Getting Active
June 12, 2012 9:06 AM   Subscribe

What sort of exercises can I do with my 4 year old?

I'd like to start being a better role model for my kids and would really like to have a light routine that we (for now, just my four year old, the one year old is a little young to join in) do together. He's a pretty active kid already, and we do go on walks frequently, play in the park, etc., so I'm mainly thinking of something to do in the morning after breakfast. Jumping jacks, stretches and that sort of thing. The problem is, I've never done that sort of thing, and have no idea how to get started.

A couple of restrictions: my knees can be a little iffy sometime so keeping things easier on them in general would be best, and I have tendonitis in one wrist, anything that put too much stress on the wrists is out. We limit time in front of the TV screen, so exercise videos are also out.
posted by Gygesringtone to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly I think playing in the park with him is a great approach. My daughters are 15 and 12 and we still go play in the park, which tells him that exercise is fun, not a chore to do every morning.

Two games we play:
1) multi-catch, with at least one ball or throwing thing per person. Just keep kicking or throwing things at each other randomly; hilarious chaos ensues. The only rule is, you have to throw or kick one you have before you go chase a second one that comes to you. For little kids, those huge Beamos are easier than frisbees.

2) Tag chess (for 4, or 5 with the loser sitting out the next round) . Make or find a square. Everyone stands on a corner. When the dad says go, you race to get to your opposite corner, but if anyone tags you you're out. Often two people tag each other out simultaneously. First one to their opposite base wins. Repeat endlessly.
posted by msalt at 9:14 AM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Dancing is my go-to with little kids. My mom used to dance with us when my sisters and I were young; there's no way to do it "wrong," which is really nice.
posted by SMPA at 9:19 AM on June 12, 2012 [5 favorites]

It's summer time here, so we have availability of GIANT VELCRO HOOK PADS that are good for playing 'catch' with with the accompanying ball (or a pair of balled up fuzzy socks).

Outside and inside is the "quarter" game where you bounce pass a small ball to each other, aiming for the target and to catch the other person. When he gets older, points not only for hitting the target but flipping the quarter.

Bubble dance. Put up a machine (or take turns) popping bubbles!

Juggling with bean bags.
posted by tilde at 9:23 AM on June 12, 2012

chasing bubbles is a huge hit with my three year old.

She's also happy to engage in "exercise" in that she follows whatever me or my husband does, which means she does sit ups, jumping jacks, sort-of pushups, and some three-year old versions of yoga.
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:58 AM on June 12, 2012

I had a discussion with a 6.75 yr old girl about exercise recently. She is healthy and slim. She gets plenty of exercise at home, in the park, in the playground, on her bike. She somehow thinks she needs to start doing exercises, possibly because she has heard adults talk about this. I've tried to explain to her that adults may need exercise because they don't get the kind of natural exercise that kids routinely get in the course of their day. (Unless, of course, they spend endless hours inside in front of a screen, which my young friend does not do.)
posted by mareli at 10:11 AM on June 12, 2012

I was going to suggest martial arts, but your knees and wrist might be an issue.

On the other hand, something like judo or aikido will teach your kid how to fall properly, which is a good thing to know in general. Apparently, 3-year-olds do judo.
posted by chengjih at 11:08 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

3-year olds do judo

And 5 year old boys are natural sword fighters, but your shins won't enjoy that game.
posted by msalt at 11:26 AM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't know about knees and wrists, so this might be off, but my kids have, briefly, in the past, enjoyed doing Death by Burpees with me. They're in charge of the timer but they also sometimes join in.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:02 PM on June 12, 2012

All kids should learn some yoga. It's great to emphasize inner balance, consistent practice, flexibility, movement and care for your body in a very personal way.

Biking along a bike path! You can push baby in a stroller or wear him in an Ergo, and your older son can ride a bike/tricycle down a path, or just a sidewalk.
posted by barnone at 12:32 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love the idea of yoga, here's some stuff on Amazon about Family Yoga.

I also believe in dancing, really gets the juices flowing and everyone enjoys it!

Jack LaLanne used to be on TV in the sixties and it's simple exercises and include a DOG! (Happy, and he was used to get the kiddos involved.) They sell DVDs of the original show, which has just become a fabulous idea for my sister's birthday.

Chicken Fat and Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes are fun little games to play as well.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:52 PM on June 12, 2012

Yoga! My 3 year old thinks this is the most hilarious game I've ever invented. "Now like a dog! Now like a snake! Now flat on your tummy!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:57 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hiking? Do you have nature trails near you? Getting out, looking for bugs and snails, listening to birds, learning the names of trees and flowers are all really fun and great to combine with exercise. Bring a snack. That's the best part!
posted by amanda at 8:15 PM on June 12, 2012

Oh, I thought of another one -- do you live in home where you can plant a vegetable garden? Gardens result in both exercise AND healthy veggies. My kids have their own bed in the vegetable garden with a few veggies, a few flowers, and a lot of dirt they can mess around in without hurting anything. There's some chore for them to do in the garden just about every day -- planting, weeding, watering. My 3-year-old is already very good at planting and watering. And after he waters his tomato plants with his little watering can he gets out his toy trucks and has his excavator dig around in the dirt for an hour. (Also a 3-year-old trotting back and forth to fill his watering can and then dump it on his plants is the cutest thing EVER.)

It's not aerobic exercise but it is physical and it promotes both physical work and healthy eating, and helps kids understand where food comes from.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:30 PM on June 12, 2012

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