Encouraging Toddler Fitness

Baby Boy at Farm

We hear a lot these days about overweight children and the ill effects of television and video games on the health of our children. Intellectual aspects aside, sitting around all day with the television on or even playing quietly with blocks or dolls can make it difficult for a toddler to burn off steam and burn off the calories he’s supposed to each day. Toddlers need exercise, and parents must find a way to encourage toddler fitness.

Toddler Fitness

While it seems we must get a gym membership or a treadmill to maintain optimum fitness, the same simply isn’t true for toddlers. If you turn a toddler loose with a garden hose, swim suit and bucket, he can run, skip, jump and play to the point where you are exhausted just watching him. This sort of activity is the ideal toddler fitness as it combines the fun and developmentally appropriate play with the physical activities your child needs to stay healthy.

Typical Toddler Activities

Most toddlers love to play outside. Unfortunately, in our busy lives we often neglect to find time to get our toddler outside or allow them time to move and explore free of a stroller or swing. As much as we might intent to take our child to the park every morning, there is often a handy, sometimes legitimate excuse. It might be raining, too cold, or too hot. The grocery store might be a necessary trip or the park excursion simply too much to handle on a day when the house needs scrubbing and mum needs a break.

There is nothing wrong with playing inside, and your toddler does not have to get to the park or even the backyard to stay fit. But he may need help discovering how much fun he can have moving and exercising indoors. Here are some ideas for both indoor and outdoor toddler fitness:

Tag or Chase

Take your toddler outside for a good run. Let him chase you (and catch you) and then take a turn chasing him. Be aware that running toddlers are clumsy, so stay within arm’s reach to catch him should he fall and run in the grass rather than on concrete.

Race

Racing is another toddler favorite. You can have a foot race and run along the sidewalk or you can both push a popper, play lawnmower, play stroller, or other item designed to help encourage movement.

Water Play

Turn on the sprinkler and pull out a wading pool and your toddler will have a field day. Jumping through the sprinkler and splashing in the pool will certainly burn off some energy.

Hopscotch

While most toddlers aren’t ready for the real game of hopscotch that you recall from childhood, they can jump from square to square. Draw some squares on the ground and just let them hop around. Demonstrate the routine a few times, and then let your toddler have a turn.

Climbing

A trip to the neighborhood jungle gym or park structure will give your toddler a chance to climb. Even the stairs in your home can give your toddler plenty of excitement and exercise. Remember to stay right behind your toddler as he climbs as he may overestimate his ability or lose his balance in a heartbeat.

Walking

Take a walk around the shopping center, nature trail or around the block. Toddler legs are so short even a single block and back of walking can wear them out. If the weather is miserable, head to an indoor shopping center or store to walk the aisles and window shop. Just don’t expect to try anything on or buy an item with a toddler on the loose.

Exploring

Head to a local nature trail or unfamiliar park and let your toddler have his head. Follow him closely to prevent danger, but let him poke under the trees, throw rocks in a stream (or ditch) and simply explore to his heart’s content.

Dancing

All toddlers seem to love music, and they love music even more if their parents are enthusiastic dancers. Turn on a toddler dance CD and start boogying. Not only will you burn a few calories, your toddler will dance right along with you making for a fun activity together.

Bubbles

Toddlers are attracted to bubbles as if by magic. Set up an inexpensive bubble machine or arm yourself with a bottle of bubbles and fill the room with bubbles. Watch your toddler run and jump to catch as many bubbles as possible either indoor or out.

Mimicking

Lead your toddler in some crazy poses and stretches. Then, let him lead you in some of his own. Start with a few stretches and leg lifts. Then march around the room together. Jump up and down a few times and spin like a top. You can burn off a bit of stress while your toddler has a great time exercising with his mum.

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