HELPING BUSY MOMS FIND MORE JOY AND A LITTLE LESS CHAOS
One particularly cold and snowy winter, my daughter and I started a countdown to the first day of spring. We made a huge construction paper chain, and she patiently pulled off one link per day. We talked about warm sunshine, bright flowers, green grass, leafy trees, and outside games.
I realized my mistake when she went to bed on spring equinox eve and the ground was completely covered in snow. She came racing downstairs in the morning and looked outside with a frown. “Where are the flowers?” she asked.
Now I’ve learned to create spring celebrations that actually feel like spring. This year, we decided to throw a “We Made It To March” Garden Party.
We bought flower balloons and picked out bouquets of flowers. We built an indoor garden and played nature sounds throughout the whole house.
We spread out our picnic blanket to eat our snacks and drink juice from fancy tea cups.
I had been tempted to fall into the Pinterest black hole of garden party ideas. A few minutes of browsing and I was ready to buy butterfly cookie cutters, bake cupcakes, and build a garden out of fruit skewers. But, I decided to keep things small and the kids were just as happy.
We ended up making flowers out of veggies and hummus.
After the picnic, the kids decided to turn the garden into a hideout and they played there for the rest of the afternoon.
While our little spring party cheered us out of the winter blues, we still had to wake up the next morning to a backyard filled with snow. Spring is slow to come in our neighborhood, but at least now our house is filled with fresh flowers to remind us of the warm days ahead.
As busy parents, we struggle to find “alone time” for a workout. We already juggle work, home, and kids. Throwing fitness on the to-do list feels overwhelming.
The easiest solution? Exercise with your kids during a jour ferie.
Before kids, I was running marathons. When I became a working mom of two, finding time to run felt impossible.
I craved exercise, and eventually, I found more options for exercising together with my kids.
Working out with your kids can burn calories, tone muscles, and boost endorphins. You just need to find the right workouts, and good news, you are in the right place! I’ve spent 7 years collecting this list of family-friendly workouts that can actually help you hit your fitness goals.
As your kids grow, your will need different workouts to keep your family engaged. We will look at the best activities for kids of every age and strategies to build exercise habits that stick with you for years, including:
Soon you be doing fun, effective workouts while enjoying quality time with your kids. Ready? Let’s go!
Disclaimer: You should consult your physician or other health care professional before starting this or any other fitness program to determine if it is right for your needs.
There’s always an excuse not to work out: The kids didn’t sleep well, the weather sucks, the house needs to be cleaned. Let’s focus on ways to overcome those challenges and prioritize your health.
Wear your workout clothes all day. You will be ready to get moving any time the opportunity arises.
Athleisure clothing can be worn for athletic activities and leisure activities. If you’re new to the athleisure trend, try starting with Lilly Pulitzer Luxletic, Athleta, and Lululemon.
Build a vision board with photos, graphics, and words that capture your goals.
My vision board was a photo of myself before kids in a bikini. I made it the background on my iPhone, so I saw it 100 times per day. Constantly seeing my pre-kid body all day motivated me to drop the baby weight. I passed on desserts more often and squeezed in extra workouts.
For your vision board to work, pick images and text that stir up emotions for you. Think of your goal, the benefits of your goal, and how that will make you feel. Then, choose images that capture those emotions and create your board.
Regular exercise adds years to your life. How much exercise is needed? Multiple studies show that you should aim for 2.5 hours of moderate exercise or just over 1 hour of vigorous exercise per week. That said, only 15 minutes per day makes a difference.
Think of the extra years you can have with your beautiful kiddos, and get moving!
Developed by a certified fitness instructor and personal trainer, this video gives you a fast, effective workout. The instructor addresses the real-world challenges of exercising with a baby. The instructor safely involves the baby though the entire workout and adjusts based on the baby’s needs.
GroovaRoo is a company that offers babywearing dance classes. You can easily do the workouts from your living room using their YouTube playlist. If you live in a major metropolitan area, you might have be able to attend an in-person babywearing class as well.
HIIT workouts are designed to fit busy lifestyles. Some HIIT workouts last only 5 minutes. Squeeze in a HIIT workout while your baby is sleeping. Or, entertain your baby by doing it with them. Here is a list of postpartum HIIT workouts to get you started.
Try a trampoline workout. It’s a big stress reliever and tones your back, core, and legs. Pick up an adult fitness trampoline for yourself and a toddler trampoline for your little one. Your toddler will love jumping along with you.
Cue up a playlist of marching songs and get moving! For max impact, lift your knees up high and carry weights. Here’s a list of our favorite toddler marches:
No fancy obstacle course gear? No problem! You can make a quick obstacle course using only sidewalk chalk. Check out this article about making a chalk obstacle course for age-appropriate ideas like hopscotch, frog hop, dance party circles, and more.
Going for a walk might not excite your toddler. So, instead of going for a walk, go for an adventure. Spin up a story that will entertain them through the walk. You can create original stories or, even easier, borrow from their favorite books and movies.
Try finding ways to make regular play more intense. Here’s what I mean.
We have a sledding hill in our backyard. When my kids were too small to walk up the slippery, snow-covered hill alone, I would plunk them on the sled and drag them up the hill. They thought it was hilarious, and after several trips up the hill, I thought it was one of the hardest workouts of my life. Now my kids are old enough to walk up the hill alone, but I still give them “sleigh rides” to build my strength.
Here are more ways you can make play more intense:
Cosmic Kids Yoga
Help your kids discover their inner yogi. Cosmic Kids Yoga teaches your kids real yoga moves that are weaved into fun stories ranging from Minecraft to Mario.
Go Noodle became popular as a “brain break” program used in schools. You can use it at home for a fun indoor workout on a rainy day. There are dance songs, movement games, stretching routines, and more.
If you have an exercise bike at home, consider getting one for your kiddo as well. Involve them in your workouts or set up side-by-side and throw on a movie.
You might want to give up immediately but stick with it. You will get better at it, and it’s a great core workout! You can use a weighted hula hoop for adults for an extra challenge.
Play Just Dance
Available for Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and Playstation, Just Dance will get the whole family sweating. It’s packed with popular songs for both kids and adults. You can compete with each other, or work together to try to earn the highest score.
Burn tons of calories, lower your stress level, and have fun! Sounds impossible, right? Nope! Zumba Kids is a popular, proven way to reach fitness goals. Check out this YouTube playlist for easy access to a handful of great dances.
Now that you have a bunch of great workouts, it’s time to build a habit.
A habit is powerful because it’s automatic. A habit makes you feel an impulse to follow a certain routine without needing to think about it.
In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explains that habits are formed by following these steps:
Sounds easy, right?
The biggest challenge is consistency over a long period of time. On average, it takes 66 days to build an automatic habit.
A workout calendar can help you track your progress, plus it works as a visual reminder and motivator.
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld has a great trick for using a calendar to stay productive. He keeps a big calendar on the wall that shows the whole year. He places a red “X” on each day that he successfully spends time writing jokes. The goal is to end up with long chains of X’s. Here’s how he described it in a lifehacker article:
“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”
Involve your kids in the calendar. They will enjoy the reward of drawing an “X” after the family workout, and they will hold you accountable for keeping up with the calendar.
You may discover that your kids can be your biggest cheerleaders. My daughter always pushes me for one more song on Just Dance, and my son always begs me for one more sleigh ride up the hill in our backyard. Your kids will probably do the same, and it’s those moments that make family workouts more powerful and gratifying than exercising by yourself.
Just for fun, a springtime story called “Spring from Inside.”
Our spring is covered with ice, rain, and snow
And gray, cloudy days that make you feel low.
So spring at my house might not be your pick
but we don’t mind thanks to one little trick.
It starts with balloons to make a rainbow,
As paper birds watch us sit down below
On a lush green blanket spread on the floor
Surrounded by plants and flowers galore.
We toast the new season with cups of tea
And bring spring indoors to our garden party.
We don’t need the warm sun sitting outside.
Our spring joy grows from love we hold inside.
By Allison Kenien with love for my two best springtime party people.
Schools shut down. Families stayed home. And children everywhere watched the world panic.
At the start of the pandemic, my then 5-year-old daughter transitioned to remote learning, and she struggled with attention and behavioral challenges.
Every morning, she would trudge slowly through addition problems and spelling lessons. She took constant breaks to get snacks, go to the bathroom, help her brother play with a toy, and do anything else she could think of to avoid the work.
I was stuck in the mindset that my daughter needed to do her work before having fun. Then, I read that outdoor time and exercise can help kids focus.
I started taking the kids outside for an adventure every morning. Then, we would return for remote learning in the afternoon.
Everything changed. Not only could my daughter focus, but she was motivated and happy.
Our outdoor time included playing at parks, walking through forests, splashing in waterfalls, and exploring our backyard. We would integrate crafts and journals, or sometimes we just enjoyed the silence.
My daughter is back at school full time now, but this experience turned DIY nature therapy into one of my favorite parenting strategies.
Nature therapy, also called ecotherapy, focuses on the connection that humans have to the environment and the benefits that come from nurturing that connection. Although this is a relatively new field, the positive impact of nature is well-known by scientists and health professionals.
Research has shown that time outside in nature improves mental health and well being. A simple walk can reduce negative thoughts and calm your mood.
Psychologists may recommend nature therapy as a stand-alone treatment or combine it with other forms of therapy.
With the pandemic pushing people outdoors and nature therapy growing in popularity, parents have started using these techniques on their own.
COVID stress and increased screen time has been detrimental to kids’ physical and mental health.
All kids can gain cognitive and mental health benefits from nature therapy. It’s been used for treatment of anxiety, depression, ADHD, autism, and other conditions.
For my kids, nature therapy activities were the perfect fix, and it helped us to create moments that we’ll treasure forever.
While there are different approaches to nature therapy, we had a few favorites. My daughter and son jumped at anything adventurous or messy. They loved unique hikes, digging in the dirt, and taking ordinary tasks outside. Here are the nature therapy techniques that we enjoyed the most.
One hot June morning, our neighbor walked over with a wheelbarrow full of sprouting plants. She had planted seeds for tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce, and other veggies and wanted to share them with us. We gladly took the sprouts and started digging.
It turned out to be an amazing day, and the kids had fun watering and caring for the plants throughout the summer.
Digging in the dirt lifts your spirits and makes you feel more satisfied. Inhaling microbes from the soil makes you produce more serotonin, which helps you relax and gives you a boost of happiness.
As our plants developed, we talked about plant growth stages and the elements they need like sun, water, and nutrients from the dirt. This creates a nice opportunity to talk about changes and growth in general and the elements that people need to stay healthy and happy.
I’ll be honest. The nature journals started off as a sneaky way to get my kindergartener to practice writing. Ultimately, she mostly drew pictures, but the journals became one of our treasured activities.
Our journals have been everything from fancy store-bought notebooks to a few sheets of stapled-together paper. That part doesn’t matter. The important thing is to focus on drawing or writing about beautiful discoveries, amazing adventures, and memorable moments.
When we went outside to explore, we’d bring our journals and capture the animals in our backyard, wildflowers along hiking trails, hidden waterfalls, etc. Each time we went out, it seemed like there was always one or two things that really jumped out to us, and we would draw it.
Sometimes, our entries were not just nature. The most memorable picture we drew was daddy driving home from work. We were outside playing and saw his car coming up the road. At the start of the pandemic, most parents were working from home, but he still had to go out to the area hospitals. Daddy coming home was the best part of every day.
When we saw him driving up the road, we immediately started drawing it in our journals. Having that picture in the “pandemic nature journal” reminds me of the stress and craziness of that time, and how nice it was for us when he came home.
I cannot tell you how many picnics I’ve had with my kids. Too many to count. When it’s nice outside, we throw down a blanket and have breakfast, lunch, and snacks outside.
Picnics became one of our favorite warm weather activities, and soon our picnics expanded into much more than just food. We began taking books, board games, paint, crafts, and stuffed animals out to the picnic blanket too. This extended our outside time and put a new spin on these traditionally inside activities.
Forest bathing is the practice of exploring the woods while consciously immersing your senses in the surrounding environment.
To do this, you can try going for a walk in the forest (or the patch of trees in your backyard). Silently, everyone focuses on 1 of the 5 senses. After a minute, chat with your kids about what they noticed and how it made them feel.
During our COVID outdoor adventures, my kids and I discovered amazing local forest hikes. Each time we walked the trails, we worked through the list of our 5 senses. For each sense, we chatted about the sensations and how we felt.
Let me tell you, it wasn’t all butterflies and daisies. It was also mosquitoes, prickly bushes, and slithering snakes. But guess what? Sunshine or storms, bugs or birds, we enjoyed all of it.
Four days after schools removed the mask mandate, my daughter tested positive for COVID. I wasn’t surprised that we caught COVID. Experts say everyone will get it eventually. What surprised me was my daughter’s reaction.
I was worried she would be scared. I was worried her friends would be nervous about catching it. But, I knew these worries were unfounded when my daughter said, “Mom, can I call all my friends and tell them I have COVID?” Apparently this is celebrity status in second grade.
My daughter’s take on COVID inspired me to surf social media to find out what other kids are saying. A couple of quick searches brought up hilarious kid quotes that could only be captured in a pandemic. Here are a few highlights.
The text, email, or call comes in: Your child has been exposed.
All of a sudden, you need to rearrange your schedule, plan remote learning, and figure out quarantine rules. But here’s the real challenge: entertaining your kids at home for a week.
Good news: science can help. We know what makes humans happy. So, you can approach quarantine entertainment strategically. Build your activity list using the research-backed ideas in this post, and you’ll have a house of happy quarantiners.
Research has shown that spending 5 minutes per day writing in a gratitude journal can make you happier. Journaling about your feelings can also help you clarify thoughts, solve problems, and lower stress.
Start up a quarantine journal where kids can capture their unique quarantine experience.
Little ones can focus on drawing pictures to express themselves, whereas older kids can write, scrapbook, doodle, etc.
It’s hard for kids to be stuck in the house, so this exercise gives them a chance to remember all the good things that still surround them. It will also be a great keepsake to share with family, friends, and their own future kids.
Yes, you can volunteer while quarantining, and science says it will make you feel great!
Consider creating a virtual fundraiser with your kids. You can host a Zoom game night with Bingo, Scattegories, Heads Up, Go Fish, Pictionary, or Charades. Ask your guests to make a donation to your selected charity, and then promote the charity during the game night.
Another option is a virtual talent show, play, movie night, or concert. Sell tickets for your online event and donate the ticket sale money to charity.
If you’re an active family, you can plan a physical challenge fundraiser like a race, olympic-style competition, or dance marathon. Get sponsors and then take fun videos of your family event to send to the donors.
Getting out in nature can clear negative thoughts and relieve stress. As you venture outside, remember the quarantine guidelines and stay in your own yard!
Take a nature walk around the house, learn about plants, look for animals, watch the clouds, start a collection, make a nature museum, or create wildlife art.
Sharing nature with others is another way to lift your spirits. Since your kids can’t go anywhere, consider planting flowers where your neighbors can see them, or start an herb or vegetable garden to eventually share with friends. Your kids will feel proud displaying their beautiful creations and they’ll love inviting others to visit the garden after their quarantine has ended.
A recent study discovered that people who participated in all-consuming activities were less stressed about COVID. These immersive experiences are called “flow” activities. When you achieve flow, your brain becomes so involved in your actions that you cannot think about anything else.
Flow activities may be different for each person, depending on one’s interests, skills, and the challenge at hand.
Flow activities tend to fall into categories like sports, crafts, cooking, reading, gardening, working, and writing.
Consider the activities that your kids tend to get completely immersed in. My 3-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter find flow while building forts, setting up a pretend store, or making a Play-Doh restaurant. Create a list of games and projects that your family gets most engaged in, and spend your quarantine time working through that list.
Keep the good vibes rolling all day with mood-boosting foods. Here are kid-friendly recipes that contain ingredients like dark chocolate, berries, oats, and bananas that have been shown to lift your spirits.
Meditation lowers feelings of depression and anxiety, and there are plenty of ways for your kids to learn to meditate.
You can start with basic mindfulness activities. Keep the tone light and playful to make sure your kids feel comfortable.
Breathing games are an easy way to begin. The goal is to teach your kids to inhale deeply and then exhale fully. Have them practice inhaling by smelling foods, flowers, or unlit candles. Then, have them practice exhaling by pretending to blow out birthday candles. Once they’ve worked on their inhaling and exhaling, have them put it together to see if they can do 10 perfect deep breaths.
You can also teach mindfulness by going on a backyard nature walk. Have your family stay silent for a minute or two, and then everyone can report on the sounds, smells, and sights they noticed and how they felt as they made their observations. Depending on your child’s age, you may want to do this repeatedly, focusing on one sense at a time.
Yoga is one of the most popular ways to meditate and it’s totally accessible for kids. Try out the Guided Meditation playlist from Cosmic Kids Yoga, which has cute, peaceful adventures involving a balloon, a treehouse, a bunny, a treasure box, and more.
It’s a well-known fact that exercise improves mental health. Aim for thirty minutes of exercise to achieve benefits like stress relief, improved mood, and increased energy.
Prosocial goals benefit other people or society as a whole.
For your quarantine time, setting an achievable, prosocial goal can help kids feel happier. Here are prosocial goals that can be done during quarantine:
Make the most of your quarantine time by mastering a skill. Research shows that people who work at improving their abilities are happier in the long term.
Consider signing your kids up for a virtual class to help them explore their interests. Here are online class options:
Have you ever noticed a breathtaking sunset and then you instantly felt happier? Those good feelings are a direct result of experiencing a moment of awe.
Studies have shown that awe makes people focus on the present moment and more satisfied with life.
To find moments of awe in quarantine, turn to nature, art, photography, music, or documentaries. The key is to pay attention, take your time, open your mind, and appreciate the wonder of our world.
Quarantine at home may seem dull, but if you look closely for beautiful moments, you will surely find them.
Find a Remote Routine That Works for Your Family · Wake up and work until the kids get up. · Grab breakfast for the kids and work while they eat.