Morning exercise for kids – a healthy and joyful moment!
Igniting the love for exercising is a rather complicated task. Even adults often find it much more interesting to scroll their feed on social media or to watch a movie, than to exercise, not even to mention the kids. If you do not want your child to lead an entirely sedentary lifestyle, start introducing them to sports little by little. Morning exercise could be a great predecessor of sports achievements for your children or may become their life-long healthy habit.
- Why do you need your morning exercise?
- How to spark the child’s interest in exercising?
- What to start with?
- Joyful morning exercises for kids at home
- A couple of useful tips for parents
Why do you need your morning exercise?
Regular morning exercise is much more important for children than for adults. Preschoolers and children of school age do not lead an extremely active lifestyle as they mostly stay indoors. Therefore, children often encounter issues with their posture, excess weight, and overall physical development.
Simple sets of exercises to be regularly performed in the mornings at home have a strong positive impact on the child’s body in the following ways:
- they strengthen the immune system which suffers the most from the lack of physical activity;
- they strengthen the spinal cord that may be developing in an incorrect way due to a sedentary lifestyle;
- they improve the functioning of the cardiovascular system: children who regularly perform morning exercises are less prone to the feeling of weakness, sudden changes in their blood pressure and fainting;
- they strengthen the core muscles to maintain a healthy back and a correct posture;
- they develop determination and the ability to plan ahead in the child.
What needs to be taken into account in order to make those exercises safer and more beneficial:
- these exercises are to be performed on an empty stomach right after the morning shower — morning exercises do not have to be of high intensity. Breakfast can be eaten straight after the completion of the set;
- maintain consistency: a positive effect can only be achieved through systematic exercising;
- do not overdo it with the duration of the exercise — children of the age of less than 10 years old need to devote no more than 10-15 minutes to their exercise routine;
- take the time to warm up: you can start preparing the child’s body for physical activity right from the bed with the use of simple movements, such as asking them to raise and lower their hands, to perform some circular movements with their wrists, and to squeeze their fingers together;
- perform the exercises outdoors if this is possible. If not – in a well-aerated room.
- try making the sessions more diverse, whilst keeping in mind the age of the child: turn on some exciting music or a video lesson, add some new exercises every two weeks;
- teach your son or daughter to breathe properly, inhaling through the nose, and exhaling through the mouth. The correct breathing technique simplifies the morning exercise and makes it more efficient;
- follow the principle of a gradual increase in the difficulty of the exercises, whilst giving your child enough time (at least two weeks) for them to get used to the new level of physical activity;
- do not stop abruptly during the exercises, add a finishing step to your exercise routine, for instance, stretching, walking or jogging on the spot;
- teach your child to finish the workout with a contrast shower or a cold-water treatment.
The three prerequisites to a safe morning exercise:
- select appropriate pieces of clothing made from natural fibers and without any large seams, zippers or buttons: clothing cannot be uncomfortable;
- when exercising at home, the child should be barefoot, however, wearing socks is mandatory;
- prepare the space for exercising in advance: clean up and make sure that the room has enough free space, remove objects that may potentially injure the child off the floor, and prepare all the necessary equipment, such as the skipping rope, the ball and the gym mat (if you will are planning to use them).
How to spark the child’s interest in exercising?
Children of preschool age (6-7 years old) and of elementary school age (8, 9, 10 years old) find the activities that are not outlined by the adults as mandatory, the most attractive. The easiest way to get kids involved in exercising is for you to start performing the exercises with them: the preschooler would most likely be willing to repeat after the adult, and an 8-10-year-old would at least display some interest at what mom or dad are doing.
How to ignite the child’s interest in morning exercises:
- add some game elements into daily tasks for children of 6-8 years old. For example, you can imagine together with your child, that you came onto a magic field and now you need to wave your hands like a butterfly, to bend over, as if you were picking flowers, and to jump like a happy bunny;
- choose the right music for exercising: it can be the same music every time and also the one that the child likes. Doctors that specialize in physical therapy are convinced that uplifting music enables the person of any age to better tune into physical activity;
- the regular exercise session may sometimes (or always) be replaced with entertaining training with poems, especially for preschoolers. Appropriate poems may be introduced in the form of audio or video or even recited by you. Below is an example of a morning exercise routine with poems:
- praise the child every time they have successfully completed the set. Remind your child that their bodies will become stronger and healthier, and their muscles will become more defined.
An enthusiastic child who understands the purpose of performing the exercises will perform all of them successfully. Certain children get so inspired by their first successes that they begin to exercise too intensely, and as a result, they get tired and do not feel sufficiently energized during the day. If your child insists in exercising too much, remind them that the goal of the exercises is to awaken the body, not to tire it, and suggest coming up with a training plan with the following sections:
- an everyday plan is put together a day before each session: the outline will contain a list with all the exercises of the session, and the needed additional equipment will be highlighted;
- the plan of an introduction of new exercises – these are to be put together in the form a table, stating the frequency at which new exercises will appear in the program;
- a long-term plan that is to be put together for the foreseeable future: for a week or for a month, whilst starting gradual learning of the set of exercises and the introduction of new exercises into the set.
Outline the scheme of the morning exercise routine on a piece of paper and place it somewhere so that it is visible. The plan can be adorned collectively with the child. You may ask your son or daughter to independently outline what they plan to achieve. Their input in the preparation of a plan will motivate them to train on a regular basis, without performing the exercises that they do not need.
What to start with?
Follow the correct timing for each exercise right from the first session.
Here is how the child can maintain a safe and efficient timing during the morning exercise session:
- Respect the golden rule of any training session: warm-up – workout – cool down. While the warm-up is not ignored even by beginners, the last step, however, is often neglected. The final step of the session is as important as all the other ones. Let the child finish off with slowly walking on the spot and with some easy stretching exercises.
- Set the correct pace of performing the exercises: at a slow pace at first and a gradual acceleration, moving on to the highest speed of the movements. Slowing down needs to happen step-by-step too – pediatricians do not recommend for children, especially of preschool or elementary school age, to suddenly interrupt fast movements.
- It is important to keep in mind the principle of quality over quantity. It is better for the child to perform five deep side bends, whilst maintaining the correct breathing technique than to perform twenty fast shallow side bends, forgetting about the correct techniques.
The warm-up is needed to prepare and ‘heat up’ the muscles and the joints. If a person is to skip the warm-up and is to move into the workout right away, the risk of injury will be significantly increased.
Here is an option of a warm-up for preschoolers. Devote around a minute per each exercise:
- walking on the spot;
- running on the spot at a moderate speed;
- arm swings.
The warm-up of a preschooler may be followed by a short explanation of the exercises that you will be performing together during the session. A fictional story may also be told, which will lead towards the start of the actual exercise.
Here is an option of a warm-up for an elementary school student:
- leaning from side to side: have the child to place their hands on the hips and to perform the movements to the left, to the right, forward and backward;
- going on the toes (5 to 6 repetitions): have the child bring their arms to the sides as they inhale and reach out towards the ceiling on their toes. They will need to hold this position for a couple of seconds, and exhale;
- exercises for the arms and the shoulders: together, and then, one-by-one, the child will lift and lower their shoulders and will perform the arm swings;
- head tilts (4 to 6 repetitions) — they are performed to the left and to the right at a moderate pace, then going into circular movements in the clockwise and anticlockwise directions.
Here is an option for a short warm-up for kids:
If the child is struggling to maintain the right breathing rate – teach them some breathing exercises. They will allow to turn the correct breathing into a habit when performing physical exercises. Moreover, breathing exercises also have a beneficial effect on the functioning of the respiratory system and even the formation of the vocal apparatus. Self-induced breathing exercises at home should start no earlier than the age of five years old, under the condition of respecting the following general rules:
- the child has to be in a calm and composed mood. They should not be upset, nervous or tired;
- the exercises are to be performed at a slow pace under the supervision of an adult;
- abrupt inhalations should not take place;
- it is particularly important to control the position of the child’s shoulders: they have to remain in a normal position- not up, nor down.
Sets of breathing exercises to improve physiological breathing and speech breathing:
When your son or daughter adopts the correct breathing technique, you would still want to include some breathing exercises into their everyday morning sessions by, for example, finishing the warm-up off by breathing in through the nose and out, through the mouth.
A good method to spark the interest of a child whose physical activity has always been minimal is through walks during the warm periods of the year. During those walks, slow walking can be slowly replaced by a faster one, and then by jogging. When the child will get used to physical activity – they would most likely be willing to learn some new movements, and at this point, it would be the perfect time to add daily morning exercises into their routine.
Joyful morning exercises for kids at home
The most important aspect of the morning exercises of a child is the fact that it needs to be systematic. Performing a couple of exercises at home to some joyful music is not complicated, and the result will be visible very soon: it would be easier for the child to adapt themselves to the workload at school, they will be in a good mood and will have better orientation skills.
Morning exercise is highly important for preschoolers and elementary school students, as basic physical activity contributes to the formation of the correct lumbar curvatures, a process which is finalized only by the time the child turns 11-13 years old.
Incorporate exercises that are most adapted to your child, into their morning exercise routine. They have to be suitable for their age and their physical abilities. The exercises should not be overly complex, or otherwise, the child will get tired quickly and would not be willing to exercise again next time. Adding more complex movements such as the plank, the arm swings, deep squats, and any other ones, needs to be progressive and should not be done before the child turns 7-8 years old.
The list below contains some options for morning exercise routines for children of different ages:
- 6 years (a small soft pillow would be required) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfT0w7wsAvc
- 7 years old (no additional equipment is required) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHCqRsrQwNU
- 8 years old (no additional equipment is required) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_A_HjHZxfI
- 9 years old (a stability ball would be required – it may also be replaced with some other objects) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yb1C1QeY2y4
- 10 years old (no additional equipment is required) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhCM0C6GnrY
General exercises for children of 6-10 years old
A list of exercises for children of the age of 6 to 10 years old is presented below. You can create your own program from those options and add your own. The duration of each exercise has to be of around one minute:
- Walking on the spot. Keep an eye on the legs of the child: they do not need to be too far away from each other. Their arms have to be on their hips.
- Walking on the spot and raising the knees as high as possible.
- Squats with extending the arms to the front — this exercise is useful to strengthen the leg muscles and increase the mobility of the joints.
- Jump squats. With their hands on the hips, the child squats and jumps up when their arms are fully extended.
- Forward bend. A semi-bend down, followed by exhalation and then a full bend, so that the child could touch the floor with their hands.
- Leg spreads to the sides. Bringing the arms to the sides from the standing position, whilst bringing one leg to the left side and then to the right. Legs need to be switched after that.
- Leaning towards the toes. Ask the child to reach out as far as they can.
- Jumps. On the left leg, then on the right leg, then on both legs. The exercise is finalized with turning jumps – at 90° and then at 180°.
- Leaning from side to side, to strengthen the muscles of the back, the torso, and the abdominal muscles.
- Lying leg swings in a supine position. The elbows need to be bent and the arms need to be lying on top of each other, the chin needs to rest on the palms of the hands.
- Lying flips in a prone position – an exercise for the torso. The child needs to flip onto their stomach with their arms extended and to revert onto their back as they exhale. The flips over the left and the right shoulder need to alternate between each other with every repetition.
- The full bridge. Assuming a prone position whilst placing the body weight onto the hands and the feet, slowly extending the arms and arching the back.
- Lying down bicycle exercise. Performing the improvised bicycle movements in a lying position.
Exercises to improve flexibility:
- While sitting on the floor with their feet spread wide apart, the child will aim to reach their toes without bending the knees.
- The starting position is on all fours with the head down. The child will Inhale, arch the lumbar region as much as possible and lift the head up. They will come back to the starting position as they exhale.
- The child will assume a standing position and will press their arms into the torso as they inhale, whilst trying to contract all of the muscles for around five seconds. As they exhale, they need to relax their muscles.
- Slow and deep squats on one leg, interchangeably.
- The child is standing and trying to move the right arm along the spine, whilst holding it with the left arm and creating a slight resistance and then switching the arm.
A short of a set of exercises for preschoolers
This is a short set of exercises that consists of 3-4 different exercises and lasts for five minutes altogether. These sets are used for the child to recover after the mental strain and are very helpful when there is no time to perform a full set of exercises.
A couple of exercises can be selected from the list below, and then it would be possible to alternate between them. The duration of each exercise has to be of around 20-30 seconds:
- Stretches — the child’s legs are at shoulder-width apart, they reach up on their toes, whilst lifting their arms, and return back onto their heels. After that, the exercise may become more complex with one hand placed on the hips and the second arm continuing to reach up towards the ceiling.
- Full-on head motions forward and backward.
- Twists— the only part of the body engaged in this exercise is the torso: the child needs to move the torso on one side as they inhale, revert to the starting position, and then switch between the sides.
- Squats with the arms extended forward and heels plated to the ground.
- Shoulder exercise: the child lifts and lowers the shoulders. A more complex option would be for the child to lift and lower the shoulders one by one.
- Leaning forward: the child leans forward, trying to reach their toes with their fingers. If this proves to be too difficult, knees could be slightly bent.
- Arm swings – simultaneously or one by one.
This session for preschoolers is performed as a normal program or in the form of an active outdoor game. Dance moves or poem reciting may be added to the usual set.
Here is an example of a five minute set of exercises for children:
Morning exercises for 8-10-year-olds
At the age of 8-10 years old, children are ready to perform rather complex movements for around 10-15 minutes. The same principles apply here as for children of a preschool-age: the exercises are to be performed smoothly, the amplitude of the movements is to increase little by little.
If possible, measure the heart rate of the child straight after the workout: it should not exceed 130 beats per minute.
Here is an approximate set of morning exercises for children of 8-10 years old (each movement needs to be performed for 60-90 seconds on average):
- Develop the correct breathing technique in the child: the child lifts up their hands and puts them together, from the starting position, and as they inhale deeply. They lower the arms after that and exhale.
- Walking on the spot to prepare the body for the exercises.
- Leaning from side to side, to the left and to the right, whilst keeping the torso immobilized.
- Circular movements forward and backward with the hands placed on the shoulders.
- Crisscross leaning forward: the left arm reaches towards the right leg as far as possible, and the right arm – towards the left leg. Keep an eye on the child’s lower part of the body: it needs to be immobilized and the movement needs to be performed only with the torso.
- Lunges: from the starting position and their torso turned to the left, the child performs a lunge with their left leg. After that, they switch sides.
- Deep squats with a straight back.
- Twists to the sides from the sitting position, whilst keeping the hands clasped into a lock on the back of the head.
- Push-ups or the plank.
- Stretching: the child needs to be reaching towards the ceiling whilst standing on their toes, slowly lower themselves and then performing a slow bending movement towards the legs, reaching as low as possible, and to remain in this position for a couple of seconds. If possible, it would be great to put the arms around the legs and to stretch towards the legs with the use of the arms.
A couple of useful tips for parents
In order for the morning exercise to remain a pleasantly collective time, without turning into a tedious duty – follow these simple rules:
- give the child tasks that are tailored to them: these tasks need to be both appropriate for their age and their physical abilities;
- do not carry out the exercises if the child is feeling unwell;
- stop immediately if the exercise is painful;
- add some game elements into the training – the younger the child, the more there may be game elements to be added;
- change the plan of the session regularly and add new exercises, gradually introducing some more sports equipment into the routine.
Making exercises safe and effective for the child is surely possible: be consistent, and your son or daughter will soon consider the morning exercise as their daily ritual, similar to brushing their teeth. All methods to introduce the child to physical activity are surely a good initiative. However, the most effective way to instill the love for physical activity is through your own example. Perform the exercises every morning, and even the most non-sporty child will certainly join you sooner or later!