‘This is so much fun...’ my daughter exclaimed when I showed her how to walk like a crab, waddle like a duck and crawl like a bear.
And they are.
Lots of fun. For kids and adults alike.
Kids love moving like their favorite animals.
But, they’re not only fun, they’re tough. Especially when you string a few of those movements together.
Fun and tough…
Great workout potential.
So, what are animal movements? Why are they so good? And how do you make an animal workout for kids?
Let’s find out…
So, are animal exercises just about being silly? Pretending like you’re a kid?
There are so many benefits of these movements, for children of all ages. Yes, I’m talking about you.
But let’s talk about the benefits to your kids first...
We all know the benefits of physical activity...it improves blood flow, it gets your heart rate up, all great things for a healthy life.
But for kids, it is about more than that.
Kids exercise is about sensory input. It’s about them learning how to organise the world and their place in it. It’s about them learning new skills, managing their behaviour, regulating their emotions and getting longer attention spans.
It is a really important part of the healthy development of your child, and animal actions are an excellent source of stimulation for all their sensory systems.
They're going to be listening to classic instructions which will improve their communication skills. They will be moving their body learning important gross motor skills.
Do I need to say any more?
You're sold right?
Ok, well let’s move onto the benefits for you...
If you think about the movement patterns of the animal kingdom...How they glide. How they flow. How graceful they are. They move with their entire body, in unison. Using every muscle. Every fibre. Full range of motion.
Us humans can jump. We can sprint. We can climb. We can crawl. But we really can’t compare to how animals move.
That’s what makes these movements so challenging, for us. And it’s these challenges that make you stronger. Leaner. More mobile.
That’s why they’re so good.
Yeah it’s fun.
Yeah it's a fun workout.
Yeah you’re kids will have fun.
But you’ll also be fitter. Healthier. And happier.
As you will see in a moment, all of the animal exercises are done using just your body.
Makes sense right? Animals don't have exercise equipment.
So, you don't need any special equipment to do these workouts.
Having said that, you could make it more interesting using things like a play tunnel if you have one.
You will need some paper and a pen, to write down the movements you're going to do, but, other than that, you're all set with just your body.
You can use any animal you like.
There are no rules.
Think of different animals, and work out how to move like them in a creative way.
I like to focus on animals that have big movements, they’re ‘easier’ to do, and easier to incorporate into a workout.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re still not easy.
The movements themselves are tough. But they fit with our bodies a bit better.
For example, a snake slither is not that easy unless you’re on a slippery surface. But Crawl like an alligator. That’s much easier to do. On any surface.
After a minute or so, it will definitely get your heart rate up, but if the movement itself is inherently difficult, you won’t have the chance to get your heart rate up.
Anyway, to get you started and give you some ideas, here are some of mine, and little K’s, favourites:
You can do a bear walk either forward or backward…
Come into a table top position, on all fours with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
Engage your core and raise your knees slightly off the floor.
Move forward by simultaneously moving the right hand and left leg in a crawling motion.
Make sure your knees stay off the floor.
Crabs move sideways, so this is essentially going to be a sideways movement, although you could move forward and backward, if you wanted to…
Start by sitting on the floor.
Extend your legs out in front, your heels should be touching the floor and there should be a slight bend in your knees.
Put your hands on the floor behind you, fingers facing your hips.
Engage your core and lift your bum off the floor. Start walking forward by moving your left hand and right foot, then your right hand and left foot.
Continue for the required amount of time.
We all know kangaroos jump. Big jumps off their powerful legs. But they don’t just use their legs. They use their spine, they use their tail. And they use their smaller front legs...arms.
Start in a standing position, with your feet hip width apart.
Engage your core, slightly bend your knees and send your bum backwards.
Using your arms to propel you forwards, jump.
When you land, land on the balls of your feet and spring forward again.
Make sure you keep your core engaged and always send your bum back slightly before you jump.
Ribbit. Ribbit. Ribbit. Kids love to mimic frogs. So why not move like them as well.
Stand with your feet just wider than shoulder width apart.
Engage your core.
Sit back and drop you hands between your feet.
Keeping your core engaged, jump up and forward.
Land with bent knees, hands between your feet again.
Monkeys climb. They swing. If you’ve got monkey bars, or a tree, they’re great ways to move like monkeys. But monkeys’ also run. They use their legs and their arms.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
Engage your core and sink into a deep squat with your hands between your legs on the ground like a gorilla.
Lift your bum up slightly and step forward with one foot, using your arms for support.
Stay in as deep as squat as possible as you travel in any direction.
Ducks waddle. Yes you’re going to be waddling. Duck walks are hard. But they do get easier. Ducks mainly walk forward, but you can do these backwards as well, if you need/want to.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
Engage your core and sink down into a deep squat...make it as deep as you can, but make sure you keep your spine straight and you don’t lift your heels or toes.
Take a step forward with one foot, landing with a flat foot, and then take a step with the other.
Make sure you keep as low as you can and your core engaged.
I don’t know about you, but alligators, crocodiles, they all scare me. But, alligator crawls are fun to do.
Start in a high plank position.
With your core engaged, lift your right leg and move forward with your right arm, then drop your leg.
Repeat with the opposite side. Lift your left leg and move forward with your left arm, drop your leg.
If you want to make it harder you could do a push up in between.
I’m writing this in the run up to Easter, so bunnies are everywhere. Every parent and toddler class we go to, we are bouncing like bunnies. This is the first time I’ve tried to explain a bunny hop in writing...
Stand with your feet together, arms bent in front of you.
Engage your core, bend your knees slightly, and sink your bum behind you.
On the balls of your feet, bounce.
Forward. Backward. Round in circles.
Just keep your core engaged.
This one is fun. Think pretty flutter. All around. This one is all about fluttering.
Make sure your core is engaged and then flap your wings (arms) in small fluttery movements, while you flutter around the garden, living room.
Ok, the movements are one thing. But how do you make them into a workout?
Yes, your kids will have fun doing the movements, but you want to make sure you’re getting a workout. Right?
What kid doesn’t like to race? And a race means….all out for a specified distance and then a rest as you walk back to the start. That’s a HIIT workout.
Moving like an animal combined with music….double whammy of fun.
This one can be a bit more boring for the kids, but it’s a great workout, and it will get them moving. But you could make it a race….first one to finish all of the animals….wins.
A competition...again, what kid doesn’t love a competition?
This one would be better done in your garden, or a park, although if you've got a bit of room inside it really doesn't have to be.
You could make it a race. Or, after those are completed, rest while you lay out four more.
Want to make the workouts even more of a fun challenge? More interesting?
How about after every race the loser has to do something else. Maybe burpees for you? A chore for your kids?
Or what about making it a competition, not just a race? You will need an independent adjudicator for this one...whoever moves most like the animal in question wins. It’s not just who wins the race.
Maybe breakfast in bed for mama? Or, the kids get to choose the next days activities.
You could even get/make cheap trophies.
You could make animal masks and wear them while you’re moving. A great crafting activity as well as a physical activity.
Moving like animals is fun.
You’re kids will love it. You’ll love it. And you you’ll get so much more than just fun.
You’ll be more mobile.
You’ll be more flexible.
You’ll be fitter.
And that’s got to be a win, on all counts.