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August 13, 2013

Tree poses for saplings: Kid-friendly yoga, cardio and strength exercises

(Continued)

Cardio

"Always start with a game," Breger says. There's no need to have any special equipment or to reinvent the wheel. The classic diversions, such as freeze tag, sharks and minnows, and red light/green light, are still a hit with kids. If you want to splurge on something, buy a balloon. "You can't hit a balloon and not smile," he explains. Kids can pass it to one another while standing on one foot or crab walking around the floor. They can punch it like a boxing bag. Or they can sandwich it between two of them while they race in a relay. However you use it, he says, the point isn't to compete, but to play, which leaves kids with positive associations with movement.

Yoga

Not a serious yogi? No problem. Kids don't think of standing like a tree or mountain or warrior as a serious thing, anyway. "It's creative play to get a chance to act out the poses," Breger says. He recommends the $18 flashcards produced by YoKid (www.yokid.org), an organization devoted to bringing yoga to all children. Each 5-by-7 card features a child-friendly taste of yoga philosophy and a photo of a kid demonstrating a pose. In WellKids classes, students each get a card to study, and then they can try to teach the rest of the group. Lying down in silence and practicing some deep breathing is easier after that, too.

Strength

Basic exercises, including wall sits, planks, push-ups, lunges and squats, might not sound all that fun. But that's because you've never played Uno fitness, Breger says. Just assign a movement to each color. When students pick a card from the deck, they check the number to see how many reps of that movement to do. (Reinforcing math skills at the same time is a nice side benefit.) Another option is Simon Says, only with all exercise-based demands. These lessons won't feel like work, Breger says, but they sure work on kids.

Vicky Hallett edits the Fit section of The Washington Post's Express.

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