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EXERSHINEkids Bootcamp Inspired Family Fitness Fun! Four Easy Exercise Games for Home

By Dr. Amy Wheadon, OTD, OTR/L

2023 has arrived, and many adults will set goals for themselves and their families for the new year. Increasing daily exercise and facilitating overall fitness is usually at the top of many resolution lists. There are so many obvious benefits of exercise, including getting stronger, getting faster, losing weight, feeling more confident, and just plain feeling good. Any of these reasons can be motivation to get out of bed a little earlier, or to end your day with a workout, a run, or a class. And since families are home together WAY more this year in particular, families working together to exercise daily and get fit is a growing trend!

Due to the winter weather, motivation may require a little more effort, and many gyms and workout facilities are overcrowded in January and winter months. These challenges require people to be more creative with when, where and how they exercise, especially if they are simultaneously juggling work, home, pandemic restrictions and family.


The key word here is family- in particular- children. Working out with your children is a super fun way to get a daily dose of exercise alongside your kiddos, while simultaneously acting as a role model for good health and healthy habits. In addition, an increase in exercise and physical movement is 100% necessary for kids right now. But how do you start? Choose a very simple activity that the whole family can participate in, and tweak it so everyone can participate, no matter what age!

Enter the pediatric occupational therapist! You may wonder, why is my child’s OT an expert in fitness and exercise? Besides our backgrounds in anatomy, physiology and kinesiology, OTs focus on enhancing daily, meaningful activities (or occupations) and that can include leisure activities, roles and routines. OTs also have a knack for being fun, creative and inspiring with meaningful activity design. And the pediatric OT writing this blog (in particular) also happens to be a personal trainer as well! Combining OT and exercise is a passion of mine. This combined interest is a growing area in the field of OT for so many reasons, which will be a focus of future blog posts. But for now, here are some fun, family oriented activities to jump start your family fitness routine that can be done pretty much anywhere, and without any fancy equipment!

1. Plank Over Unders

First make sure each family member has mastered a near perfect low and high plank. Then practice going from low plank to high plank and back to low plank. Once you are ready, break into teams of two, with one person alternating high plank, low plank and the other person jumping OVER the low plank and crawling UNDER the high plank. Do this for 30 seconds, then rest 30 seconds then switch! If you have an odd number of people in your group, you can have one person be the “planker” and the others take turn crawling under and over.

Target areas: core strength, shoulder stability, reaction time, power, agility, pacing, endurance

2. Freeze Dance Challenge

This activity is one of our favorites. Each family member gets to pick a song. Play the music for 15-30 second intervals, and everybody needs to dance. Just like the party game, when the music stops, everyone has to freeze! The fitness catch is to freeze on one foot for another 10-15 seconds and keep your balance! If you lose your balance, you do a burpee! Here’s how to increase the challenge level on this activity: Scatter cotton balls on the floor all around your feet. When the music starts, have everyone do quick feet (pacing the music) instead of dancing, and when the music stops- do single leg deadlifts to pick up as many cotton balls as possible until the music starts again!

Target areas: core strength, dynamic balance, agility, pacing, endurance

3. Eye Spy Workout

Just like the old fashioned game of eye spy, but way more active! One person is the “spy” and spies something in the room that is a specific color. When the spy says “I see something red AND 5 Burpees” for example, everyone runs to something original in the room that is the color red- once they get to the object, they complete the physical challenge (5 burpees in this example) and then race back to the spy. Whoever gets there first gets to be the next spy! Definitely build in 30-60 second rest breaks between sets!

Target areas: core strength, shoulder stability, reaction time, power, agility, pacing, endurance

4. Sock Match Laundry Basket Challenge

Moms love this one because it legit helps with laundry! Multi-tasking to the max! Place 5 socks in a laundry basket (or in a sturdy cardboard box) on a rug. Place the match to each of the 5 socks across the room. When someone says GO- each person takes turns grabbing a sock, running across the room, making a match and running back to tag the next person. Once all 5 socks are “matched”, the last matcher pushes the laundry basket across the rug to the “finish line” on the other side of the room. You can grade this activity up by bear walking instead of running, by having the matchers do 5 sit ups, 5 burpees or 5 jumping jacks before matching the sock, or by using 2 laundry baskets and making it a relay race!

Target areas: core strength, shoulder stability, cognitive reasoning, endurance

Try these activities at home- even if you only do one per day or a few per week. Mix in a few old fashioned games of tag, Hide and Seek, Mother May I and Simon Says, and insert your OT inspired fitness flare using what you learned above! I also created short videos on instagram @kidshine.ot that will be released each week during the month of January so you can see these exercises in action! I guarantee you will build strength, skills, confidence while incorporating fun family time with your kiddos! And who knows, maybe this will spark a family tradition that will continue on as your children grow. Stay strong and shine on!

Dr. Amy Wheadon, OTD, OTR/L is a licensed and registered Pediatric Occupational Therapist, the owner of KidSHINE LLC in Rowley, MA, Boxford, MA and Amesbury, MA and the creator of the evidence-based EXERSHINEkids POWER Bootcamp Program. Follow us on facebook at kidshine.ot and on instagram @kidshine.ot to watch the video examples of each of these family exercises.

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