3 Great Books About Active Play

kids running

Like adults, babies, toddlers, and kids of all ages benefit from exercise, which for the littlest bods can simply mean regularly engaging in active play. Need ideas for just how to do that? Check out these books full of smart and fun ideas for getting your little one up and at ‘em.

Stealth Fun

You’ll win Mom of the Year if you use even a few of the 100-plus ideas in Sneaky Fitness: Fun, Foolproof Ways to Slip Fitness into Your Child’s Everyday Life by Missy Chase Lapine and Larysa Didio (Running Press, $19.95), which reads more like the daily schedule at a nursery school than a fitness book. The imaginative play-based activities, such as parachute parties and lost toy treasure hunts, are all about having fun while being active in the most childlike ways possible; there’s lots of hopping, dancing, and just plain movement.

The easy-to-use format–one activity to a page, with recommended age group (preschooler to tween), supplies required and indoor/outdoor appropriateness clearly spelled out–will make this your go-to guide whenever you’re looking for a little activity inspiration. Bonus: The second half includes nutritious, kid-friendly recipes and tips for healthy eating from Chase Lapine, author of the New York Times’ bestseller The Sneaky Chef.


All in the Family

New moms looking to tone up should crack open 365 Activities for Fitness, Food, and Fun for the Whole Family: Super Sports, Great Games, Exciting Experiments and Nutrition Nuggets by Julia E. Sweet (McGraw-Hill, $16.95). The “Me and My Shadow” chapter is dedicated to exercises you can do with your infant to help her coordination and development while also giving you a workout.

Other chapters provide ideas for simple sports to play as a family, active party games, fitness activities older children can do alone, and more. Using household materials and a lot of imagination, aerobics champion and mom Sweet conjures a world where children are always engaged in creative, active play–egg carton and ping-pong ball, anyone? Her enthusiastic tone encourages instead of cajoles, and easy-peasy ideas and instructions make you wonder why you’d ever think to park your child in front of a screen in the first place.


Working It Out

Kids between ages two and five tested and enjoyed every activity in the soon-to-be-released 303 Preschooler-Approved Exercises and Active Games by Kimberly Wechsler (Hunter House, $14.95), who compiled the offerings from her 20-plus years as a fitness trainer. Wechsler offers page after page of page of kiddie moves grouped by type and even includes suggested plans for complete, 30- to 45-minute workouts.

The latter half of the book is dedicated to targeted exercises and games in varying levels that build upon previously developed strengths; for example, toddlers can hone balance skills by first mastering walking with a beanbag atop their heads (“The Beanie Head”) before moving onto level two, balancing on one leg (“The Stork”). Although this is most blatantly exercise-y of the books mentioned here, the emphasis is still on the need for fun and active play when it comes to fitness and the littlest kids.