It is important to give your young child a lot of opportunities for physical activity to encourage a healthy and active lifestyle. However, researchers say that it is not necessary to provide structured activities, but rather to provide a safe and nurturing environment that encourages physical play. Setting up an in-home gym for your children can provide them the space and the equipment they need to get healthy exercise without forcing structured activity upon them.
Small children love to climb -- often much to the chagrin of their parents. An in-home gym can include a safe space for them to climb, which also provides them healthy exercise. Foam blocks and foam play structures are good choices for small children to climb. Plastic play equipment such as small slides or small step stools are also good choices. Older preschoolers may also like a small rock-climbing wall, which you can make by screwing the climbing holds onto a wall in the room. Make sure that the area is also safe by putting down foam mats on the floor and protecting any corners or hard surfaces with foam bumpers in case of a fall.
Children don't necessarily need equipment to get the exercise they need. Dr. David Geller says that young children learn how their bodies work by running, jumping and exploring. Your in-home gym should include open space to allow your children to do this. Create an open space that has nothing but foam mats so that your child can run, tumble and jump without being injured. Put a radio or computer in the area so that you can play music and enjoy dancing or jumping together.
Kids get a lot of exercise through play. You can encourage them to move more by providing interactive activities that are also fun. Some items to include in your home gym are beach balls for tumbling, throwing or chasing; fabric tunnels for exploring; bubbles for chasing and popping; and a ball pit for jumping and diving. A parachute or other large piece of fabric is also great for jumping, dancing and other exercises. Any items that get kids up and moving should be welcome additions to your in-home gym.
If you have a yard, you can extend your home gym outside as well. Some good pieces of equipment include a slide, swing set, small clubhouse, kiddie pool and water slide. Balls, hula hoops, jump ropes and other outdoor toys are also great choices for encouraging physical play. The key is to encourage children to be physically active without creating a structured environment. Physical activity should be fun.