Fun Games and Activities
What is fun activity for a two-year-old is ridiculous for a nine-year-old. Following are some ideas for age-appropriate games and activities for kids. Of course, some activities are ageless: walking, biking, swimming, hiking, and dancing can be done by every member of the family. Granted, young children will need to be in strollers or carried, but that doesn't mean they won't benefit from being included in the activity, because seeing you being active will encourage them to move when they get older.
Up to Three Years Old
Get out your exercise ball and hold your baby or toddler on it. Let them roll around while they sit or lie down on it; just keep a good grip on them. Even though they won't be conscious of it, this kind of playing will improve their balance. You can also do things like this on skateboards and other gym tools that improve balance. Just remember: they can't do this on their own; you need to hold onto them.
Turn on the radio or your favorite CD, and hold your child in your arms, and dance. Vary the tempo and your steps. Let them feel your body move, and sing to them, too.
Go to the playground and the beach. If it's cold, bundle your kids up and get outside even if it's just for a few minutes. And get on the slides and jungle gym with your kids, it's good for them to see you moving.
Three to Five Years Old
Kids this age will love to do what you're doing. So stand up and stomp your feet, clap your hands, skip, hop, dance, whatever; then ask them to follow the leader. Make sure they get a turn as leader, too.
Don't go expect too much from young children who are learning about sports because your competitive edge will make the experience stressful for them. Instead, encourage them to enjoy moving rather than improving any skills that are necessary for the game.
This is a good age for kids to start learning sports-related activities, like batting, throwing, catching, kicking, and running. Focus on specific skills, such as keeping your eye on the ball, using both feet rather than your hands, or aiming. Be sure the equipment is age appropriate, too, including smaller balls and props, such as batting tees.
Make sure you are encouraging, and understand that young bodies do not have the control or strength that grade-school children have. Also, kids this age aren't yet ready for lots of team activities, as it is hard for them to wait and understand rules.
Early School Age
Now is the time to bring your sons and daughters to team sports and activities that focus on cooperation and skills, not winning (don't worry, we'll get to winning in a few years). Right now, they need to learn how to wait, how to take their turn, and then how to do what they need to when they're up to bat, on defense, or have the ball.
Try many different things: ice skating, gymnastics, horseback riding, ballet, dancing, karate, fencing, Ping-Pong, bowling, sledding, rollerblading, water skiing, swimming, diving. You just never know what your child will enjoy and be good at. And let them see you try new activities, too, even if you aren't good at them. In fact, it's an especially good lesson for them to see you struggle and practice to learn a new skill — and keep a smile on your face the whole time.
Older School Age
At this age, your child probably has a sport he enjoys — and is good at — more than others. Rather than focusing on the competition, you should help children refine their skills and study what makes the better players do so well. Let them see that excelling at a sport involves both talent and practice. Encourage your child to study both amateur and professional players and learn strategies about the game or sport they like. Even now, though, don't focus on winning as much as you focus on skills and practice.
Remember to have fun. Once a child picks a sport or skill she enjoys, she needs to remember that being active is a way to enjoy herself, not just win. So be sure they get outside for walks and for activities, such as touch football on Sundays and swimming during the summer. Especially since kids get self-conscious, you want to be sure they feel confident about their bodies (no matter what their bodies look like).