How can our family be more physically active?

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Commissary Right now we have an active four-year-old daughter. We’re in a bit of a jogging-with-stroller, biking-with-burley rut. We have recently started kayaking but would love to get some other suggestions — especially anything that allows the kiddo to be more than cargo and still gets the adult heart rate up.

It’s really difficult to say, “Hey, let’s go be active as a family and you, child, let me strap you into this seat and make you hold still!” What do fellow offbeat families do to keep themselves active together? — Alaina

Do you have suggestions? What activities does your family engage in together?

Comments on How can our family be more physically active?

  1. We recently bought a trail-a-bike (used) and our 5 year old daughter LOVES it. It hooks on to the back of the adult’s bike, and the child rides on their own bike seat, with their own handlebars, and their own pedals. But the adult does the balancing work. I think it is great practice for riding a bike without training wheels, which will hopefully happen for her soon.

  2. I do a weekly track workout with a large local running club. My daughter(4) is an unofficial mascot that tags along and plays in the infield while Momma and Daddy try not to die. When we do our warm-ups and cool-downs we have her run along for a lap or two. Sometimes in between sets she takes off around the track. Some nights she runs over a mile (her ped has said it is fine…if they want to run let them. They will let you know when they are tired and sore, so never force running at this age). Everyone out there is awesome and patient with her and she’s had to learn to stay off the track during sets the hard way. I’ve found that the “bad” side is that she’s getting stronger and faster which is really hard to keep up with some days.

    • We do this, too. I bring a couple of balls to the track and let them have at it in the grass field in the middle of the track. For a while I was running with them in the jogging stroller, but this makes everyone way happier.

  3. We take my nephew to the local school playground quite often. Most playground equipment is large enough to allow for adult play as well as kid play (yes, even slides!) and it’s quite a workout!

    Most elementary schools have open play areas that are accessible after hours and include nearby sports fields (which are great for “endless running around” types of play, my nephew’s favorite!).

  4. My parents took us hiking at Valley Forge park. We could check out the stream, climb around rocks, run up hills, and get all excited at finding quartz. Streams are great for in the summer especially. Picnics with family and friends can give way to big group games, and don’t forget about kicking the soccer ball around in the evening.

  5. My significant other and I are just starting to get more active. Recently, we took a white-water rafting trip and paddled along the slow parts but the kids didn’t do much. We are trying to ease into activity, as we both suffer from joint damage (his knees from surgery, my whole body from a disorder), and we’re taking his nine-year-old son on a nature hike with our three cameras to get in exercise as well as foster his appreciation for art and beauty. We are all really looking forward to it!

  6. We go orienteering. The short, easy course (the “white” course) is typically about a mile. We carry pre-walkers in a baby Bjorn or a Kelty, and walkers get to trot along and be carried over hard parts if necessary. Toddlers are able to help spot the orange-and-white controls, and preschoolers can start learning the maps.

    Generally we meet up with friends and the more aerobically fit sometimes go off alone to do the harder courses, or else they carry the little ones to get more exercise. The less-fit do the white course with the children (and dogs). Usually it’s a decent-but-not-strenuous workout for me (a mile hike with some hills), and an EXHAUSTING one for my toddler, so that works out just about right.

    • Orienteering! I did that way back in elementary school and I’ve been dying to try it again. Do you do it with an organized group? How does it work?

  7. Although it is an indoor activity (well, you COULD take it outside), we do music and movement. I teach preschool and we do music and movement for 20 minutes every day. I introduce old dances (the twist will wear you out!) and workouts! Jumping jacks in with the twist or pretending to jump rope with the monkey…they will get your heart pumping!
    Even follow the leader (they follow you…you can act like an animal, run, or act silly) can get your kids wore out!

  8. my family loves to go geocaching.
    The baby rides in the ergo (providing me with an extra workout) and the 3 year old walks for the most part (occasionally riding on daddy’s shoulders). My eldest calls it “treasure hunting” and loves when we find a cache with something to swap. Best part is you can tailor it to how much activity you want to do, for example we have been on big hikes with lots of hill or quick “park and grabs” that were just a few blocks from our house.

  9. We occasionally take my two-year-old twins hiking in the Oakland Hills. We’ve also had fun going to enclosed soccer fields and kicking the ball around and letting the kids chase it. I’m also exploring some Mom & Me yoga classes where the children can do yoga alongside me, not just get scooped off to a play area. Otherwise there’s a lot of indoor dancing, running “laps” around our apartment as I chase them. Also, I figure that if I push the stroller up and down hills and end up at a playground, I’ve already had my workout and get to sit down while they run around for a while…

  10. I’m not a momma but want to say KUDOS to all of you getting active with your kiddos! Overall my family was very sedentary, and I wish we’d gotten off the couch more. It wasn’t until I was out on my own that I learned exercise can be fun and make you feel healthier. Wish I had discovered this at a young age. 🙂

  11. we’re really lucky to have a frisbee golf (frolf) course in our area. i can’t wait until my kid is big enough to explore it! and you can totally frolf on any nature trail. have your kid pick the targets (a tree, bush or trash can) and start chucking discs.
    a friend of mine with 2 kids (4 and 7) takes them on “color walks”. grab a camera or just your cell phone, pick a color and explore your ‘hood for items in the color your kids have chosen taking photos along the way.

  12. Similar to geocaching – there’s letterboxing. My little one isn’t walking yet, but I’m looking forward to doing this (we did it with K-eighth graders at a summer/day camp where I once worked and all of the kids loved it).

    You go to and follow clues (most take a light hike, but the website gives you a general idea of what to expect) to hidden bags/boxes – the ‘letterboxes’.

    You bring along a rubber stamp and your own notebook (could have one for the family or one per child, I suppose). The hidden ‘letterbox’ contains a rubber stamp, a notebook and a stamp pad. Your family stamps their notebooks with the found stamp, and then stamps the found notebook with their rubber stamps.

    Letterboxes are hidden all over the country – so I imagine a family could create quite a passport of treasured memories from trips together!

  13. We’re not the most active family, but I’m trying to get more active! We live close to a playground, and spend a lot of time there when the weather is fine because it’s an easy walk. We try to play a lot of running/chasing/catching games with the kids while we’re there; the big kids really like to get away, and the smallest likes to be caught. It can be as active for the grownups as we make it! Still, we don’t do it often enough, and I’d love for us all to be more active.

  14. Omg – LETTERBOXING! It’s basically a treasurehunt in the woods. Free, fun, totally kid-friendly… And also a great way to find new places to hike.

  15. What about just putting on some of your favorite music and dancing around? From what I’ve seen, little kids universally love to dance, and it’s good for adults to break out and be silly sometimes too 🙂 it’s a great workout, boosts your mood, exposes little one to different types of music. Also it’s free and you can do it anywhere you can access music.

  16. This is gonna sound crazy, but take the journey with me here.. Hula Hooping. All it takes to make one or a few is some irrigation piping, electrical/duct tape, and the appropriate tools for cutting the piping. It can be a fun project to make their own as you make yours and then go out to the park or back yard a hoop away! For you, you can add some weight to the hoop or make it smaller to work harder (if that’s what you are going for) and kids love it. There are a million tutorials online to make everything from full size thick ones to foldable ones. A friend of mine does it with her just turned 5 year old and has a blast.

  17. we have a YMCA family membership, so our little one goes to an area with other kids his age for a little while while we workout and plays games and stuff. then, we all go to the pool together and swim for a little while. we also go hiking as a family every now and then and canoeing. we have a lot of fun! 🙂

  18. My husband is a rock climbing instructor, so we plan on teaching our little girl how to rock climb when she is around 3-4. Indoor or outdoor, it is really a good workout, and kids do really well at it since they’re so light and flexible! The tiny little harnesses and rock climbing shoes are really adorable too =)

  19. If she’s over the Burley cart and not quite ready for a trail-a-bike, look into a Weehoo trailer. It allows kids to sit comfortably and safely harnessed, but they can still help with pedaling. They go up to a fairly high weight limit, too, so even once she’s able to ride a bike herself, it can be used if you want to go on longer rides than her stamina might allow.

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