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Sara Smeaton.
Sara Smeaton.

Nine life hacks for physically fit kids Add to ...

Health Advisor is a regular column where contributors share their knowledge in fields ranging from fitness to psychology, pediatrics to aging. Follow us @Globe_Health.

For many young families, life can be overwhelming. There are work, family and school obligations to juggle. Amid the birthday parties, sports and other activities to shuttle children to, the housework and errands, and the nap schedules, is it any wonder that our days are so busy? Even for those of us who try to operate at a slower pace, being told that it’s important to focus on helping kids develop physical literacy at a young age can seem like just another thing on an already overwhelming list.

That’s where a good life hack can come in handy. They are little tweaks to your activities and daily routines that can help your children develop physical literacy without adding anything to the family schedule, because they are based on things that most of us are doing anyway.

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1. Make a tightrope

Got a long, high-traffic hallway in your house or apartment? With painter’s tape, create a tightrope that everyone can walk on. Challenge kids to try walking forward, backwards and sideways as they go from room to room. (Develops co-ordination and balance.)

2. Make your next picnic in the park blanket-free

When you bring your baby or toddler to the park, leave the blanket at home and let her explore the surroundings, picking up sticks and stones, grabbing at blades of grass and balancing on the uneven ground. (Develops balance, hand-eye co-ordination, co-ordination of legs, arms and torso.)

3. Use clean-up time as a way to practise throwing

Switch to big open bins for toy organization and have toddlers and young kids throw (non-breakable) toys into them, making clean-up into a fun game and the house tidy – win/win! (Develops throwing, co-ordination of arms and torso, fine motor control and the ability to “read” distances.)

4. Turn leisurely walks into a time to practise jumping

Challenge your kids to jump over cracks in the sidewalk. As they get good at jumping with both feet, encourage them to try hopping on one foot (don’t forget to give each leg equal time). When they get really good, they can try it backwards. (Develops balance, co-ordination and strength.)

5. Make a splash at bath time

What child doesn’t like kicking water all over the bathroom? Toddler bath time is a perfect way to practise kicking – just make sure you’re ready to duck or get wet yourself and make sure your child is sitting down before she starts kicking. (Develops leg co-ordination, strength and gross motor control in the lower body.)

6. Capitalize on your child’s desire to help out

Get them to help wash the windows or the car, and make sure they use both hands. Those of you who recall the original Karate Kid will remember the mantra: “Wax on, wax off.” (Develops strength and co-ordination in both dominant and non-dominant hands.)

7. Give them their own household chores

To help kids develop movement skills, encourage toddlers to pick up books and put them back on shelves or pick up clothes to put in the laundry. The simple action of picking things up is actually helping them become physically literate. (Develops co-ordination of legs, arms and torso, plus dynamic balance.)

8. Resist the urge to hoist them up stairs

Walking up and down stairs with early walkers might slow everyone down, but helping your toddler conquer small staircases themselves, instead of carrying them, will not only benefit their physical skills, but their confidence, too. Just make sure that you always hold their hands and be prepared to support them at any moment. (Develops balance and strength.)

9. Move typically indoor activities outside

Have older kids do homework or reading assignments outside while the little ones play. Outdoor play is one of the most important ways for kids to develop movement skills and any way you can make it happen more often is great.

What may seem like small changes to your day now can lay the groundwork for a lifetime of physical activity. Employ one or two of these hacks and you’ll be helping your children develop skills that will give them the foundation, confidence and motivation to try new things and have fun being active.

Sara Smeaton is a senior contributing editor and social media strategist for Active for Life, a not-for-profit initiative committed to helping parents raise healthy, happy kids who are physically literate. Find Active for Life on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow us on Twitter: @Globe_Health

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