Archive for October, 2013


Unconventional Physical Education Activities

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

In the United States, students and teachers are pretty familiar with the old stand-by PE games like tag, tetherball, kickball, dodge ball, and capture the flag. However, in some parts of the U.S., as well as internationally, there are physical education programs that incorporate non-traditional activities into their PE lesson plans. Instead of the typical jumping jacks, push-ups, and laps around the track, these programs are introducing students to a whole new side of physical activity and proper nutrition. Below we’ll take a look at a few of the uncommon PE games and physical activities that are being implemented today.

Yoga

The health benefits of yoga have been receiving increased attention in Western culture over the past several years, with the most recent popularity boom starting in 2001. Heralded for its meditative, relaxation, and strength-building benefits, yoga was first offered in North America for high school PE credit in Nova Scotia. Since then, several schools have begun to offer yoga as part of their standard physical education curriculum, although not everyone has been receptive. In Encinitas, California, concerned parents brought a lawsuit against the Encinitas Union School District with fear that teaching yoga to children might spread the message of Eastern religion. However, students who participate in yoga while in school are finding that the benefits extend to other areas of their academic lives, such as test preparation and focus in the classroom.

Tai Chi

Students of all ages, from elementary through college, are reporting increased levels of stress in their daily educational routines. Densely packed academic schedules, increasing workloads, and tougher standardized testing requirements have all added to the pressure that students face. In an attempt to combat these increased stress levels, some PE instructors are incorporating tai chi into their lessons plans. This ancient Chinese martial art has been practiced for centuries for its ability to oppose certain chronic conditions, lower stress levels, and improve one’s overall mental health.

Hiking

In rural and mountainous areas, hiking is being incorporated into the physical education curriculum. In some cases, the physical activity of hiking is included as part of an overarching lesson on wilderness education and outdoor survival. Hiking affords students the chance to explore the outdoors in a way that promotes interaction with nature and benefits their physical health. Hiking may also be combined with other outdoor activities such as kayaking, canoeing, or rock climbing.

Martial Arts

Classroom discipline can be a major issue in schools, particularly with younger students at the elementary level. In an attempt to enhance student’s focus and increase order within the classroom, various martial art disciplines are being taught to physical education students. Styles vary, from wrestling to karate to judo, providing students with basic self-defense skills through physical activity. Additionally, as UCLA Martial Arts Program Directr Paul McCarthy notes, “Martial arts can teach you about culture, history, society, friendship, loyalty, dedication, and so much more.

Dance

From ballroom to hip-hop to ballet, dance has been playing an increased role in physical education programs around the world. The physical health benefits of dance are many: improved coordination, increased cardiovascular capacity, weight loss, and enhanced muscle tone and strength are just a few. In some programs, PE instructors are also teaching cultural and traditional folk dance in order to combine physical activity with historical education.

4 Ways to Avoid Halloween Candy Overload

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

With Halloween just a week away, kids and parents are gearing up for the spooky festivities and sugary gorge-fest. It’s not only children who become increasingly excited as the end of October looms near—retailers and manufactures are also preparing for a big Halloween sales. The National Retail Federation estimates total Halloween spending in the U.S. to reach $6.9 billion. Of that spend, $2.08 billion is expected to be on candy alone, proof that we in the United States take our yearly Halloween candy binging rites seriously.

For kids, the goal is simple: visit as many houses as possible, filling up a giant knapsack with the largest amount of candy that you can manage to carry. Parents, on the other hand, have things a bit more complicated when it comes to Halloween. Yes, making sure your kids have a wonderful, memorable Halloween experience is important, as is keeping them safe while they are out there trick-or-treating.

What is also important is trying to curtail the ongoing consumption of tooth-rotting sweets that can last for weeks, or even months, after Halloween has come and gone. Not only is managing children’s candy intake necessary to avoid cavities, belly aches, hyperactivity, and future health issues—it’s also essential to avoid the inevitable glucose crash that follows an assault on the trove of Halloween riches.

So how do you go about helping your kids avoid the adverse affects of binging on Halloween candy? After all, they are sure to be up to their eyeballs in candy at every turn: at home, at school, and out in public. To start, it’s best to lay out a few ground rules: how much they’ll be allowed to eat and how much will be donated, saved for later, or set aside for ‘inspection’ by Mom and Dad. In addition to establishing rules, here are a few more ideas to help avoid Halloween candy crash.

1. Have Healthy Snacks on Hand

In the days following Halloween, it’s easy for kids to reach for that pillow case bulging with candy when they need a snack. One way to avoid this is to make sure you have other, healthier snack options readily available. While choosing a carrot over a chocolate bar isn’t likely to be your child’s first instinct, providing them with healthier food options—and helping them make the right choice—is key to avoiding candy binging. It helps make their Halloween candy stash last longer too.

2. A Little Goes a Long Way

Instead of giving your kids free reign over the now-overflowing candy jar, restrict candy intake to a few, or even better, one, piece of candy each day. To children, this might seem like a drag, but one way to make the process go more smoothly is to make a small ‘event’ out of it. Establish a set time each day, and encourage your kids to choose their daily candy very carefully. Tell them to eat their candy slowly and enjoy it rather than shove the entire thing in their mouth before running off. If you can manage to slow the process down enough, you will effectively bypass binge candy eating, while also teaching your kids the importance of savoring their food to avoid overeating and increase satisfaction and appreciation of food and treats.

3. One for Me, One for You

After the trick-or-treating has been completed, sit down with your children and take inventory of what they’ve managed to bring home. With all of the candy laid out, tell them that they need to decide which candy to keep, and which to set aside. In this way, you are allowing kids a certain level of control over selecting their favorites, but also cutting their candy total in half. Once they have chosen the candy they will keep for themselves, you can collectively decide what to do with the rest: donate it, share it among friends, or allow Mom and Dad to have some treats of their own.

4. Have a Plan for Leftover Candy

Aside from donating candy to troops overseas, selling it, or giving it away, having a few other ideas in place for leftover Halloween candy is a good idea to ensure it doesn’t go to waste. Of course, you can always freeze some of it, eating it later or using it as an ingredient in a frozen treat. You can also bake certain candies into cakes, use them in trail mixes, or even put them in a gift basket for Christmas. There are a ton of resources to help you with ideas for leftover Halloween candy, some of which even include healthy options!

Good luck managing that candy stash, and have a happy Halloween!