Welcome to the wonderful world of babies, toddlers and exercise! What a joy and pleasure these tiny human beings can be. Have you ever considered how you can incorporate fitness WITH your children? That’s right, you can multitask your way to a stronger body with a Happy Baby by your side.
Babies are temperamental little creatures and their habits, patterns and routines are constantly changing. It can take a while for new Mums to find their groove and discover what works for their family. Exercise often moves to the lowest level of any To Do list, because when a new Mum finally has time for herself falling asleep on the couch seems like the best option.
Our lifestyle and daily routines are different now from the days when we were childfree, so it follows that the way we approach exercise should also be different.
You can try the usual methods of trying to include exercise into your day, such as, a visit to the gym with baby going into the crèche, asking Grandma to mind the baby while you attend a fitness class or swim some laps, or even organising Dad to do the breakfast routine before he goes to work so you can go for a run around the block.
BUT, what happens when your baby hates the gym crèche or you have no Grandma or other family member living anywhere near you? Even getting out the door in clothes let alone running shoes some mornings isn’t an option because all routine has been thrown out the window.
The answer is you do an awesome interactive workout, at home, WITH your baby.
You are going to play with your baby and spend time with them anyway, right? So why not make it an interactive workout? Think of it as Active Playtime. The best part is you can do any of these interactive workouts regardless of whether your baby is happy, sad, tired, sleepy, playful, or even grumpy.
Let the games begin!
Active Playtime with a Newborn – Tummy Time Tickle
Babies need tummy time for their muscle development, so jump down on the floor with them and tone your muscles at the same time. If your baby is anything like my firstborn, he hated tummy time! So having Mum there, playing peek-a-boo, tickling and singing a silly song just might be the perfect distraction. While you are down on the floor try some simple exercises, for example, back extensions, leg raises or side planks.
Active Playtime with Babies – Baby Weights
This is simply using your baby as resistance. The bonus of moving your baby gently through space is that you are stimulating their vestibular system. This is a fancy term for brain development and activating their sensory system. So your working out is good for your baby’s brain development! Win-win!
Simple movements like a squat with a baby shoulder press, lifting your baby up and down will prove great resistance. As your baby grows and gains more weight, so the weight you lift gradually increases, making you stronger. Keep your lifts really gentle, controlled and smooth. Lots of eye contact and talking to your baby will make them smile their way through this fun activity.
You don’t ever workout using dumbbells, kettle balls, resistance bands, etc., when your baby is around, because if you have a slip, it could be a terrible injury to your child. Keep such equipment well away until your baby is asleep or safely out of harms way.
Active Playtime for Babies on the Move – Dance Party
Does your baby love music? I bet they’ll love it even more when they hear Mum singing like a goose to them. Start by taking any action song, maybe ‘The wheels on the bus’, ‘The Hokey Pokey’, or ‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes’. Sing to your baby, add the movements, then over exaggerate all the moves and actions, let your heart rate increase, and repeat and repeat until it races and breathing and singing all become a little harder. Lots of fun and laughter, and a good workout!
If baby is up for the action, hold them snug in your arms, or pop them in a baby carrier (optimally positioned, of course). Get your favourite songs pumping and start grooving, play The Wiggles or Rhianna – it really doesn’t matter. If you don’t know how to dance, just keep it really simple, try doing each of these exercises 8 times: step touch, knee raises, butt kicks and squats. Babywearing is also a vestibular movement, so another win-win!
Active Playtime for the Toddlers – Animals
This is perfect for babies or toddlers on the move. Simply act out your child’s favourite animals or characters. What does your child like? Cars, fairies, dinosaurs, animals? Say to your child, “Let’s stomp around like dinosaurs!” They don’t need to know that you are actually doing a set of lunges. Have a car race to the other end of the hallway, crawling along side them. Can you run quickly like a fairy on your tippy toes & flap your wings? You will only be limited by your imagination. Just choose 4 basic exercises, for example, Squats, Lunges, Crawling and Walking, and see how you can incorporate a fun action and sound that matches a theme your little one likes.
To get the full run down of more exercises you can do at home with your child, download Philippa’s Free guide here
The best part is you can do this all at home, no special equipment, no special clothes, PJs are fine, but smiles with your baby are compulsory. Sometimes the hardest part about exercising is simply starting, so just try it, modify it to your family situation, keep it simple and safe.
Pre/Postnatal Fitness Expert & Founder of Nurtured Fitness
Philippa Bowman is a Pre/Postnatal Fitness Expert, Founder of Nurtured Fitness, Kangatraining Instructor, Trained Babywearing Consultant and mother of two. All her working career has been in the fitness industry, but when she became a mother she really saw and understood for the first time the demands and challenges of maintaining a fitness routine WITH children. Philippa is passionate about fitness and has developed her 100% family friendly fitness program so all families can make fitness a regular normal activity and an achievable priority.