I have found the key to success for actually getting in a home workout with your kids in the house! I've named it "The Mystery Box for Kids." It comes in all shapes and sizes, but the premise is the same - it is a box full of highly-desirable play things and goodies that are otherwise off limits during any other portion of the day. Sound simple? It is, and that's the beauty of it. Let me tell you more.
Let me briefly paint the picture for you: You are in your house, having won the first half of the battle and are suited up in your workout clothes standing next to your TV with CD in hand or exercise machine of choice in the garage. You feel motivated to start! You are about to put the CD in when the momentary silence is broken and the kids are screaming, needing your undivided attention to tie a shoe, play a game, get a sippy cup. Do you give up your workout and assist? No, you don't have to do so! Here's my strategy and it works to occupy the minds of your young children who either are young enough to need your supervision or slightly older enough to simply want your interaction. You could of course plop them in front of the TV or the iPad – which at times is not a bad choice depending on your level of sanity! – but you could also keep them with you so it becomes a time of interaction when you can still be near your kids and they can benefit from seeing your dedication to health and exercise. I make this last point because, as a full-time working mom myself, working out while the kids are home is yet another opportunity for a wave of mommy guilt to come on. Am I really going to choose to spend one entire hour each day of only four hours I have with them during a workweek day exercising instead of playing and cuddling? How selfish of me! How awful of me my conscious yells! Then the other side of my consciousness pipes up to remind me how much I value exercise as an essential part of life and happiness as a fulfilled person. This is why I always end up with the choice of keeping the kids with me while I work out in the living room or the garage. I want them next to me playing on the floor beside my yoga mat or elliptical trainer, but not climbing on my back! The mystery box has been key to my success at making this happen.
At different ages, the box has held different things, but the premise remains the same. The box contains fabulous items the kids really want, but cannot have at any other point during the day. Keeping the elements of the box just out of reach, makes playing with the box both desirable and entertaining for the full 30-60 minutes of my workout. Here’s an example of box contents for every age (skewed to a girl’s taste as I’m using my now 8-year-old daughter as the example):
*Box 1: For my daughter age 2.5
-Play-Doh with a special machine like pizza shop, ice cream shop, etc.
*Box 2: For my daughter age 3-4
-Crayola Color Wonder (kind of expensive in my opinion considering how quickly she goes through the coloring book, which is why I save it for the box!)
*Box 3: For my daughter age 4-5
-Stamps, stamp pads in 3 colors, craft scissors with funky scrapbooking edges, construction paper (I give her a theme idea of something to create such as, today's theme is princesses or today's theme is flower gardens, etc.)
*Box 4: For my daughter age 5-6
-Glitter pens and glue stick
-Construction or scrapbooking paper
-A few printed hardcopy photos of her with her friends to cut and paste on paper; one of my fashion magazines works too if I don't have any photos - she likes to cut out the pretty dresses
*Box 5: For my daughter age 6-7
-Notepad to write stories she imagines
*Stencils, colored pencils and paper
*Travel checkerboard (to share with her now 4-year-old brother when they are actually getting along!)
*Old Maid card game (again to play with brother)
That’s it! Don’t forget that the contents of the box will be different for every parent/child, but the point is the same. It’s full of items the kids are eager to have, can’t have otherwise, and will be so desirable they will hold their sweet, short attention spans for up to 60 minutes. And don’t forget, the box travels as well. If you live in an apartment building with a gym inside, take the box with you and set the kids down in a corner while you work out (forget the sign that says no children allowed!). If you like to run, put the kids in the stroller and take the box to the park where you can workout on the park benches, etc. while the kids play next to you. The possibilities are limitless if you employ a bit of creativity.
Good luck – let me know here in the comment section how it goes if you try it!