How & why to improve your family’s physical activity with the Kroc Center’s Corner Zone
As a Registered Dietitian, I frequently have health on my mind, and that includes making sure my children get enough physical activity. So when I found out about the Kroc Center’s Corner Zone, I knew I had to check it out.
When you walk into the Corner Zone at the Salvation Army KROC center, the first thing you’ll notice is how enormous it is. This 8,000 square foot play space is filled with color and play equipment that would be a match for any child’s dream.
When I took my toddler here for the first time, her eyes immediately widened at the sight of all the fun and new things to do and play with. With bounce houses, silly swings, a zip line, an inflatable obstacle course, and more, it’s truly an indoor playground that seems to have it all. As a mama to two little ones, I wore my almost 5 month old in the baby carrier while chasing around my toddler as she excitedly ran from one activity to the next.
Her first stop was the zip line, which looked like a giant ball hanging above a set of stairs and ending in a big pile of foam blocks. She had never seen such a thing, and was immediately interested in discovering how it worked. While her young brain ended up not quite being brave enough to make the actual swing, she thought it was so neat being able to sit on the foam ball and had fun simply jumping on the blocks and running up and down the small set of stairs that led to it.
Next up were the swings, including a hammock-like swing and one that resembled a thick fishing net hung by the ceiling. These were much more fun and exciting than the traditional swings she was used to from our local playground. She also took advantage of the hanging gymnastics rings and loved grabbing on to them and swinging back and forth until she decided to let go and let herself fall on the foam pads beneath her.
From there, she had a blast running into and out of the huge bounce house, attempting to crawl through the inflatable obstacle course, building with giant blocks, throwing child-sized basketballs, and more. When it came time to leave, she was both sweaty and thirsty from all the running around, and kept saying “mama, that was fun!”. Since it had been a rainy day, I was especially thankful to have been able to get her out of the house and fit in some good exercise for her body and mind. I was also thankful that it was not overly crowded, with only a handful of other children and their caregivers on this Monday late afternoon.
What are the benefits of exercise for children?
While most parents know that exercise is important for the whole family, they may struggle to fit it into their lifestyle and daily habits, as well as that of their children’s.
Yet exercise has too many benefits to ignore, and being more physically active doesn’t have to be complicated.
Some of the many benefits of exercise for both you and your child include:
- Supporting a positive mood
- Boosting self-esteem
- Better sleep
- Supporting normal growth and development
- Lower amounts of stress
- Building lean muscle
- Supporting a healthy weight
- Reducing the risk of many chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer
- Strengthening bones
- Improving digestion
- And much more…
If you knew there was something you could be doing that would help give your child all of these benefits while also allowing them to have fun, it seems hard to imagine ignoring it, right?
Yet if you’re struggling with figuring out how to make sure your child gets enough exercise, here are some tips below.
Fun and simple ways to help your child be more physically active
There are so many easy and fun ways to help your child get more exercise, and many of them are free and can occur from the comfort of your own home.
Here are 7 fun activities to help your child get enough exercise:
- Check out a local indoor playground, such as the Kroc Center’s Corner Zone described above. Indoor playgrounds have the benefit of not being limited by weather conditions, and can be a convenient way to help your child get their exercise in even on rainy or super hot days. If you’re a member of the KROC center, you can conveniently pop in to the Corner Zone during any of their drop in hours, perhaps after your own workout class, picking them up from school, or other activity, and can stay for as little or much time as you have available.
- Head to the nearest park. Parks are a perfect spot for kids to run free and play. This fosters independence and allows them to explore new activities.
- Have a dance party. Nearly all children love music. Turn on a few of their favorite songs and encourage them to dance it out. It can be even better if you dance along with them!
- Go for a walk or hike. Whether you live in a concrete jungle or near plenty of nature trails, take advantage of what you have access to. Encourage your child to notice their surroundings by asking questions or encouraging them to find treasures along the way. You can also bring along the family dog if you have one and tackle two activities in one.
- Jump on a trampoline (if you have access to one). This is pure cardio exercise and is so much fun for kids and adults.
- Join a team sport or class. From soccer to gymnastics to dance, or even swim lessons, there are endless ways to get your kids active while also fostering healthy socialization with other children their age.
- Hop on a bike or scooter. This can occur around your neighborhood, or you can take it to a fun destination. Either way, it’s a fun activity that your child won’t even realize is exercise.
In addition to these ideas, it’s important to talk to your child about exercise in a positive light. You might tell them that being physically active can be fun because they get to play with new toys or be with friends. You can also talk to them about how exercise is healthy for their body.
It is best to avoid talking to young children about their weight, or telling them that exercise will help them lose weight. This may lead to a negative body image and a poor relationship with both exercise and food. As parents, it is best to help our kids WANT to exercise by giving them things that they enjoy. This way, it won’t seem like a chore and they will be more likely to reap all of the benefits from doing it regularly!
So, if you haven’t checked out the Kroc Center Corner Zone yet, now is the time to do so. It may be the perfect place for your child’s next birthday party, or become part of their weekly physical activity routine!