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Get Moving!

It's easy to let exercise slide when you have kids. There are so many other things to do, after all  -- and who has the energy?

Well, kids do. My daughters, ages 9 and 5, love to run around at breakneck speed, jump on the furniture, and generally wear me out. But rather than taming them entirely, I've found I can focus their energy on activities that are good for them and me. Some fun ways to make exercise not feel like exercise:

Play your favorites
One of the simplest ways to get moving with your kids is to adapt traditional games to their skills. Caroline Rudnick and her husband, Bruce, of Wichita, Kansas, play "bat-less" baseball in order to include 2-year-old Madeline and her older brother, William, 4. "I throw the ball to Bruce and then he chases the kids around the bases," Rudnick says. "We can all play for hours."

Catherine Bjork's family plays indoor volleyball (with a beach ball) in their family room, using the sofa as the net. "Our winters are long and harsh, so we've had to be creative with indoor activities," says the Sleepy Hollow, Illinois, mom of 9-year-old Abbey and 6-year-old Sammy.

Other ways to adapt ordinary games to space, age, and ability:

• Play "tennis" with balloons and badminton rackets. Or make rackets out of sturdy paper plates taped to wooden spoons.

• Lower the "hoops." For a spin on basketball, place large buckets or trash cans at opposite ends of a room or the yard, and race to see who can toss the ball in first. (Go for lightweight foam or beach balls instead of regular basketballs.)

• Try solo soccer. Take turns dribbling the ball while running across the yard. Count your kicks as you go, then challenge your child to beat your record. Give a smaller kid (who might have a harder time beating you) a specific challenge, like seeing how far he can get with a certain number of kicks.

Barbara Rowley wrote "Fun in a Pinch" for the February issue.

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