MASTER CLASS: Box hop race is a fun way to get kids exercising (parents too)

Daniel Carnahan and his 8 1/2-year-old son, Owen, do the final leg of the Box Hop Race -- the bear crawl -- for Matt Parrott's Master Class on their lawn in Little Rock. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Celia Storey)

Before this March, exercising with young children was about bike rides, family walks or games of tag around the backyard. Now that schools, workplaces and fitness centers are closed, exercising with family is one of many adaptations Arkansans have made.

This week, I have a present for parents who might be running out of at-home workout ideas, a routine that's perfect for a parent and child.

It is important to remember a few physiological and psychological realities. First, kids have a more difficult time regulating their body temperature than adults do. Direct sun exposure, higher temperatures and lack of hydration all affect children more seriously. So, consider these environmental factors when planning an outdoor workout.

Also, the workout needs to be fun or it results in teaching children to hate exercise. Kids like challenges, races, overcoming obstacles and they love achievement. With some exceptions, most children are not interested in exercising for the sake of long-term health. So, plan an activity that provides an opportunity for them to "win" in some form.

Whether it's winning against the parent, winning against the clock or beating a personal best in some activity, the key is to set a bar for them to strive toward.

Also, play with them. They miss their friends right now. They have not seen their schoolmates in weeks or months, and they want someone to play with.

Parents should participate whenever possible, as it's not only beneficial for the child's experience, it allows the parent to get a little extra activity in their day.

I'm not saying the parent needs to push himself or herself to the point that they pull a hammy, only to participate.

Finally, record it. Everyone will take away memories from this unprecedented time, and many of them will be shrouded in negativity. The chance to enjoying playing with one's child in the middle of a workday is not something that many working Arkansans had before March, so I think it's important to document the good times.

This week's exercise is a total workout designed to challenge kids and adults alike. The Box Hop Race is a great way to get outside, get active and enjoy a few laughs.

1. An adult and child find some open space outside. Place four markers to define a square. The space should be about 15-by-15 feet if possible.

2. The adult starts at the bottom left corner and the child starts at the top right corner.

3. Moving clockwise, both participants hop on one leg from corner 1 to corner 2.

4. Switch to the other leg and hop one-legged from corner 2 to corner 3.

5. Now hop with both legs from corner 3 to corner 4.

6. Finally, bear crawl (hands and feet) from corner 4 back to your starting point.

7. First one back to their original corner wins!

The Box Hop Race can be modified to include a variety of different exercises along each section, but the overall design of the race is perfect for kids. It's short, fun and they can race their parent or race against the clock. Enjoy!

Matt Parrott has a doctorate in education (sport studies) and a master's in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.

ActiveStyle on 04/27/2020