This article is a part of the Carnival of Natural Mothering hosted by GrowingSlower, Every Breath I Take, I Thought I Knew Mama, African Babies Don’t Cry, and Adventures of Captain Destructo. This month’s topic is Movement. Be sure to check out all of the participants’ posts through the links at the bottom of this page.
Prompt: It is so important for us moms to be physically active and to cultivate that in our kids. Important but not easy! How do you make time movement or exercise? How do you encourage it for your kids?
Dance has been part of my life since I started taking lessons as a child around three or four years of age. The easiest way to get our children moving has been by sharing that love with them. Regardless of gender, as soon as they are old enough, our children are registered in a combo class at the dance studio. If their level of interest increases, then we encourage them to enroll in more classes. If not, we continue with once a week for their combo class that includes tap, ballet and tumbling.
In addition to dancing in their classes, we usually get a nightly dance show of some kind. The Sweet Peas put on their music, plan out a playlist, and set a performance order. After a brief rehearsal, my husband and I are called in to watch the evening entertainment. These occasions are completely organic – we have never had to ask them to do this. It just started happening on it’s own and has now become an almost nightly after-dinner tradition.
We want ALL our children to take advantage of the benefits of dance: learning rhythm, moving in opposition and in sync, the confidence, the carriage and the sense of movement and space that comes from learning to dance. I am saddened when I hear mothers say their partners would NEVER let their sons dance. They are missing out on a great opportunity, and chances are that if they really have a bug for it, they will find their way to it eventually.
We are equal opportunity dancers in our family because both my husband and I enjoy dancing – it’s how we met in the first place! As a ballroom dance instructor, some of my best students were professional or amateur athletes who came in to learn to partner dance. It has long been known that some male athletic teams enroll their players in ballet classes to improve their balance and coordination. We have no issues with our sons enjoying dancing and tumbling as much as our daughters.
Another way we add movement to our day is by walking our dogs. That is something we could stand to do more often! Since we have a decent-sized yard, it is not at the top of the list when our days are full. I know I need to move more so that I can shed the extra fluff I put on growing babies, so one of my intentions this year is to get back to a “walk a day” habit. It provides a great opportunity to breathe in fresh air and have some one-on-one time with our son that likes to walk his dog when I take out our other four-legged friend.
We also practice yoga – another “before kids” habit we have shared with our children. We go to classes or we practice in our home. We are so fortunate to have a studio that offers children’s classes near our home. We want the Sweet Peas to participate because of the way yoga strengthens the body, and because it teaches about breath and harmony. That deep abdominal breathing, reflection and introspection that are part of the whole yoga experience are a great foundation for dealing with stress in a healthy way.
As far as tying movement into our homeschool day, we have a dance break or create obstacle courses to break up the sitting and listening time. When we do an obstacle course, we set them up inside or outside, depending on the time of day and the weather. I think of the old Sesame Street™ song, sung by Grover when I set up the course: Over, Under and Through. The older kiddos like to help set these up. We encourage their creativity by putting out the elements and then have them design the run. We use things like a tunnel purchased from IKEA, chairs, stools, exercise balls, laundry baskets, cones, tables (inside) and a baseball bat/tee (outside).
Our Sweet Peas are also enrolled in swimming lessons and horseback riding…and soon, we are adding sports to the repertoire. Our goal as parents is to expose them to as many different ways to move and exercise so that they can find their own favorite for a lifetime of enjoyment.
Parenting wisdom tells us that the best example the Sweet Peas can learn from is one that they see. I commit to being active by working out three mornings a week with a trainer who comes to our home. If I didn’t have him there, I know I wouldn’t work out because there is always something to occupy the time. My husband is much more disciplined in this area – he will get on the elliptical machine a few times a week without needing someone to show up at the door. We also go out on walks together on the days that our schoolwork is done and his work is done before the nanny has to go home. Now that our children are older and I don’t have a round-the-clock nursling, we have started going out dancing again, too! One of the styles we enjoy is Argentine Tango; going to the milongas (tango dance) is a family activity in Argentina. We have started teaching the Sweet Peas and some day soon, we can all go out and do that together as a family.
When they ask why we exercise, we tell them it is so that we can stay healthy to see them grow, and meet their children someday. For me, movement it is not about losing weight. I was not healthy as a dancer because I wanted to be a certain size, and I don’t want our children to have any negative associations with food and exercise. I want our children to know that we will love them in whatever shape they grow into. My primary goal is to teach them to love movement because their body needs it to be fit, be healthy and to stay strong.