How to keep children active during lockdown

Posted by iChild, January 20, 2021 9:34 AM

By Arj Thiruchelvam, performance coach to novices of all ages through to Team GB Olympians.

The closure of leisure facilities and the absence of grass roots sports during lockdown has had a colossal impact on the health and wellbeing of children. A recent study has identified that lockdown in Italy reduced the amount of exercise under 18s performed on a weekly basis by 64%, while their food intake increased (Pietrobelli et al, 2020).

Performance Physique Founder, Arj Thiruchelvam, shares a few key tips on how to boost exercise opportunities for children during the pandemic, both inside and outside if the weather allows.


Keep it short

Most parents don’t have time to coach their children but the good news is that just 10 minutes of activity can be beneficial, with 20 minutes being the optimum in terms of maximising children’s primary attention span.

There’s no need to limit yourself to an allocated time slot but make the most of the opportunities you can fit in for exercise. Ten minute sessions at different times of the week all add up!


Have fun together

It doesn’t need to be you or them, you can all exercise together and it’s not a military bootcamp! Simple games are proven to be very effective at raising the heart rate and building up a sweat.

Let everyone choose an activity and then roll a dice as a way of deciding what order to do them in. This will make for a fun 10-20 minute session and because everyone is involved in the decision making, they will be more willing to take part.

We all know that children respond to the energy you provide. If they see you smiling and engaging, the chance is, they will too!


Jump to it!

Adults don’t naturally think of jumping, hopping and bouncing but these movements are demanding and not only improve fitness very quickly, but also improve joint stability and tendon strength. In my experience, these are the exercises that children enjoy doing the most and they will love it if adults join in too. If you haven’t jumped for a little while (perhaps since your own childhood!), take it easy at first - and watch your fitness increase along with your children’s!

Firstly, let’s identify some key jumping points. Try some quick star jumps, shuttle runs or a similar warm-up for around 5 minutes before starting these jumps. We should always land with ‘soft’ knees (slightly bent). Don’t allow the knees to collapse inwards but rather remain shoulder width apart. A good coaching point to use is we want a spongy landing, like a sponge cake, rather than stiff, straight legs.

Jumping – Try a long jump from a standing start, tuck jumps to see how high up you can get your knees and vertical jumps to see how high your hand can reach on a wall.

Hopping - Mark out distances for how far everyone can hop on each leg and have a family competition, giving the children the responsibility of keeping score to practice their maths! And why not try a classic game of hopscotch?

Bouncing - fantastic for bone density, muscular strength and fitness so put hands on hips and move in a set direction (on the spot, forwards/backwards, left/right).
Triple jump – focus on an athletic hop, step and a jump landing on both feet with soft spongy knees, no straight legs!

My advice would be no more than 10 minutes per day of these jumps, particularly if it’s on a hard surface. Always remember, we need a stable and safe area to work within.



Games for under 10 year olds

Sharks in the water

This is a very popular call and response game based around athletic movements and pirate role playing! Take turns in shouting the following commands while everyone else has to perform the corresponding exercises, in between running around:

Walk the plank = abdominal plank hold

Aye Aye Captain = Jump up and salute

Sharks in the water = squat whilst holding someone’s hand and simulating a shark fin on your back with the other hand

Submarines = lie on your back and lift your leg to a 90 degree angle

Scrub the deck = press up position, changing hands to scrub the floor

Island hopping = hop on one leg

Boost engagement by increasing the tempo of the commands and really challenging your children. Motivation is actually linked to competition: this is healthy and, particularly at a time where they aren’t interacting in person with lots of other children, could help maintain their development.

Fitness 3

Capture shuttle

Lay out some household items, e.g. toys at different distances and assign how many points each one is worth (eg 5 points for the red toys, 2 points for the blue toys etc)

They will need to retrieve one item at a time and bring it back to their starting point, until they’ve collected everything. One player can do this against the clock and keep trying to improve their time, or siblings can race each other. Be creative with the rules eg bonus points or collecting two items at a time. The child can practice their maths by counting up their points.



Challenge jumping ability by placing markers such as scraps of paper on a non-slippery floor to create a lane/channel. The idea is if there is a marker on the left you need to do a right footed hop, if it’s on the right you need to do a left footed hop. If there are two markers opposite each other you do a standing long jump. Do about 6-8 of these and increase the distances.

A nice progression for this activity is the move on a command or clap. If you haven’t issued the command, then they must hold that position of a hop of jump. I like to mix it up and very often use another language as my command. My Year 6-9 athletes did a Latin project last year so we incorporated this into the game. It was a big hit and yet another way of diversifying their home-schooling experience!

It’s vital all of the above are supervised and guided by adults and take place in a safe environment.


Performance Physique founder, Arj Thiruchelvam, has a Bsc Hons in Applied Sports Science from Loughborough University and has co-designed two Sports Science Degrees for Oxford Brookes University. He has 15 years' experience of performance mentoring, including working as a Sprints and Jumps Coach for UK Athletics. Providing clear fitness and nutrition guidance utilising the latest scientific research, Arj coaches novices of all ages to Team GB Olympians to consistently improve their personal bests.

Performance Physique Head Coach Arj Thiruchelvam

For more information about Arj Thiruchelvam, please visit


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