old son, who is becoming quite a baseball player, informed me the other day that I needed to work on my throwing. He wasn't wrong. But the point here is that I was out there with the boys, running and throwing and catching. I used to pretend to be sick to get out of gym class, but now I'm out on the basketball court pretending to know how to dribble. It's worth looking foolish to let my boys know that everyone should get their bodies moving – and to hear their giggles whether I make or miss a shot.
Get them moving.
As I said, my husband sets an even better example for our boys. He takes them in the jogging stroller on his runs, and they see him stretching and doing sit-ups and push-ups every night. Because they want to be like their daddy, both boys will run through their versions of his exercises. The oldest has graduated from the stroller to actually running with or riding his bike alongside my husband during his post-run cool-down. Both boys have run kids' races and we have had each of them enrolled in swimming and other activities, as well as our usual backyard playtime.
Avoid screens.
My kids watch TV. Some Sunday afternoons or weekday evenings, we're all tired and cranky and I need to get something done and then the cartoons come on. But most of the time it's off. While I'm fixing dinner, I send the boys outside, or a let them chase the dog around the living room. On weekends, we go to parks or visit the beach (we live in Florida). We take walks or play catch. If I set them in front of the TV, they're usually doing flips off the couch within minutes anyway, so instead of fighting their energy, I try to use it and burn it off.
Have the equipment.
We have a basket of balls in the garage, another one in the playroom, and still another one in the backyard. We have bats and hula hoops, bikes and racquets. We have a sandbox in the backyard and a basketball hoop in our driveway. My boys have the usual mix of noisy plastic toys, too, but it's balls they love the most – which is fine with me, because it's those simple toys that get them moving. Balls and other sporting equipment is cheaper than electronics--and you can often pick it up at yard sales or children's resale shops, too.
Educate them.
You don't need to lecture your preschooler on the dangers of obesity or rail on your teenager about the necessity to exercise. But starting at an early age, you should give your child basic information about their body. Our boys, for example, know that fruits and vegetables help their bodies grow and running and exercise help make their bodies strong. Our 4-year-old is starting to learn that if he wants to be really good at something – whether it's learning his letters or learning to bat or pitch – then he needs to practice every day. And because he knows that, he's the one asking to go outside before dinner to play catch and fetching stacks of books to read before bed.
Encourage them.
It wasn't until I was writing this that I realized how much praise we give the kids when they throw or run or turn a somersault and how little they get from us when they're watching TV or playing with one of their toy computers. It's probably no wonder that's what want to do. In all seriousness, though, we try to encourage them to develop their bodies just like their minds. We gush over them when they learn their ABCs or figure out how to work a tough puzzle, and we exclaim when they learn to toss a ball straight or figure out how to climb the tallest ladder at the park.
I've never been an athlete. It wasn't important in my family and I had enough people tell me enough times that I wasn't good at it, that I just gave up. Eventually, I stopped running on the playground and started playing sick in gym class. My kids are the ones who taught me to get my body moving again, and I hope to return the gift by teaching them to never let their bodies stop moving.

What's your favorite way to burn off your kids' energy? 

Hillary Copsey is a newspaper features editor in Florida with experience writing about everything from population trends to health-care issues. As the mother of two boys, she also is versed in searching for daycares, cooking healthy dinners on the fly and playing with trucks. She co-writes the blog Not raising brats. She writes about parenting for dailySpark and


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BLOND1E 4/9/2021
Thanks Report
ERIN_POSCH 9/20/2020
thanks for sharing Report
EVILCECIL 9/6/2020
great, thanks. Report
Love this! I have 2 young boys too and I love playing with them! Report
Nice story. My 7 y/o wears me out. I wish there was a Sparkpeople exercise category for "bouncing off walls with your kids". Report
I can relate to this article aswell. And it's not until now that I understand that kids are kids and need to be active. I can't just sit them in front of the TV to keep them quiet. They need to be running and playing so now I go outside with them and watch them ride their bikes and chase after them..... Report
Definitely can relate to this article I have a 7 month old and a 3 yr old and sometimes I go walking on the beach walk way and my 3 yr old helps push or she's the one to say to me mommy you need to do your Leslie workouts and she tries to do them with me, I gotta be the fit one in this house one day my husband will join in too kudos to your husband Report
I also have a 4 and a 2 year old, girl and boy. We like to have dance parties after dinner. I just crank the iPod and we all get silly in the living room. Now that the weather is nice we like to play outside. It is an inspiration to me to see them master new skills, like throwing or riding the trike. I also have a small vegetable garden, and let them help me. Additionally, they are more likely to eat the vegies they grow. Report
I love this article, but it the link to click for sparkpoints isn't working! Report
Yesterday I was bemoaning the demise of our mini tramp... with rain streaming out of the sky, no school on Mondays for my preschooler and a newborn. I wanted more than anything to give him something to DO that would let me sit and nurse the baby while he did something other than play video games (educational, at least... his math improved yesterday!) but, I told my hubby last night we are getting something for him to DO inside on days like yesterday. I'm hoping this summer that he will be able to join me and the babe on my runs on his bike or scooter. Last summer, we tried, but he hadn't mastered them well enough to do that. Report
I was just like you and after 3 years with SP I have just started running, which I hated! I still don't love it but I like the feeling of accomplishment that comes afterward. I pat myself on the back.
Last year I was taping my ankle before dance class and my husband said that I was a true athlete now! No one had ever called me that and it was such high praise for me. It's not just the kids that like encouragement. Report
My boys have so much energy, sometimes it overwhelms me. Its funny but i never seriously thought about going out with them and using their energy to help me keep moving. Just another perk to joining sp. Every day i learn something new. So this weekend i will go out side and play with them. They love the basketball court. thanx for the inspiration. Report
I completely agree. Both my boys are physical and active - even the 8 month old who can't do much. I'm not telling them the best way to stay fit and healthy, but rather just doing those things, and either encouraging the eldest to exercise with me, or go out and play with them both. Report
Wonderful article & great reminders for me! Report