Saturday, March 25, 2017

Go Fish Fitness - Getting Kids Moving

My wife and I are parents of 4 (ages 8, 5, 2, and 6 months) and she also runs a home daycare. On any given day we spend time with 10 different kids in our home (though not all at the same time!). We also live in Canada, in a city that has famously been compared unfavourably to the surface of Mars. As a result, we often deal with 10 different kids who have been cooped up inside for long stretches of time due to cold, snow, ice, wind, rain, and general all-around outdoor unpleasantness.

If you’ve been there, you probably know that a group of children stuck inside = energy. A lot of energy. Sometimes destructive energy. They get on each other’s nerves, they fight, they rampage, and they often find it difficult to concentrate. They need to get out and run around, but spending 5 minutes freezing their fingers and faces and they want to come right back in.

So we decided to try something. We started making games for the kids, using rules that they were familiar with as a base (Go Fish – for example) and added in an exercise component. We took a normal deck of playing cards and assigned short exercises to each number, and every time a match was made they had to do the associated exercise.
And then to appeal to their competitive spirit we modified the rules, so that when a match was made everyone ELSE had to do the exercise. Suddenly we had a group of laughing, playing, goofy, jumping around kids who were reveling in the game and making their friends and sibling do the work – and having just as much fun doing it when someone else made a match.

After 15 minutes of playing, the kids went from destructive to constructive. They still had plenty of energy – a short bout of concentrated effort certainly isn’t enough to tire them – but it was enough to take the edge off the irritable frustration that had set in by being stuck inside. They went from angry to happy to play, or craft, or sit and colour. And as a parent I can tell you that the only blessing greater than naptime, is a horde of children happily engaged in their own independent activity.

If you have kids, you can do this too very easily. It’s as simple as a spare deck of cards and a sharpie – write an exercise on each card (the same numbers have the same exercises) and play Go Fish. When a match is made, everyone else must do the exercise a number of times equal to the number on the card. (For example, 10 Jumping Jacks, or 4 Sit-ups).

In the interests of making this game accessible and more interesting for kids, we’ve been working with an artist (Fredrik Skarstedt) to create beautiful, colourful cards that we are currently trying to kickstart a print-run for. If this is something of interest to you, come check it out at ( which ends April 6th, 2017.