Getting "Physical" with Your Kids

Wednesday, 09 March 2011 16:17 Written by  Priya A. Shah

Dodge ball. Freeze tag. Hide and seek. Hopscotch. Jump rope. Running around until your legs fall off! With obesity rates increasing in America, it’s important for children to be and stay active on a regular basis. Though there is a sufficient amount of gadgets out there that kids can use to get their daily cardiovascular activity in, such as the Dance Revolution Wii Game, with the winter blues headed out the door, the sun will encourage extra outdoor activities.

However, whether it’s indoor or outdoor, the trick is to create fun activities that the kids will enjoy, says Andrea Metcalf, a healthy lifestyle expert and author of Naked Fitness, a 28 Day Proven Weight Loss Program for a Slimmer, Fitter, Pain-free Body. If you’re a busy parent, she recommends trying things that kidwill help you multitask, such as turning simple a chore of cleaning the house into a game of seeing who can pick up the most items in a certain time where the winner gets a prize.

“There are always fun systems and games—you just have to be creative,” says Andrea, a mother of three who has always had her kids enrolled in some type of active program, whether it’s soccer and baseball after school or a summer Olympics program. If it’s a nice day out, she suggests trying something like a scavenger hunt where the kids can look for things that are already outside like shapes, colors and flowers. During the game, the kids may enjoy it more if they were allowed to take pictures of the items that they find.

“You can do relay races and turn on music and dance with your kids,” Andrea advises. “I know Cheryl Hines, the spokesperson for The American Heart Association this year, put a disco ball in her living room so that she can dance with her six-year-old daughter to make it little more fun.”

As someone who lives an active life, Andrea inspires her kids to do the same and also encourages other parents to think positively when it comes to their children’s health and fitness. If money is tight, she suggests trying low cost or free events through the park district and the church vacation bible school that families can enjoy.

However, as a Chicago parent, if you’re looking for something steadier that your kids can participate in all year around, My Gym Chicago is a fitness center designed for gymnastics physical movement and developments for children of ages 6 weeks to 13 years old.

“In terms of physical development, especially in the cities, this is great outlet for kids to come and really have space to move and run and be kids for a little bit,” says Annemarie Chouinard, the director of My Gym Chicago for the Chicago location. “In the summer, there are parks, but where do you really go to in the winter? There’s not always as much space as you like, especially if you’re living in the city. This is a great option for parents to take their children to get them [moving].”

Annemarie says that at My Gym Chicago the kids develop their physical growth as well as their social skills while increasing their confidence and self-esteem. “Being able to interact with other children with their age [is important] in developing personality,” she says.

Erin Gerothanas, a stay-at-home mom, agrees. She has two children under the age of three and first joined the gym in 2008 when her son, Theo, was 4 months old. The purpose of joining the gym was for Erin to interact with other moms and for her son to do the same with kids his own age. The benefits of Theo joining were effective even before he was mobile. He learned to walk, climb and was encouraged to move by watching the other children at the program.

“He got to know the kids in each class, and they soon became his friends that he looks forward to seeing each week,” says Erin. “Plus, he got to know the teachers over time, and I think this also helped him to overcome his shyness.”

Stacey Pearl, another member of the gym, also says that both her boys are benefiting from the program. She’s a stay-at-home mom and a private business owner of Hold That Thought, which offers personalized party favors and gifts. Stacey, like Erin, also joined for her son, Spencer, who was 5 months old at the time to meet new people during the Chicago winter. Her son is now 2 years old and enjoys running, climbing and jumping. Stacey likes to keep him active throughout the day when they’re not at the gym too.

“My son absolutely loves helping me unpack the groceries or items from Target,” says Stacey. “We also live across the street from a park, so we try to live there as much as we can. He runs on the grass and swings like Tarzan on the equipment and comes home positively pooped!”


Photography by GMO Photo Editor Billy Montgomery

Priya A. Shah

Priya A. Shah

Priya A. Shah lives in Chicago. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago in 2010, where she studied magazine journalism and fiction writing. She has been a staff writer for GMO since 2007. She’s written and interned for various media outlets such as India Tribune, Today's Chicago Woman, Tribune Media Services, GlossMagazineOnline and Echo (the student produced magazine for Columbia College Chicago). She’s contributed to A Fresh Squeeze (, an online publication for green living in Chicago, and her school newspaper, The Columbia Chronicle.

Priya can be reached at or