When I was a kid, my dad was a human jungle gym. At a height of 6' 5", he was pretty fun for a tiny child to climb! I remember holding his hands, walking my feet up his chest, and doing a backflip off of him. He would flex his bicep out to the side, and I would try to do pull-ups on his arm—seriously! This would go on for a while!
Our time in the backyard was even more rambunctious. We had an in-ground pool that was just deep enough for him to be able to jump all the way in (7 feet), and we would play all kinds of rowdy water games such as my sister and I fighting to stay on a pool float that he would continuously throw us off of. He invented the term "victory ball" which just became the longest ever game of keep-away with a giant beach ball. And my childhood friends still remember all of our summer birthday parties where we would line up, and he'd toss us into the pool one by one. As soon as we resurfaced, we were back in line!
The point of these fun memories is that whenever my dad played with us, he kept it super active, and he ended up working in quite a bit of his own personal fitness at the same time. Plus, it helped my sister and I become really strong swimmers and feel comfortable in pools at camp and at water parks.
Besides being a literal jungle gym for your kids, you can also make a point to stay active and get a workout in during play time. Here are some other methods below. And if you do decide to try some of those crazy games from my childhood, please remember the importance of engaging your core and bending your knees to protect your back while you toss your kiddos around!
"If you're like me and have children too young to take to the gym or go on a long run with, then you might be struggling to come up with exercises that they can do that will also be fun for them and keep their attention.
Just know that kids are capable of doing some pretty awesome things if they are faced with a challenge. And the encouragement of a father can be all the motivation a young child needs to step out of their comfort zone."
—Fit Dad Fitness
"Based on a study published in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, fathers who take a hands-on approach in parenting can positively influence the development of their children. Such dads help their kids improve their problem-solving abilities and reduce emotional issues such as sadness, social withdrawal, and anxiety.
Therefore, engaging in exercise and playtime together as father and child is an excellent example of hands-on parenting. For fathers who have busy work schedules, this is one great way to spend quality time with them while working out."
—The Asian Parent
- Build a fort together. Either head outside to the backyard and forage for scraps and materials or if the weather isn’t cooperating make the mother of all pillow forts. Create your own story and characters to act out once it’s finished.
- Go for an explorer walk. Load up a backpack with binoculars, notepads, pencils, and any other explorer gear you have laying around the house and set off to find some treasures or record nature facts. Bring back what you find and use them to create a nature picture of the whole family (use sticks for bodies, leaves for hair, pebbles for eyes; better yet use your imaginations and come up with your own unique creations) or make your own nature fact book.
- Be an active artist. Break out the sidewalk chalk and play hopscotch and then beautify your driveway or put your stamp on the sidewalk.
—Sara Smeaton, Active for Life