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Picnic Olympics Anyone? Perfect Toddler Activities No Matter How Much Time You Have

Section: New mum fitness

Whether you have five minutes or one hour with your toddler, try these new tricks to entice her away from the iPad and up her (and your) exercise quota to boot.

We’ve all been there. No time (or inclination) for a trip to soft play, so you let your little one watch yet another hour-long Peppa special. Let’s face it, most of us allow our toddlers screen time – although the Department of Health recommends your tot is active for at least three hours every day (yes, really!), research shows that in just two generations the rate of physical activity has dropped by 20%. Even if you only have a few minutes spare, you can still get moving…

5 mins: Drop it and disco

Start a game of ‘drop it and disco’, which involves putting on music at intervals throughout the day. When it’s on, you, your toddler, and anyone else in the house, must ‘drop’ anything in their hands and start to dance. Whoever gets moving the most quickly or enthusiastically gets a sticker. ‘Dance uses the whole body, improves flexibility and builds self-esteem,’ says Amanda Hughes, dancer and founder of Disco Ducklings.

15 mins: Do the car-wash workout

‘Car washing is basically water play, so small children love it. Equip her with a sponge and a bowl of bubbly water,’ says fitness expert Jane Wake. ‘It encourages muscle strength and flexibility as your child will be bending and crouching to reach parts of the car.’ To make it work for you: ‘Lunge as you’re heading to the car, skip back and squat when you dunk the sponge in the bucket. Aim to hold your core muscles while cleaning.’

30 mins: Try Animal yoga

Start with the cobra – lie facing the floor, raise your upper body off the floor, with your palms on a mat. For a cat pose, go on your hands and knees with palms spread flat, then raise your back up towards the ceiling, letting your head drop. ‘Yoga engages the muscles, then releases them, leaving your child feeling relaxed,’ says Justina Perry from MamaBabyBliss.

45 mins: Do the circus skills clean up

Tidy-up time is a chance to try toy juggling and tightrope walking. ‘Encourage her to throw her soft toys into a tidy basket, which improves hand/eye coordination and strength,’ says Lily Karrouze from Lay a scarf on the floor and ask your tot to walk along it to place toys in a basket – this develops concentration. You can fold the scarf to make it thinner and do it yourself, too, working your hamstrings.  

60 mins: Play the picnic Olympics

Head outside for lunch and make things interesting: put oranges between children’s knees and encourage them to reach a finish line without dropping them. Arrange a DIY bowling alley knocking down plastic bottles with a ball (and join in yourself). ‘These simple activities can improve a child’s natural physical development,’ says Jane.


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