I am in party mode! I will continue to be in this state until the 27th of December which will be the day after my daughter’s third birthday. The holiday season is not only abounding with well, holidays, but also with family birthdays. My son, Sebastian, who will be turning 5, was conveniently born two days after Halloween; by the time his birthday comes around and for a good two weeks prior to his party, the local population has been all sugared up. It is at this time that children are often described in terms of motion: jumping bean, whirling dervish, and hummingbird. Children buzz with energy and enjoy leaping, skipping, hopping, screaming, and cheering, so as the parent, capitalize on this default for infinite movement: incorporate a fitness theme into your annual party!
The first thing to decide when choosing a fitness party is whether you will host the party or have it at a facility, such as a kid’s gym. If you choose to host the party yourself, consider location. If you have little or no backyard or are planning to have a lot of people in attendance, you may want to consider using a nearby park to have your party. Contact your city or county’s parks and recreation department to find out field availability and pavilion rental cost. It’s a good idea to call at least a month in advance to make a reservation.
The next step in planning your party is to determine activities. Many parents have fond memories of “Field Day,” that day at the conclusion of the school year when PE teachers reigned supreme; your class became a team and an egg was not for eating but for spooning to the finish line. You can include similar events into your party; some will be for fitness, and some are just plain fun. Potato sack races, tug of war, horseshoes, Bocci ball, bobbing for apples, relay races, and the beanbag toss are terrific, old fashioned games. You may also consider a game of dodge ball, kickball, gator ball, or touch football.
Despite having boundless energy, kids do require ramping up, cooling down, and short periods of rest. To achieve this rhythm consider the duration of the party and then break it down into blocks of time that accommodate their energy levels, food and digestion, gift-opening, and group cleanup.
Plan to begin the set up of your party an hour prior to guests arriving. Once they arrive, have jump ropes, hop scotch or a JumpSport Fitness Trampoline™ set up so kids can play while they await the arrival of partygoers. Once all or a majority of the invitees have arrived, begin with a warm up of about five minutes. During this time, the children will stretch. You can “debrief them on the itinerary”, children love to have a game plan and keeping them in the “know” will contribute to smoother transitions from one activity to the next. Recruit other parents to act as assistant coaches, team them up with kids or make your games intergenerational so everyone in the party is partaking and children are less likely to “zone out”.
Depending on the size of your group, you can estimate approximately 10-15 minutes per activity and thirty minutes if you are choosing to play a game such as volleyball or kickball. The activity before the meal or treat should prepare them for sitting. If choosing a non team sport, consider tug of war, “Hot Potato”, “Duck, Duck Goose”, or “Telephone” (the game where children sit in a circle, a child has a phrase whispered into their ear and then passed along to other children until it reaches the last child before the first and then they say the phrase aloud).
Music creates a festive and motivating soundtrack to your party. Bring a portable CD or Mp3 player with batteries in the event you don’t have access to electricity. Synch the music to the activity; if it’s a fast event such as relay, bump up the tempo, if you’re cooling down or transitioning, go with something mellower. A mix of Top 40, Motown, Salsa, or traditional music of your heritage can make an excellent party playlist.
Equipment for do-it-yourself fitness parties can be found at local “box stores” or online at stores such as Gopher (www.gophersport.com). Small cones are a must-have, and they function as start/finish lines, bases, and goals. You may also be able to borrow some of the equipment from your school’s gym teacher or a little league coach. The activities you choose will determine the equipment that you need. Potato sacks, batons, parachutes, and long rope, for tug of war, are all easy to come by in a basic internet search.
Since you’re throwing a fitness party, choose food and drink that will fuel up and not drain your athletes. Raw fruits and vegetables with low fat dips are great alternatives to chips and cookies. Vegetables and fruits are fabulous kid-friendly shish-kabobs. You can make it a hallmark of parties to make delicious sugar or gluten free treats; you can try alternatives to the old stand bys like cakes and cupcakes, or you can make a fruit fondue, trail mix, or Cracker Jack.
As the party planner, you will need to give attendees a heads up that the party will be an active one and indicate on your invitations that the Halloween costumes should be adapted. Costumes with masks that get hot and ultimately annoying, costumes that are clunky and ackward, and costumes that are so long they will be tripping over them, should be traded in for ones that are less restrictive. Also, these parties need not be exclusive to children. Throw back games are making a trendy re-emergence so if you don’t mingle with families and kiddies just yet, you can modify to make it a good fit for your zeitgeist.
Be a pioneer, a rebel, a maverick, and implement a myriad of exercise to your parties that encourage people to play. Your party doesn’t have to cost a fortune either. In lieu of gifts you could ask your guests to bring a healthy dish or a gift for the goodie bag. If you plan to give out goodie bags, think about items that are useful and will not immediately get trashed. Stickers, tatoos, toothbrushes, mini toiletries, hair rubber bands, etc are things we use on a daily basis! Novelties are cute, but alas, their novelty is short-lived.
At the end of the day, parties are about togetherness. While breaking bread together is a common way of facilitating community, there is nothing quite like play to get people talking, laughing, hooting and hollering. Alternative parties that take the focus away from food and gifts and focus on creating memories and community are the way to a healthy future for us and our planet. You can make this happen at Halloween or after; what better way is there to reign in Thanksgiving time and get a couple more days out of those Halloween costumes and sugar-active hummingbirds? Be an innovator & see what happens. May your efforts create a domino effect!
Have you hosted a fitness party or plan to? Why did you choose to this? How was the party received? Have any pictures? If so, share them! Tweet, Facebook or comment at our blog to share your own tale: www.trampolineblogs.com, @FitTrampoline or Facebook us, www.facebook.com/FitnessTrampoline.
Enjoy the parties!
Heidi Aspen Lauckhardt-Rhoades
Professional Fitness Instructor, ACE, AFFA, TRX, Indo, PIA, GROOVE
Dance and Creative Movement Productions
Writer and Social Media Correspondent
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