Motivation Parenting Tips

Healthy Ever After: Getting Kids Active

Disney Pixar Up Parade at Village Carnival Burton
Written by Kirstie Pelling

Healthily Ever After – Getting Kids Active

Do you ever struggle with getting your kids active and outside? Over the years we have used elements of fiction, film and fairytale in our outdoor adventures to stimulate our childrens’ imaginations and make them believe the world is worth exploring. And along the way Stuart and I have become inspired to get more creative with our challenges too. In this post, brought to you in a collaboration with Disney Healthy Living, we look at how you can use your childrens’ heroes to create an active quest that enchants both adults and kids…

Winters Outing on Ullswater

What helps inspire you and the kids to be out, active and healthy, whatever the weather?

When a venture becomes an adventure

We have learnt many things travelling as a family in the last fifteen years but one of the biggest lessons we have learnt is that turning a physical venture into a creative adventure makes travel more exciting for everyone. We enjoy a challenge and over the years our challenges have got more ambitious. But from an early stage we discovered that if we gave our trips themes that were far removed from reality (and miles and maps and mountains) then they became something else entirely. A long journey flew by once Hannah was a tenacious princess rescuing a dragon or the boys were toys reaching for infinity. And I’ll admit that sometimes we disguised our challenges so well that even Stuart and I forgot the physical and bought into the fiction. I vividly remember the heat and the hills of the Camino de Santiago melting away once Matthew and I had dressed up the bike and trailer as the Millennium Falcon and set out to pedal to Tattooine.

Cycle Trailer decorated with Star Wars

Imagination can get you miles… our Star Wars decorated cycle trailer took us to Tattooine

Imagination can inspire action

While taking ourselves into an imagined world has helped push us on and distract us in monotonous parts of a journey, it has also made it easier over the years to sell exercise to the kids and get their buy in on a long trip. When the children were smaller, a Scandinavian cycling adventure biking across five countries became a voyage in search of the Moomins. We found them too, at Moominworld in Finland, where I fell a little bit in love with Little My.

Moomins by bike

Fuelled by imagination, the kids cycled almost 2000km with us to go and see The Moomins in Finland

A Disney challenge

Disney has recently been thinking along similar lines. Through play and imagination the masters of storytelling are encouraging families to live a healthier lifestyle. The Disney Healthy Living campaign uses their stable of beloved and intrepid characters to try and inspire families to make better food choices or exercise together regularly. The idea is that kids get so into the play and fun elements, they forget focussing on (and moaning about) moving and eating and start to do it automatically. Check out the video below for some fun ways of getting outdoors and staying healthy and active, inspired and guided by some familiar faces.

Inspired by Disney

We’ve had a few Disney inspired moments of our own that I’d like to share here. And not all by bike, in case you are exhausted by the whole idea of that. We’ve done a few road trips and when the kids were smaller it was a bit of a no brainer to give a journey a Cars inspired theme. But what we didn’t predict is how the kids and the cars would inspire us. A drive down Route 66 took on a pastel glow and its history felt more personal, the signs on its dilapidated bars more nostalgic when we imagined ourselves part of the cartoon. We were all Lightning McQueen as we stopped to explore deserted landscapes, wild plains and iconic roadside attractions. The kids are too old for pretending to be cars now, but Disney characters have accompanied us on road trips since, via a favourite Disney movie theme CD. The opening chords of Go the Distance and its emotive lyrics “I would go most anywhere to feel like I belong,” take me right back to a now rather dated but emotive (at least for me) video we made after our trip to Santiago.

Up and out with Pixar

But there’s one much more recent moment that springs to mind when I think of Disney’s influence and inspiration. At our village carnival this year we transformed ourselves into the cast of characters from Pixar’s Up. It’s a film that’s close to our hearts. We’ve seen it several times and I regularly sob through the opening. But more prosaically we chose Up because we had recently discovered how to make clouds. Earlier in the year a crack combination of chicken wire and sofa stuffing made a very effective fluffy white costume for my See More poetry project and a poem and video about Worsdworth’s lonely cloud. And it dawned on us we could also use a cloud as the springboard for an Up inspired tableaux. But the clouds are only one element of Up. There’s also a boy scout, an old man, a floating house and a big dose of imagination. So we got to work. And it became a whole family project.

Making a cloud costume

Stuart busying himself constructing a cloud costume, as you do.

A winning walking float

One of the cousins volunteered to climb into the cloud and walk the carnival procession as a big ball of cirrus. (An unusual action for a normally reluctant teen.) And before we knew it aunts and uncles were blowing up balloons, coating blonde hair with talcum powder and sticking tennis balls to the bottom of an NHS walking stick. Before we knew it, we were all out for the day, walking together, circuiting the village pushing a dolls house on a wheelbarrow, and trying to keep hold of huge mounds of balloons in the wind. We had no budget at all, just a bit of Disney Pixar inspiration, some left over party balloons and a few hours to play with. And suddenly we had a cast of characters, a surprise morning of family bonding and a round of unplanned bank holiday exercise. The moment was only topped when Cameron went on to win the fancy dress prize. Here’s a video of the parade…see if you can spot the characters from Up.

How to be inspired

There are many ways you can be inspired by fiction characters and stories and get outside in the process. You can become a character. You can go in search of a character. Or you can go on a mission to defeat a character. You can pick a Disney moral and have some fun with it. “Keep on swimming,” is a great mantra for any challenge where you feel a little bit out of your depth. You can create whole worlds with each member of the family taking on a different character.

It may feel a little weird at first, but once you get into it, it’s addictive. Start simple and grow into your plots and action. You don’t need to head for the Austrian hills and re-enact The Sound of Music to sing. It’s not necessary to travel to the Beast’s Castle in Disneyworld to dance. Start today, in your backyard. You may end up a happier and healthier family in the process.

Imagination... it's all you need for getting kids active

Imagination… it’s all you need for getting kids active.

Disclosure Note: This post is part of Disney’s #HealthilyEverAfter campaign with BritMums, sponsored by Disney. Share your stories and be inspired at and live Heathily Ever After (#HealthilyEverAfter).

About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.


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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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