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Mindful Movement Programming for Kids: 10 fun exercises to get kids moving

Kids doing Wheelbarrow exercise

In the third edition of this series, Merrithew Lead Instructor Trainer Elizebeth Ellison shares how she uses these 10 exercises to motivate kids to get active, move mindfully and have fun.

When it comes to inspiring kids to turn away from cell phones or tablets, get active and be more mindful, the trick is making sure all activities are fun and engaging.

That often starts with the name of the exercise, which can create a visual picture for them to replicate. The name should be something that kids can quickly understand and imagine— such as the bear crawl, crab walk and wheelbarrow.

Most of the exercises below are foundational movement patterns that create positive habits and a healthy mindset regarding movement and exercise. They’re also easy for kids to quickly get the hang of. I’ve included one move below that involves a prop to mix it up a bit.

Here are some of my favorite exercises for kids, enjoy!

1. Bear Crawl
The child’s hands and feet should be touching the ground in this move, but encourage them to lift their knees for an anterior core challenge. Make sure they’re swinging opposite arm and leg forward while rotating their torso, which will teach them proper gait mechanics. Once they’ve got that down pat, try getting them to move backwards.

2. Crab Walk
The crab walk is the opposite of a bear crawl for a posterior core challenge. They should keep their backside lifted to strengthen their hips, legs, arm muscles and especially their scapular stabilizers.

3. Inchworm
This exercise starts in plank position. Get them to tip-toe their feet up to their hands, so they’re bending at the waist. This fun movement will strengthen core muscles and improve hip/spine mobility.

4. Sumo wrestler
Get the kids to squat low and stomp the ground loudly; the more noise the better. They can add grunting or judo chop ‘hi-ya’ yells. The kids are laughing without knowing they are working on hip mobility and balance.

5. Wheelbarrow
This classic partner exercise is always a favorite and gets the kids giggling and smiling. One partner is in plank position while the other holds their ankles or knees; together they move forward. This moving plank exercise will help both crawler and carrier work on their arm strength, coordination and cooperation. But trust me, they’ll be having too much fun racing around to notice!

Kid playing hopscotch

6. Hopscotch
Any kind of hopping, skipping or jumping forward, sideways or back will help kids develop agility and build bone density. Plus, it’s a great cardio workout for kids and adults alike!

7. Move like a ninja
Pretending to move fluidly like a ninja is a fun way for kids to practice stretching and work on eccentric control, which is important because kids’ bones can grow faster than the connective tissues. They can incorporate their leaping and jumping skills into ninja training. Who can land the quietest?

8. Balance on BOSUs
See who can stay on their BOSU® the longest while tossing balls back and forth. They won’t even think about all the great things they’re doing for their bodies, such as developing balance, proprioception and body awareness.

9. Bird dogs
Start from tabletop position and then extend opposite leg and arm; repeat the move. This exercise is great as swim prep, but it’s also for core stability.

10. Airplanes
Once they’ve mastered the bird dog, they can advance to airplane, which is a pose where they balance on one leg and extend both arms out like wings. For a more advanced version, they can try soaring or rotating right and left balancing on one leg. They can add in some airplane or hawk noises as they glide. This will challenge their balance and stability in their hips and ankles.

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