Fit in my 40s: how to keep bored kids fit at home

Tailor your approach to their age: there’s now something for everyone, from badminton to ballet

The best piece of advice I ever had on keeping kids fit at home was from Joe Wicks, the guru of these things: start them young. There are things you can persuade a four-year-old to do with a sticker that, by the time they are six, would be more like a quid; if you wanted to bribe a 12-year-old to do a daily plank, from a baseline of no-daily-plank, that would cost you roughly £1m. Unfortunately, to really make use of this excellent advice, I would have to go back to 2013.

I have two 12-year-olds and one 10-year-old. The older two are less biddable, but each has a sport (C has karate, TJ has tennis and cycling) and some semblance of a sport ethic to go with it. The youngest has nothing of the sort. We used to call her H the Quitter, and don’t write in to explain why that is wrong because we knew it was wrong at the time.

To concentrate on the big ones: stick to their sport and make it their thing. Even the most rebellious soul cannot help forming habits; if there is any livestreamed version of a class they used to take, that timetable will be its own tyranny, so you don’t have to be the tyrant. Tennis courts are closed, of course, but if you have a garden big enough (I don’t, but my ex does), string a badminton net across it. Even a tiny amount of competition is useful for exercise refuseniks. If your children really can’t stand one another, marshal that rivalry into something useful, such as a press-up competition.

Younger kids will want you to take part; older ones will want privacy. With H, I give her a mat and stick her in front of a yoga video, then leave the room. I have no idea whether she does it or not, but it’s better not to know than to get into endless standoffs about it. Resistance bands have been quite a hit with her; but I would advise researching the exercises beforehand because it really torches your authority to be scratching your head in front of YouTube while yelling at someone to remain focused.

If you get them to create a dance routine and video it, obviously it will be in their hands how high-intensity that is; but those videos will bring you joy for ever. My son was set a space dance for his school homework, and they gave him a mark of just 56%. You could hear my cries of injustice halfway down the street. There are quite complicated and engrossing dance routines online (search Matt Steffanina), as well as a ton of personal trainers. There will be Instagram influencers who might be more persuasive than you are; do a bit of research and nudge them towards someone they will like. Retro workouts will appeal to some; frankly, if you cannot dredge up a bit of enthusiasm for Cindy Crawford’s big hair and chair workouts, you have to ask yourself what kind of show you have been running here.


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