Healthy Games and Gym Activities for Kids. The Top Ten

As a par­ent, you want to do all you can to build your kids’ health and fit­ness. That includes nur­tur­ing a pos­i­tive atti­tude toward phys­i­cal activ­i­ty and sports.

The oppor­tu­ni­ties for kids to engage in struc­tured activ­i­ties are almost too numer­ous.  As a par­ent, I devel­oped my own cri­te­ria to help choose fit­ness activ­i­ties for kids. What was impor­tant to me was:

  • Safe­ty and low risk of injury This should top any parent’s pri­or­i­ty list
  • Skill mas­tery A sport or gym activ­i­ty that requires learn­ing increas­ing­ly com­plex pat­terns of mus­cle coor­di­na­tion or group inter­ac­tion

    Healthy games for kids

    fun fit­ness

  • Devel­op­ing bal­anced body fit­ness This includes chal­leng­ing mus­cles of both the upper and low­er body, train­ing both right and left sides, and build­ing car­dio fit­ness and strength in ways that are age-appro­pri­ate
  • The right blend of com­pet­i­tive­ness, per­son­al chal­lenge, and fun
  • The pos­si­bil­i­ty of life­time par­tic­i­pa­tion
  • Mix of indi­vid­ual pur­suits and team sports, orga­nized pro­grams and less-struc­tured activ­i­ties
  • They got­ta want to do it

Based on these cri­te­ria, here are my top ten sports, healthy games and gym activ­i­ties for kids:

  • Dance — Dance class­es are excel­lent train­ing for life. You learn aware­ness of your own body and devel­op fit­ness in a bal­anced way. There’s a cre­ative ele­ment to dance, too. And you can con­tin­ue to dance through­out life. Both of my boys took dance class­es when they were lit­tle. It’s unfor­tu­nate that, as they got old­er, the num­ber of oth­er boys in the class thinned out and they even­tu­al­ly dropped out too.
  • Kick­ing and punch­ing (mar­tial arts) — Fight­ing arts like tae kwon do and karate empha­size bal­anced body (and men­tal) devel­op­ment, build self-con­fi­dence, have a nice­ly orches­trat­ed reward sys­tem of col­ored belts, and can be a lot of fun. This is also an activ­i­ty that kids and adults can both par­tic­i­pate in.
  • Swim­ming — Every kid should know how to swim. It works on dif­fer­ent lev­els: a relax­ing activ­i­ty, a good com­po­nent of a basic life­time fit­ness reg­i­men, or an intense, com­pet­i­tive sport. There are two pos­si­ble neg­a­tives about swim­ming. Some peo­ple have trou­ble with all the chlo­rine. And some­times peo­ple who swim a lot can have shoul­der ten­don prob­lems because of the repet­i­tive over­head reach­ing. Good coach­ing is a must for com­pet­i­tive swim­mers.
  • Soc­cer — This is one of my favorite team sports. You’re run­ning all the time. There’s team­work involved. You learn to kick with both legs. You also have to devel­op your periph­er­al vision and over­all field savvy to impro­vise strate­gi­cal­ly. The equip­ment require­ments aren’t oner­ous. There are numer­ous adult leagues.
  • Wrestling — More kids should wres­tle – girls too. You have to be real­ly fit to wres­tle, but at the same time it’s a strate­gic men­tal game. Injuries are not that fre­quent.

My old­er son wres­tled on his high school team and even though he didn’t plan to wres­tle in col­lege, I’m con­vinced that it helped him get into the col­lege of his choice. He was involved in lots oth­er activ­i­ties in high school too – band, choir, and the­atre. Of all these social groups, the wrestlers had the high­est grade point aver­age, and were the most eth­ni­cal­ly diverse. Who knew?

Anoth­er great thing about wrestling is that the sys­tem of weight class­es means that kids of all sizes can com­pete on a lev­el play­ing field. One pos­si­ble neg­a­tive about wrestling – depend­ing on the inten­si­ty lev­el of the pro­gram, and where your child fits in the weight spec­trum, some­times there’s pres­sure to “cut weight” – use extreme diet, sweat­ing, and exer­cise reg­i­mens to lose enough poundage to qual­i­fy for a cer­tain weight class. This was nev­er an issue with my son – if it had become an issue I would have pulled him out of the pro­gram with­out hes­i­ta­tion.

  • Fig­ure skat­ing — can be a fun life­time activ­i­ty. It trains for bal­ance, which is an impor­tant and often-over­looked move­ment skill. (Eighty years from now your kids will be less like­ly to fall and frac­ture their bones.) One draw­back is that advanced skills, like jumps and turns, are typ­i­cal­ly prac­ticed — unlike in dance — going in one direc­tion only.
  • Ice hock­ey — My appre­ci­a­tion of hock­ey as a good sport for kids has grown. The move­ment skills devel­oped in hock­ey are incred­i­ble. And I know guys in their fifties and six­ties who still play – so there’s a chance for a life­time involve­ment. Girls’ hock­ey is grow­ing in pop­u­lar­i­ty too. One draw­back – unless you live in a cold cli­mate where the ponds freeze in the win­ter, there can be a lot of equip­ment costs and oth­er expens­es.
  • Ulti­mate – Ulti­mate is more than a bunch of lat­ter-day hip­pies toss­ing a fris­bee around. It’s actu­al­ly a seri­ous sport (well, maybe it’s not that seri­ous) that leads to con­di­tion­ing, team­work and sports­man­ship.
  • Yoga – Engages and inte­grates mind, body, and spir­it — the whole pack­age. Devel­ops self-con­trol, calm amid chaos, and a life­long appre­ci­a­tion of your body, both its lim­its and its incred­i­ble capa­bil­i­ties.
  • Hik­ing, canoe­ing, kayak­ing — Expe­ri­enc­ing nature. Ris­ing to phys­i­cal chal­lenges. Any­body can do it at any age. Can be enjoyed as a fam­i­ly or with groups.

As a par­ent, please take an active role in encour­ag­ing your kids’ health and fit­ness. Based on your under­stand­ing of your child’s phys­i­cal and social devel­op­ment, make pos­i­tive choic­es about healthy activ­i­ties for your kids.

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About Aaron Bynen

Aaron is a health conscious individual living in the Pacific Northwest.

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