Establishing Healthy Habits

Physical activity can give your little one a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment as their skills improve and they meet milestones they might not have realized they could accomplish. Regular exercise can even reduce the risk of obesity and related health issues. Doctors say the root of many metabolic diseases like high blood pressure, cholesterol deposits in the arteries, and even type 2 diabetes can begin in childhood.  

“Some benefits of physical activity for children include improved cardiovascular fitness [heart and lungs], stronger bones and muscles, better sleep, reduced levels of depression and anxiety, increased self-esteem and improved concentration,” says Dr. Shannon Dillon, primary care physician at Riley Children’s Health. “Research shows that regular physical activity throughout childhood and adulthood can also help reduce the risk of developing certain cancers, including colon, breast, endometrial, kidney, bladder, esophagus and stomach cancer.”   

Here are Dr. Dillon’s recommendations for each age range:  

Infants to 1.5 years 

Babies benefit from plenty of time on the floor to practice rolling, then sitting, then crawling and pulling to stand. As they begin walking, parents can begin having them explore more places, such as parks, the zoo, or The Children’s Museum (and the outdoor sports park)!  


Toddlers will often closely observe and mimic the actions of parents, so finding activities that both parents and kids can be involved in is important. Something as simple as walking the dog together or putting on some music and having a dance party can be beneficial.    

Ages 5- 11   

Getting elementaryaged children involved in organized sports or other activities, such as dance classes, can be a wonderful way for kids to learn new skills, practice teamwork and burn off energy. Activities don’t have to be structured to be considered exercise: jumping rope, playing tag with friends, or shooting some hoops together in the backyard can be great low stress ways to get in some activity!   

The more you can incorporate games and mini challenges for the whole family, the more fun you are likely to have and the more likely it is for your child to embrace exercise over time.  

The benefits of regular exercise go well beyond physical health, according to Elyse Handel, early childhood education manager at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. “When children engage in sports and physical activity at an early age, it supports their physical and motor skill development and strengthens their own identities and sense of self,” she says. “Children who play sports also develop a better understanding and appreciation for community and collaboration. They see themselves as a part of a team and understand how teamwork and sportsmanship are important skills used to reach or accomplish a goal.”  

Here are some fun activities in Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience that happen daily this summer (weather permitting) and are recommended for ages 6 and older:  

Hammerin’ Hank Homerun Challenge: Discover the inspirational story behind Hank Aaron’s home run record. Step up to bat in this fun homerun themed challenge to see if you have what it takes to be the next Hammerin’ Hank! 

Mighty Muscle Movers: Put your agility, balance, coordination and speed to the test as you learn new exercises and test yourself in our mini games.   

Tamika Catchings Legendary Challenge: Challenge your family in a fun basketball challenge while discovering the inspirational story of Indiana Fever legend, Tamika Catchings. Practice basketball fundamentals and participate in a fun game shooting baskets and perfecting your jump shot!   

Barbara Wynne Tennis Challenge: Be inspired by the story of local tennis teacher (and founder of Indy’s Child!) Barbara Wynne, while working on your forehand and participating in some fun drills and games.   

Check with coaches on site to learn how to adapt these programs to be inclusive of younger guests who want to participate in programs. Littles just may need more adult support but are still encouraged to play with their families.  

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