Family Activity Guide, Age-by-Age
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Family Activity Guide, Age-by-Age

Easy exercises for you and your child to do together at every age level -- work out and burn extra calories.

Fit Families

A new study suggests that short bursts of exercise -- as little as 15 minutes -- can dramatically reduce your child's risk of Type 2 diabetes. (Thirty minutes a day or more of exercise is needed to reduce yours.) Build in workouts for your little ones -- and you -- with our get-moving guide.

Sneak in Daily Exercise at Any Age

Twelve minutes. That's how much more exercise slim kids get each day than overweight children do, according to a recent Swedish study of 8- to 11-year-olds. Those dozen extra minutes can burn 100+ calories, and that really adds up, says lead researcher Magnus Dencker, MD. Use our monthly get-moving guide to ensure that you and your kids get those 12 additional minutes -- and then some!

Summer Get-Moving Guide

Warm weather means being more active, right? Well, not necessarily. A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health shows that young kids gain weight faster during summer vacation than during the school year. Surprised? So were we! A possible explanation: "Children don't have access to food and snacks in school the way they do at home," says researcher Doug Downey, a sociologist at Ohio State University. "And they may be spending more time inside playing video games." Here, tons of ideas to get them -- and you! -- moving.

0 to 18 months

For babies 3-18 months

Take a dip together. Check out the book Learn to Swim by Rob and Kathy McKay for tips. Holding your baby in the water is a great arm workout.

Calories burned in 30 minutes: 128

Build a Sand Castle

Build some serious sand castles. Head to your local beach or playground sandbox with plenty of shovels and buckets. Go to for building tips and links to designs for over-the-top structures.

Calories burned in 2 hours: 672

18 Months to 5 Years

Dance It Off!

Try dancing with the kids in your living room. Got two left feet? Check out to learn all sorts of teachable moves.

Calories burned in 30 minutes: 144

Good Ol' Games

Play an old school game with your kids, like Red Rover, Kick the Can, or Red Light, Green Light, in the backyard -- fun and nostalgic for you, a blast for them! Rusty on the rules? Look 'em up online. One site to try:

Payoff: 320 calories burned in 60 minutes of games.

Neighborhood Fitness

Do a fitness swap with a friend or neighbor. Raid each other's garages and borrow three pieces of equipment each -- a mini trampoline, tennis racquets, a bocce ball set. Then try them out with your kids. It's a great way to mix things up and test different activities without springing for all-new gear. Or have a neighborhood fitness block party. Pick three or four neighbors; do an activity at one house, then run to the next!

Payoff: 112 calories burned in 30 minutes of bouncing on a trampoline.

Home Bowling

Create a bowling alley in your driveway using empty water bottles as pins and a softball as the bowling ball. Setting up the pins and running after the ball really boosts your heart rate. (Hey, there's no auto-return here!)

Calories burned in 1 hour: 336

Visit the Zoo

Take a full-on walking tour of the zoo -- no tram, all on foot. Before you go, log on to for cool facts to chat about during your visit.

Calories burned in 2 hours: 420

5 to 8 Years

Go Scavenging

Go on a backyard treasure hunt. We like Scaventure Kids, a kit that provides cards and instructions; $19.95 at Or create your own hunt: Make a map and clues that lead explorers to the treasure.

Calories burned in 1 hour (includes 30 minutes of set-up): 256

Roofball, Anyone?

Dream up a wacky game with your kids. One example: roofball. Volley a beach or kick ball onto the roof of your house, and when it rolls off, try to hit it back up again.

Payoff: 192 calories burned in 60 minutes of volleying.

Wacky Noodles!

Have a noodle race in the pool. Pick up buoyant foam water noodles ($4.50 each at, hop into the water, and center them under your bellies. Then swim back and forth across the pool at least five times. Even if your child isn't a completely confident swimmer, the noodle will help keep her above water. (And yes, you should let her win a race or two.) Find other fun pool activities at (search for "water games").

Payoff: 192 calories burned in 30 minutes of swimming.

Go Berry-Picking

Take the kids to a pick-your-own-berries farm. Pluck lots of extras, and when you get home, bake low-fat muffins for everyone.

Calories burned in 2 hours of berry picking and baking: 672

Ride Bikes

Get into biking. Take yours in for a tune-up, and start working to get those training wheels off. For child-safety tips and gear, go to

Calories burned in 30 minutes: 336

8 to 13 Years

Try a Trail

Mark off time on your calendar to try two new parks, trails, or bike paths this month. For ideas, call your local parks and recreation department (or check online).

Calories burned in 90 minutes of biking: 576

Activity Calendar

Create an activity calendar. Cut out magazine pictures of biking, hiking, and running through the sprinkler, laminate them, and put double-sided tape on the back. Let your child choose the first one and stick it on the calendar. Fill it up so you have four or five days of activities weekly.

Payoff: 384 calories burned in 60 minutes of cross-country hiking.

Walking Club

Start a 10,000-Step Club. Buy a pedometer (check out the cute selection at Then plot several walks throughout the day -- around the neighborhood, on a local nature trail, up and down the library steps, at the mall (10,000 steps, or about five miles, is what the experts say we ought to average daily to stay fit and keep the extra weight off).

Payoff: 224 calories burned in 60 minutes of walking at a brisk 3.5 mph pace.

Create an Obstacle Course

Design an obstacle course. Set out cones to weave through, overturned buckets to leap over and a limbo pole. Try to beat your speed using the cute Bell Stopwatch, which you can wear on your belt loop. ($12.99; Kmart)

Calories burned in 1 hour: 420

In-Line Skating Clubs

Try an in-line skating club. Find one at, where you can look up local indoor and outdoor places to skate, plus classes that teach safety, moves, and more.

Calories burned in 1 hour: 1,050

13 years and up

Turn on the Waterworks

Cool off by having a water fight! Fill water balloons, grab some Super Soakers, and chase each other around the yard to see who can get who the wettest.

Calories burned in 30 minutes: 160

Bike Race!

Stage a mini Tour de France. Map out a course that's at least five miles -- with plenty of hills -- and get the whole family in the race. You can even have a short "time trial" course and give awards for other impressive feats, such as "king of the mountain" (to whoever pedals fastest up the hills). Be sure to watch the real Tour for inspiration, or listen to it online; it runs from July 7 to 29. See

Payoff: 512 calories burned in 60 minutes of bicycling at 12 to 13.9 mph.

Get Gardening

Grow a kid-friendly garden. Dig up a patch and start planting in your yard -- or buy pots and soil for a deck garden. Try cherry tomatoes or herbs like basil that kids can pinch off, taste, and smell. For more ideas on what to grow, go to

Payoff: 576 calories burned in 2 hours of gardening.

Hula Hoop!

Have your kid teach you a sport or a game -- skateboarding, ultimate Frisbee, soccer, hula hoop.

Calories burned in 30 minutes of hula hoping: 210

Go Rafting

Embark on an athletic adventure like white-water rafting. Get inspired by the athletic feats showcased on Check out 10-year-old Jordan Romero, who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro!

Calories burned in 3 hours: 1,260

Originally published in FITNESS magazine in 2007.