Games to get your kids jumping and hopping

Photo: istockphoto.com/Jennifer Daley

Ah, the lazy, hazy days of summer… the perfect time for outdoor exploring, adventuring and play! But if your child is logging more hours in front of the television or computer than being active, her health could be at risk.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, over half of Canadian children aged five to 17 are not active enough for optimal health and development. And the problem is more acute among girls than it is among boys.

Get them outside!
As obesity becomes an increasing problem in our sedentary society, it's time to get kids excited about being active! Summer is the perfect time for outdoor games that'll keep them moving and having fun.

These games don't require fancy or expensive equipment; they're easy to learn and fun to play. Many can be be played right on the front sidewalk -- a great way to meet other kids in the neighbourhood!

Where's my birdie?
A rousing game of badminton is a fine way to engage the whole family in a little summer exercise. All you need is a net, a set of inexpensive racquets (readily available from sporting good stores) and a handful of plastic ‘shuttlecocks.' The object of the game is to whack the shuttlecocks back and forth across the net. Though the game is related to tennis, the racquets are easier to handle and it doesn't take a whole lot of force to make the shuttlecock fly! Badminton is a great option for the beach or the backyard alike.

Spike it
And while you've got the net set up, why not try a game of volleyball? More suitable for older children, volleyball is played with a lightweight ball. The object of the game is to pass the ball back and forth over the net using your hands. You score points by sending the ball over the net with enough skill that the opposing team can't get it back over before it lands. Volleyball can be a vigorous, physical game and is as fun to play on the grass as it is on the sand.

A my name is Anna
Besides being fun, skipping is an easy way to burn calories and it can be done anywhere and anytime. Skipping also helps improve cardio-respiratory fitness and flexibility while trimming fat and toning muscles. Younger children love skipping games that include different moves for different verses. Littlegirlskipping.com has lots of skipping songs listed; you may even remember some of them from your own youth! Skipping is a fun, inclusive activity. Get a long rope out on the sidewalk and engage the whole neighbourhood… and remember, skipping's not just for kids!

Count to ten
Hopscotch is a popular children's game right around the world. Begin by drawing a hopscotch grid on the sidewalk using chalk, and then number the squares in order. The game is played by throwing a small stone or beanbag so that it first lands on square ‘1'. The jumper then has to hop over the first square, landing deliberately on each of the subsequent squares. On her way back, the jumper stops to retrieve the stone. The game continues in sequence, with each player taking a turn, until the stone has made its way all the way up the grid. For extra fun, let your children design their own hopscotch grids.

The cat's eye
Marbles is a game first played by children in ancient Egypt and Rome. Today, the game is played using ceramic or glass balls. To play the most basic version of the game, simply draw a circle in the sand. The object of the game is to take turns knocking your opponent's marbles out of the circle using your own, though there are lots of modified versions. Sure, it's not the biggest outdoor calorie-burner, but a rousing game of marbles will still get your kids away from the television and out into the fresh air. And isn't that what summer is all about?

Meredith Dault is a freelance writer and broadcaster based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.