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Keeping Kids Active while Social Distancing

As the Covid-19 pandemic steamrolls its way through 2020, and our children adapt to shifting “new normals” every other week, we have seen many changes here in Qatar. First, schools closed back in March. Then, they reopened in September when both blended and full-time online were options. Now, we have moved on to a rotated learning scheme, and through it all, our children have proven time and time again how resilient they are.

However, resilient or not, one thing remains the same, our children need to stay active.

According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) website, children over five should engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day. Under-fives, however, should be physically active for at least 180 minutes per day.

But the question that has been on parents’ minds is, how can they hit those targets in the current climate? After all, many of their traditional avenues are closed to them. Outdoor play at school is still limited, and only certain sports clubs have

returned to training.

With that in mind, we have looked at more creative ways to get active with your children. From dancing and running to competing against dad, there is something for every kid to get them moving.

As the Covid-19 pandemic steamrolls its way through 2020, and our children adapt to shifting “new normals” every other week, we have seen many changes here in Qatar. First, schools closed back in March. Then, they reopened in September when both blended and full-time online were options. Now, we have moved on to a rotated learning scheme, and through it all, our children have proven time and time again how resilient they are.

However, resilient or not, one thing remains the same, our children need to stay active.

According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) website, children over five should engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day. Under-fives, however, should be physically active for at least 180 minutes per day.

But the question that has been on parents’ minds is, how can they hit those targets in the current climate? After all, many of their traditional avenues are closed to them. Outdoor play at school is still limited, and only certain sports clubs have returned to training.

With that in mind, we have looked at more creative ways to get active with your children. From dancing and running to competing against dad, there is something for every kid to get them moving.

Think Out of the Box

In this socially distant time, we’ve seen an increase in online activities—something you would normally associate with being sedentary. But there are ways to get active, even while participating in viral social media trends. Yes, you read that right! Social media and staying active can mix and a perfect example of that is with TikTok. You can keep up with the latest viral dance trends and get your heart pumping with 15 seconds of fast, catchy choreography.

Lisa, a mum to two young girls, often joins in with her daughters’ dance sessions to get some much-needed exercise and laughter with them. She recommends parents who want to do the same to make their TikTok profiles private. She also advises those with younger children to not allow the app on their devices so that they can monitor what they are doing more easily.

Engage Their Competitive Spirit

It’s all well and good to tell your children to go out and run around, but often you find that they get bored with running drills. While running is an excellent way to stay fit and active, it is not always the most mentally stimulating. So, with that in mind, why not set up virtual races with their friends?

You could consider holding virtual races of varying distances or arranging other team activities.

Jaclyn and Laura, mums to six children between them, set up a collaborative marathon event for their eldest children. Each child had to run a minimum of 1km (timed) each day to count towards the team effort of completing a marathon distance. Ten days later, in a total time of five hours, thirty-one minutes, and forty-one seconds, the four children had run a combined total of 42 km—in other words, they completed a marathon!

Consider Personal Training

Personal training doesn’t have to be just for grownups. UK-based trainer Joe Wicks took the world by storm with his PE with Joe sessions during the lockdown, encouraging children and adults alike to get moving.  As a result, words like “burpees” and “squats” made it into even the most reluctant of exercisers’ vocabulary, showing that circuits and personal training don’t have to be boring. With a multitude of personal trainers (PTs) here in Qatar—many who are trained to work with teenagers—you can look at taking it off YouTube and into the gym. And that way, your PT will be able to check your form and encourage you to build in muscle strength, fitness, and confidence. Jackie, a personal trainer who works with teenagers, says that it is a pleasure to see their confidence grow as the weeks go by and says that they can notice their fitness improving.

Take Up a New Hobby

Being active can sometimes be seen as something you have to do rather than something you enjoy, but it can be both. Many hobbies and sports can be practised with social distancing maintained.

Fabien, a dad to two, has taken up rollerblading with his two children. Though he says they run rings around him with the tricks they’re able to complete while he struggles to stay upright, the main goal for him is that they’re all out of the house together, enjoying being active.

Katherine and her family all participate in tennis lessons together. When they’re not actively being coached, the kids are still able to grab their rackets to play in the garden together or hit a ball against a wall. They might also volley the ball to one another or just play another game with their swing ball together instead.

With a variety of sporting equipment now available here in Qatar, the sky is the limit with what you can try. From padel (the racquet sport that has gained popularity in Spain) to skateboarding, there is something to suit all interests.

Get Outside

Sometimes it is as simple as getting outside, especially for the littlest members of your family. Elisa, a mum to a toddler son, says that often, her son’s favourite activity is being outdoors, walking around and exploring. For younger children, keeping them active can be as simple taking them for walks in the park and giving the chance to smell the flowers.

If you want to be a little more adventurous, why not head up to one of Qatar’s many beautiful beaches? A morning of digging in the sand and running in the surf will tire out even the most active bunch for the rest of the day.

Go Old School

While it can be intimidating to try and think of new ways to keep children active and entertained, sometimes it is best to go back to basics. As there are now several bike paths around Qatar offering a safe way to ride, why not get on your wheels as a family and take a quick spin near Khalifa Stadium or around Aspire Park? You could also head over to Oxygen Park. If you’re feeling nervous about being outside on your bike, you could try putting a scenic route on YouTube and turn your bike into a stationary one.

Another tried and tested activity is swimming, and with pools now reopening, you can pull on your swimsuits and jump in.

Make a Mess and Go Crazy

Get the kids to create an at-home, indoor obstacle course! Emma, a mum of two, does this by letting her children run wild, pulling off every single cushion, chair, and stool to create the most elaborate obstacle courses. Her kids even make her join in!

Choose Calmer Activities

You may think that being active means being wild, but there are many calmer activities that are good for both physical and mental health. An example is yoga, with many classes aimed at children being available on YouTube. These include relaxation and meditation exercises where children are asked to imagine walking through forests and mountains and stretching exercises for their whole body. Videos of pilates classes for kids of different ages are also available online and can help them build strength and flexibility in a low-intensity way.

Make It a Family Affair

Get involved in the activities you end up planning. Adults need to stay active too, and it’s often inspiring for your children to see mum and dad trying alongside them. Rowan, a dad to three, says that his boys especially enjoy trying to beat him at everything they do together, whether that is running, biking, rollerblading, or swimming. They love the chance to “be better than daddy”!

Enjoy It!

The main thing you need to consider when choosing these activities for your family is whether you will enjoy them. When you enjoy something, you’re more likely to keep it up, and that can only be a good thing for activity levels.

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