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Fun Ways to Stay Fit: Toddlers to Teens



It’s not easy to stay active in a place like Qatar. The weather keeps most of us scurrying for cover, while near-constant road construction makes the journey to dedicated gyms and play areas daunting.

Sometimes, you just want to curl up in front of the telly and promise yourself that tomorrow will be different. But don’t give up—being active, even in the height of summer, is very doable. Qatar is pushing to make sports accessible for everyone: young and old, male and female, ex-pat and local. With plenty of local options to keep fit and healthy, here are some ideas to keep you and your family moving throughout the year, whether you have tiny tots or towering teens.

Movement Classes

Age range: 18 months to two years

Toddlers benefit from regular physical activity. Movement classes can familiarise them with the basics: hopping, skipping, and dancing. Gymboree Play & Music (4020-6413) offers plenty of classes for your toddler to explore movement in a safe environment, but if your schedule is tight, they hold open “Playgym” sessions for families to use outside of regular classes. Aspire Active (4413-6430) also organise movement sensory classes for babies and toddlers to enjoy with their caregivers.

Swimming

Age range: Six months and up

Swimming is not only a blast on a hot summer’s day—it’s a lifesaving skill. Introduce them to this activity early and often. Almost every swimming school offers a mum & baby swimming programme; (3300-3839), which offers ballet classes and hip-hop; Swim Academy (6661-4139) holds family swimming experiences in convenient locations like The Grand Hyatt and The Westin. For more competitive swimmers, the H2O Swim Club (5564-1475) comes highly recommended.

Trampolining

Age range: 18 months and up

We’re not going to lie—trampolining is so much fun, it doesn’t feel like you’re getting a workout (though you are!). It’s one of those family activities that works for just about any age group. At Bounce (4408-6500), a special Junior Jumpers programme is available for children who can walk unassisted, while teenagers can challenge their ninja skills inside a dedicated obstacle course. Another option is the newly opened Trampo Qatar (4499-8888) at Aspire.

Team Sports

Age range: Three years and up

Once your children reach school-age, consider enrolling them in a team sport. It’s great for both physical and emotional development, with the added benefit of encouraging them to socialise outside the classroom. Try a multi-sport centre like Evolution Sports (4407-6772) or QSports (4017-6791), as they have a wide variety of teams to choose from. There are also dedicated single-sport organisations that offer programmes for children, like the Doha Rugby Football Centre (doharfc.org) or Warriors Cricket Club (4464-9507). Qatar Foundation has also recently launched autism football sessions (4454-0772) for children and adults with those specific needs.

For the youngest children, consider something like Aspire Active’s “Little Athletes” that introduces them to the fundamentals of a diversity of sports. And yet another option is to enrol your littlest one in Doha Rugby Football Centre’s Rugby Tots, which is a dedicated league for toddlers ages three to four.

Horse Riding 

Age range: Three years and up

The Arabian horse is a key cultural symbol of the Middle East. Get to know these beautiful creatures—and get in touch with local culture—by learning to ride them. Al Samriya Riding School (5070-9521) is located in a charming stone stable next to the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum. While serious lessons do not typically start until six or seven years of age, Al Samriya offers a “tots” class that gives very young children a safe introduction to horse riding.

Bowling

Age range: Four years and up

We really can’t think of a better way to spend time as a family than heading to a bowling alley. Qatar Bowling Center (4432-9178), next to Al Bidda Park, is a huge venue that hosts bowling leagues as well as big family groups. Other, perhaps more kid-friendly options, include Gondolania Bowling Center (4403-9800) and Megapolis Entertainment Center (4437-8444).

Dance 

Age range: Four years and up

Not all children thrive in team-based sports. Your child may be more interested in expressing themselves through dance. There are many studios offering dance lessons for children. Some popular options include Sophie McDonald Dance Company (5540-0419), with ballet, jazz and contemporary dance for multiple skill levels; Music & Arts Atelier and AIMAC Qatar (4416-1983), with a wide range of options from Western-style forms to classical Indian dance, even Bollywood.

Climbing

Age range: Four years and up

Rock climbing is a physically demanding sport, but it’s also a cerebral one. Not only will kids gain strength and flexibility, but they’ll also engage their problem-solving skills to help them to scale up a wall. Esqalar (3388-2179) offers introductory and academy programs for children at the Aspire Zone.

Yoga

Age range: Four years and up

Mindfulness is having a bit of a moment, and it can help your children find a sense of calm and relaxation. It’s particularly helpful for stressed out, anxious teens. Yama Yoga (6617-5802) has dedicated yoga classes divided up between kids, tweens, and teens, as each age group has different needs.

If you are an experienced yogi, then we highly recommend turning to YouTube for both kid-friendly yoga videos as well as AcroYoga routines that will have you and your child working together to achieve fun—and often silly—poses.

Cycling

Age range: Five years and up

Learning to ride a bike is considered a developmental milestone in many countries and theory, most children can ride a bicycle around the age of five. That said, there are not too many safe places in Doha to practice outside of compounds. However, there are a couple of parks that do allow children to ride bicycles, including Al Bidda, Museum of Islamic Art, and Dahl Al Hamam parks.

For family cycling outings, Aspire Park has several kilometres of bike lanes, as does Al Bidda. Another option for groups is the 13-kilometre cycling path that parallels the Ras Abu Abboud Expressway. Safely separated from the actual road, the fairly level track runs from Ras Abu Abboud bridge to Hamad International Airport.

Martial Arts

Age range: Five years and up

Martial arts are wonderful for teaching children discipline and boosting their confidence levels—but also, it just looks cool. There are plenty of martial arts academies in Doha that teach everything from Thai kickboxing to karate to wrestling. A few kid-friendly dojos include Royal Martial Arts (3335-1117), the Korea Taekwondo Center (4465-9066), and SFQ Sports Academy (6622-2962).

Tennis

Age range: Five years and up

Khalifa Tennis and Squash Complex (4440-9666) has tennis courts for hire, so booking ahead to secure a court is a must. They also organise coaching sessions for both children and adults. Alternatively, Al Bidda Park has tennis courts that are free to use. While you can book a court on the spot (depending on availability), it’s best to call ahead at 4428-7777 to claim a space. 

Water Sports

Age range: Six years and up

Learn to conquer the seas with Regatta Sailing Academy (3363-2515). They offer sailing courses for both children and adults at their base in Katara. Over at The Pearl-Qatar, Blue Pearl Experience (6660-2830) offers kayaking, paddle boarding and kitesurfing sessions. For active family days out, Aquasports (6696-3494) organises a variety of experiences exploring Qatar’s coastline, including their highly rated mangrove kayaking tours.

Running

Age range: Six years and up

If your child has boundless energy, get them on track with Doha Athletic Club (6605-1263), a running club headed by Olympic medallist Liz McColgan. If they aren’t ready for a regular running regimen, then play running games like tag or red-light green-light in a nearby park to get them (and you) off to a great start. That said, your child—like most adults— may not be enthusiastic about running. It’s worth pushing it, however, as running is a great way to promote a strong, healthy heart. Make it more exciting by gearing up for fun events like Color Runs—Doha hosts one every January that includes a one-kilometre kids’ run.

While this year’s event has already passed, you can get your family ready for the next one by running in some of Doha’s more scenic running routes, including The Corniche and Oxygen Park, or by participating in Qatar Running series, which has kids’ races throughout the year.

 

A final note on family fitness

Even if your child is not particularly sporty, you can encourage them to be more active by engaging their sense of fun and playfulness. Sometimes, just chasing them around in the park or grabbing a football for a few kicks can be enough. Store badminton rackets, footballs, frisbees, kickballs, hacky sacks, and skateboards, so your kids (and their friends) can take them to play in available green spaces. Learning to appreciate physical activity does not come naturally to everyone, but finding the types of sports and fitness activities that suit your family will pay health dividends long into the future.

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