Monday, June 27, 2016

Fitness Party!

Being Active is Fun!

Several years ago Family Fun Magazine had a great article about encouraging healthy fun. The Fitness Party was their focus. Of course, I tweaked it to meet our needs but the essentials are all here. The following is how we hosted our own party!

Neighborhood Invitations
We made our own invitations to our Fitness Party for all the neighborhood children in and around the ages I was caring for. I also asked a couple of older children if they'd like to help run the event with me - they were 12 and 14. They wanted to be involved but didn't want to be considered a "kid." Our invitations were simple - made from colored construction paper and colorful stickers they included date, time (start and end), how to RSVP, what to wear, sunscreen reminder, etc. We hand delivered them so we could explain a little more about what to expect or answer any questions.

After invitations have been distributed and before the event gather all the equipment needed for each activity. We also gave out as a favor a water bottle to each child with their name on it. They weren't fancy and I wrote the names on in permanent marker including Fitness Party and the date as well. We then used these bottles throughout the day. I had a water station set up for everyone to fill up their bottle. We also had a snack break after all the events were over with fruit kabobs, whole grain crackers and a frozen yogurt cone. I think planning this for a morning rather then the afternoon when it gets too warm for everyone is best. Our party was from 9 AM to 10:30 AM. Also, depending on the number of children participating you may need or want to split into smaller groups to work through all the activity stations to limit wait time at each station and keep things moving.

Stretching Time - Start by spending a few moments with simple stretching motions like reach to the sky, touch toes, lean to right and left. This was led by our two "helper" children. They actually put them through a nice stretch before we got started with the main events.
Hula Hoop Whoop - This is a multi-functional station which starts with each person getting a hoop and giving it a spin around their waist/hips. There is a learning curve for those who are not hula hoop professionals so give everyone several tries. We had 5 hoops going at once here so you'll need some space. Next place hoops end to end (example: OOOOO). Children line up and take turns jumping from hoop to hoop. They get back in line and the second time around it is hop like a frog, next time it's walk like an elephant, etc. If you give the children the chance they'll come up with several ideas of their own.
Beanbag Toss-o-Rama - This station a great throwing activity. I like beanbags over balls just because they are often easier for young ones to toss successfully and don't take off rolling away from you. I made a target laid out on the lawn on a large tarp using painters tape in a simple grid. I had made enough beanbags so there was minimal waiting. My "helpers" encouraged everyone to try and hit every target area.
Mega Hopscotch - Rather than play a game of hopscotch we opted for a mega hopscotch course for everyone to try out several times. The course twisted and turned over our entire driveway. The course needs a little prep but once you have it down on the pavement you only need keep participants in line. Older children should one foot hop where indicated while younger ones can jump onto squares.
Knock 'em Down, Stand 'em Up - You will need a couple dozen small size cone markers. We had some for marking off our backyard soccer games and then I got a more at a discount store. They were packaged by the dozen. I've also seen them offered online in bulk. We found lots of uses for these cones over the years. For this event you place the cones in a random pattern over a large section of the yard - half the cones are standing upright and the other half on their sides. Split your group into two teams - one team will be knocking over upright cones and the other team is taking the knocked cones to place them upright. Children are instructed to run to the cone, bend over to use their hands rather than kick over the cone with their feet. This game is timed and I used a whistle to start them and then a whistle to stop them. This is a crowd-pleaser.
Obstacle Course - This was our final event and everyone cheered each other on to success. We laid out the course using hula hoops, beanbags, cones and the naturally occurring features of the yard (trees, swing set, etc.). Plan a course that includes running, jumping, over, under and through options if possible. We made a tunnel using a our tarp over the backs of a couple of benches which was great for crawling. While everyone was taking a water break . . . don't forget to encourage water breaks between each station . . . my helpers and I set out the obstacles according to a plan I had formulated previously. Then each child had their turn to run the course and cheer on their friends. Each child was offered two runs at the course.

We ended our party with a fresh and healthy snack bar. Everyone took home their water bottle as a souvenir. This kind of special party has so many options that can be offered and planned. We were able to use many of these activities for playdates or birthday parties. You might want to plan several Fitness Days throughout the spring and summer months. We'd love to hear your ideas or experiences with a Fitness Party or other special homemade activity - send us a comment!

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