It’s a typical school day and your children are hard at work. You’re helping your first grader with her ABCs, your third grader is working on long division, and your fifth grader is deep inside that day’s history lesson. They’ve been sitting all morning and probably will do so for the rest of the afternoon. Being the loving, concerned parent you are, you can’t help but wonder if all that sitting is bad for your children.

You’re right to be concerned. Studies show that children need, on average, 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity a day in order to stay healthy and fit. Not only is it good for their physical well-being but for their cognitive health as well. Exercise boosts memory and attention spans and helps enhance overall school performance.

Thankfully, one enormous benefit to homeschooling is the ability to be flexible and work things like exercise into your children’s schedule. You can do it in a way that makes even the most reluctant children love it.

Try out some of these simple suggestions to help a child of any age get physical activity throughout their day.

  1. Give them time to play
    For kids, playing is as natural as breathing. They are imaginative and creative, so give them a little space and they’ll run around, lost in a made-up world. Make sure you’re not keeping your children so busy that they don’t have time to play.

    One way to ensure play time is to build breaks into your schedule. Give them 20 minutes between subjects to go outside and play. Teach them some of the games you played as a child, like four-square or kick-the-can. Let them run around the yard and watch their imagination flow.

  2. Make learning active
    There are countless creative ways to keep children active while they learn.  Draw letters on a trampoline to teach the alphabet and have them jump from letter to letter as you call them out. Or, have a number scavenger hunt–write numbers on popsicle sticks and hide them throughout the yard for your children to find. Once they find them, have them arrange them in numerical order.

    How about sight word hopscotch where they call out sight words as they hop in each square? Or have them jump rope as they say their letters or numbers and try to see how far they can get.

  3. Make it a family thing
    Children are often more eager to do something when you want to participate in the activity with them. Give the whole family a break from school and go on a walk. Pack a lunch and ride your bikes to a local park for a picnic. Research national parks in the area and schedule a day to explore the woods together. Don’t let them see physical activity as a chore but as something fun you can all enjoy together.
  4. Don’t let the cold weather stop you
    Cold weather doesn’t have to hinder outdoor activities. In fact, there’s plenty of fun to be had in the cooler temperatures! In the fall, have your kids help you rake up leaves into a pile and then let them jump in it! Going to an orchard to pick your own apples gets your children up and moving and gives you an opportunity to teach them how blossoms in the spring turn into apples in the fall. Let them get lost in a corn maze and weave their way back out.

    Once snow hits, bundle your kids up and send them out in the snow for a snowball fight or snowman-making. They can carve pictures into the snow banks left behind by the snow plow. Colder weather can offer a lot of fun for your kids, so don’t let the temperatures stop them from experiencing it!

  5. Encourage your older children, too
    While our first few suggestions are geared toward younger kids, don’t forget about your older children! Exercise is just as important for teenagers as well. There are numerous sports clubs that your teenagers can join; or have them try out different forms of sports like dance, cheerleading, or skiing.

    Working exercise in can be as easy as doing things around the house. Have your teenagers take the dog for a walk or do a chore that gets them up and moving. Or, ask them to take a walk with you for some one-on-one time with your teen.

Getting your children active doesn’t have to mean an elaborately planned event, but it can be as simple as sending them outside to play.

What do you do to work physical activity into your child’s schedule?