Tips For Keeping Your Kids Active From A Chicago Fitness Professional

February 16, 2013 7:00 AM

By Meredith Lyons

Ida Dolce has been teaching kids martial arts at Chicago’s Degerberg Academy since 2004, but before that was a student herself since age seven and currently holds a second-degree black belt. She received her BA in Psychology with a focus on Child/Adolescent Development from DePaul University.



Ida Dolce
Degerberg Academy Martial Arts
4717 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 728-5300

Don’t fear the snow.
 Encourage your kids to go outside and play, Dolce says, especially when it’s snowing. Create a family activity like sledding, building a snowman or a (gentle) snowball fight. If your kid wants to go outside and play in the snow, embrace it. Put on your boots and gloves, get a Starbucks drink for yourself and take them out.

Be impressed by their best. If your kids are younger and you take them to the playground, playfully encourage them to see how fast they can climb things (assuming there’s no ice). Kids love to impress the grownups around them. Dolce even offers up this example from her college babysitting days; “Okay, Joey, I want to see how fast you are at running up the steps and sliding down the slide! Wow that is fast, like a road runner! How about we go as fast as The Flash now? Ready… GO!”

Make them your workout buddy. If your kids are older and feel they’re too old for the playground, encourage them to join you on some of your workouts. If you run, have them come out with you. If you have weights at home, have them do a set of calisthenics like jumping jacks, push-ups or squats while you do your set. Dolce reminds parents that weightlifting is not safe for anyone still growing, but working out with their own body weight is fine.

Encourage extra practice. If your kids do an activity like martial arts or an indoor sport like basketball, encourage more attendance or practice during the winter breaks when they’re out of school, Dolce advises. Coaches and instructors do what they do because they love it, so they are always more than willing to give extra help if you ask for assistance. If getting to extra practices doesn’t work with your schedule, ask their instructors for suggestions of activities they can practice at home during their breaks.

Don’t neglect nutrition. Although exercise is key for optimum health, Dolce points out that a balanced diet contributes to 80 percent of a healthy lifestyle. Making a meal together can be a fun family activity on those bitterly cold days where no one wants to leave the house. Switch all grains to whole grain (breads, pastas, cereals, etc). Many kids are happy to eat things that they get to help make themselves. Dolce gives an example of when she worked at a children’s residential facility and had some of the kids help make a batch of sauteed swiss chard. “They tore the leaves, added the spices and got to stir the pot,” Dolce says. “By the time it was ready to eat, that scary leaf dish was gone in five minutes!” If you know your kid is stubborn with vegetables, there are plenty of recipes out there that show you how to sneak them into your kids’ bellies!

Meredith Lyons is an actor, competitive fighter and fitness instructor in Chicago who also owns an amazing cat named Jake. Meredith has been writing on Examiner as the Chicago Martial Arts Examiner since 2008. Her work can be found at