The pandemic impact on kids’ physical health

Kids are still kids, even in a pandemic. That is both wonderful, and terrifying. Let me help you get your child’s behavior under control so it can be wonderful and not terrifying 🙂

I am excited to share this fourth letter in my series on “repercussions the pandemic is having on children.”

First, we looked at social development (click here to read that one.)
Then we talked about emotional development (click here to read that one).
Last week we considered mental health – click here for that newsletter –
and finally today will discuss physical health, the challenges the pandemic has brought in this area, and some ideas for how you can get good physical health into your child’s life!

(BTW these free newsletters will continue, with lots of ideas on other relevant topics if you are a parent, so stay tuned!)

Today we’re talking about physical health.

When I think of physical health I inevitably think of the old adage “use it or lose it.”

Years ago when I first developed the tendon problems that have been with me for nearly a decade now, I began to truly understand the relationship between tendons, bones, and muscles.

One of the first things my physical therapist did was to get the inflammation out of the tendons. (For me that meant massaging out scar tissue, which was super painful, but ultimately so worth it. After eight months of being unable to walk more than a few steps due to tremendous pain, suddenly my muscles and tendons were healing. Within a very few months they were bearing the weight of my body, for the first time in nearly a year.)

I had spent all that time not using my leg muscles and as a result they atrophied.
Like, a lot.
As in, muscles on your leg – for example, shin muscles – that have a convex appearance (they round outward)… In me those muscles were concave.
I needed to push my leg to go backwards, when we began doing “water physical therapy.” My hamstring literally couldn’t pull my leg backwards!

Use it or lose it.

In the pandemic, this phrase is meaningful because it’s helped me remember a hierarchy of physical needs, for myself and my kids:

– Ideally we exercise by running around, hiking, or taking a walk outside.
– We think about different ways to exercise, from skiing to gardening. Cross training is a great way to build muscle and endurance!
– On days when getting outside is not possible we utilize weights and bands to do strength training inside. (One of my kids loves using the heavy bag we’ve got set up in our basement.)
– We research different exercises, changing things up periodically so that we don’t get bored.
– A few times a week we rest our physical bodies.

I call it a hierarchy because, when I get up in the morning I run the following questions through my head:

1. Is it a good day to get outside for exercise? If yes, awesome! If no, see question two.
2. How can we get indoor exercise today?
3. Or, is it a rest day?

In listening to coaching clients, podcast listeners, and among friends and loved ones my personal life I’ve noticed some really interesting themes. Some interesting ways that the pandemic has impacted children’s physical health.

In talking with them all, I have learned wonderful ways that families are supporting kids’ physical health. Maybe some of them will resonate for you:

Some ways to support your kids’ physical health right now:

1. Spend time outside.
Screens and tech time, while crucial, takes its toll. Spending time outdoors feels like the antithesis, in a truly healing kind of way.
I don’t know about you but we’ve seen more people out and about, having fun in their yards, playing tag, toasting marshmallows. Lots of laughter and enjoyment, simply by being outside.

2. Bring novel ways of getting exercise indoors.
Everything from small trampolines, to pull-up bars, to indoor swings; bringing something new in can make physical health a lot more fun to keep up!

3. Play with your kids.
“Play” encompasses many things: sledding, cooking, pillow fighting, board games, video games… By play, I mean be together as a family in a meaningful way. Laughter and silliness brings with it some of the most exhilarating physical exercise.

(This is exactly the same idea that I suggested last week in the mental health newsletter! The only change I’d make is that of perhaps choosing different boardgames… Like twister, which use your whole body; and choosing different video games, like a more active Wii-type game. But play is at the heart of this idea, just like last week : )

4. Remember chores. (And play dough.)
It can be so easy to forget that chores are physical exercise, and that kids can, and probably should, help out with chores.
Window-washing, floor-sweeping, even for older kids mopping or shower-cleaning; these take a lot of arm, hand, and shoulder strength! Giving kids the opportunity to practice these skills, however ineptly now, means they’ll know how to do it better later. And it means they’ll have good strength to take on those jobs for themselves.

Why, you may ask, play dough? I always loved play dough for the upper body strengthening, as well as the fine-motor skill development. We roll play dough out, we push it into extruders, we squeeze and poke and jabbed at it. It’s great (as I say) for physical development.

But there’s something more: Magic happens at the play dough table.

Children ask questions that they might have not asked anywhere else.

A lot of cognitive and social-emotional thinking happens while playing with play dough.

If you’ve never spent half an hour sitting with your child while enjoying this medium, now might be a great time!

I hope that’s helpful, and that you have enjoyed this series!

What else can I write about that will be helpful for you right now?
Just click here and let me know. I look forward to hearing from you!


PS What’s the pandemic doing to my child? A 5-Week Masterclass…
“What is the pandemic doing to my child?” is a question I get asked all the time.

As a child development expert, not only do I know the answer to that. I also know what to do about it.

This five-week program begins Wednesday, May 12 and addresses the concerns parents have about their children’s development during the pandemic.

We’ll cover:
– The toll that long-term confinement and sequestration from others can cause
– Strategies to handle this long-term confinement and limit the negative impacts
– How to create a home environment that supports your child’s social and emotional development
– Dealing with reentry including handling anxiety, bullies, and other social concerns

All along we’ll be diving into your specific questions and issues.
To make absolutely sure that you have a plan going forward we’ll spend our last class time together in a Q&A, so you can have all your concerns addressed and questions answered.

If that sounds good to you, I’m offering a special earlybird price…

The complete 5-week Masterclass is $79.00 when you sign up by April 8, 2021 (that’s only one week from today this newsletter goes out…)

Also included: a Masterclass Accelerator Call for participants on Wednesday, April 21, 2021
so I can be sure I’m addressing your concerns and giving you all the support possible.

To enroll or read more about the class – and what we will be specifically addressing each week – click the following link:


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