Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the resulting “safer at home” orders have many us sitting around the house. It is important that we keep our kids active even while practicing social distancing. Patrick Mularoni, M.D., director of the sports medicine program at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, offers these tips on keeping your kids fit.
How can a family keep children active if they are social distancing?
Physical activity is a very important for children and may even be more important in the present time. The benefits of exercise are well recognized. Parents should schedule some form of physical activity every day for children. This could include online exercise videos where the whole family can exercise or dance together! It could mean riding a bicycle outdoors or playing sports — limited to household contacts without any respiratory symptoms.
Children are used to having scheduled active time while in school and as much as possible we should encourage them to make some form of exercise part of their daily schedule — even while social distancing. Even though they may be used to playing with their friends during their active time, it is important to not include friends in their active time while social distancing.
What are some ideas regarding playing inside?
Consider breaks in the day where you encourage your children to get up and move around to recharge. Between lessons get your kids up and get them moving. Have them pick an animal and do a lap around the room, walk like a crab or a duck, or hop like a frog. Not only will this give them a brain break but it will also be a fun way to get the muscles working.
What about outside play? Any suggestions there?
Consider adding recess to your child’s home curriculum. If children look at their assignments as all schoolwork, they may feel overwhelmed. Break it up with some fresh air and activity times that cater to what your child likes to do. I suggest at least two 30-minute “recess” breaks throughout the day looking for opportunities that are unique to your child and your environment. Think of fun activities like jump rope, hopscotch or catch.
With social distancing, are you suggesting play dates?
We don’t need play dates or large groups to get our kids active. It’s actually not advised to be having play dates right now. We can still take our children out on bikes, scooters or for a walk to get active. This is a time where our kids should get to see how much fun their parents can be. Creating family play outdoors will let kids get outside and interact with others all while allowing for suggested social distancing.
Many people have been using parks to get outside, which is a good idea if you are using parks to find space for your family — so long as they are not very crowded. Playground equipment, however, may not be a good idea right now since they have been touched by multiple people.
On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital experts. Visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Stories each Monday for the latest report. You also can explore more advice from Patrick Mularoni, M.D.