From even before I had kids I knew several key points that would become the cornerstones of my parental approach. I feel very passionate about my kids seeing themselves as unique (like most parents) but in that uniqueness I wanted them to understand what it was like to develop individual skills and interests before engaging in the big wide world of pee-wee sports. We chose to skip the pee-wee games and guide our kids towards self-confidence using self-discovery and independent activity development. That meant family fitness activities. I know this is not for everyone, but for us-our kids getting down and dirty means playing in the mud, dancing in the rain, and walking in our woods searching for deer tracks and turkey feathers. I believe whole heartily that this is the foundation of childhood and developing into an independent-thinking adult. Yes, that’s right, family fitness is a foundation for our kids.
And within those independent activities, I wanted to be able to spend as much time with them as possible because there will come a day that they don’t think I’m top dog and will want to join the other team. But from the start, the team we wanted them to know they are on first is team “Krebs”.
Fitness is essential to me, and family fitness is even more important. The idea of keeping my kids active might not be what you are thinking because my suggestions won’t reference tee-ball, soccer, or dance. My suggestions are practical. They are beneficial, hopefully, to celebrate the little things because the little things are the foundation for your child’s future and who they will become as an adult and maybe one day as a parent.
Every movement matters.
In our house movement is super important. Now that my kids are school-aged, I recognize the extended periods of sitting and studying mean we need to prioritize movement once school activities are complete! I try to have them soak up every hour of daylight outside possible: jumping on the trampoline, climbing on the playset, chasing chickens, riding bikes, and making up games. And as easy as it is to send the kids outside, when you make an effort to go out with them they are not only more likely to explore, but it will make an impression that parents play too. I want to encourage you that if you tend to be a “go play outside parent” to set a timer for 20 minutes and go play with them, and then see what happens. I bet you that 20 minutes will quickly turn into an hour, because in the grand scheme of things- dinner can wait.
Family fitness walks.
Those in town who know me will vouch to say that they have seen me with my red stroller, two dogs, and two kids on bikes all over town. I need my movement, and because I work from home means I’m with my kids almost 24/7, so where I go, they go. And this has its perks. I used to fight for my personal time (I still get it but in other ways), but then I realized that the message I would be sending to my kids was exercise and fitness for adults is always separate. And after ten years of following this philosophy, I can honestly say it has paid off. I have gotten so much out of our walks together and I know I am planting the seed for years to come; plus, my kids love coming, they love my presence and I theirs. I use this time to talk to them about health, staying active as well as singing and playing eye spy. This is one of my most cherished non-winter experiences.
Family chores can be fun.
We have a very large backyard and woods and with all the tree cover a light breeze will drop tree limbs and black walnuts in an instant. My husband and I are not able to pick up this all ourselves and if we did we’d have no time for anything else. Staying active is super important to me and my family, but learning life skills is too. I know that when my kids become adults the impressions I set on them as kids will heavily impact the choices and decisions they make in their adult years. Picking up sticks is always a family affair, and I have to be honest they don’t always love it, but the older they get they realize: it’s not going to change anytime soon. Being outside in the warm sun and fresh air we race to fill our buckets first, who can pull the most roots, who gets the most walnuts and we often celebrate with lemonade and lunch outside afterward! We can easily spend two to three hours together (and don’t get me wrong there can be a fair share of complaining, but that is also part of the process) and after my husband always thanks them and asks them to look out and see what a great job they did. Seeing my kids notice their hard work and efforts and see them as they receive positive praise for helping in the household is a huge bonus too.
Encourage your kids to get dirty.
As parents we often let the end result cloud our willingness to let our kids run free. Stains on their pants, the time needed to then bathe, the worry of if they will get hurt, and the age-old excuse of not enough time. But I have to be honest, there is nothing more liberating than getting dirty with your kids. Sliding down the dirt mound outback with them. running barefoot in the rain, building sandcastles and mud pies at their side. When my husband and I get down and dirty with them, I get to see their eyes light up, not because of the dirt (although that is a big factor) but because we are dirty with them. I can feel the connection between us and our kids grow stronger and for me, it’s liberating as an adult to give myself permission to be a kid again and not try to be perfect all the time. When we get dirty we are reminded that life is messy. The mess is part of the experience.
Now these might not be wild and crazy ways to have fun, but they are free, fun and family orientated. When we instill in our kids that fitness, health, and fun cost money and require fancy equipment or continuous social engagements, we are limiting them in their own self-discovery process and creative development. Plus the time we get with our kids when they are young and we are the greatest thing since sliced bread is limited and I refuse to limit that even more.