Archive for December, 2016


Healthy New Year’s Resolutions for Kids

Friday, December 30th, 2016

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New Year’s resolutions aren’t just for adults. This year’s end, sit down with your children and ask them what they’d like to see happen over the next 12 months.

Setting these goals can be an excellent opportunity to get children thinking about how their decisions affect their long term health and wellbeing. Resolutions that involve goals set around healthy eating, physical activity, school, and self care are all appropriate for kids.

Rather than sitting in solitude and making a list, we suggest making resolution setting a family activity. This can be done by going around in a circle and having each member of your family say something they’re proud of and something they’d like to improve. This creates a positive environment in which to goal set, and builds on a child’s ability to be self aware and reflect on the year that has passed. PBS also recommends setting family resolutions, such as pledging to eat a healthy dinner together every Friday night or going on a long hike once a month.

Inappropriate resolutions for children are ones that set out an unhealthy body image. While “lose weight” was the number one resolution for adults in 2016, children should be discouraged from setting a similar goal. Establishing an idea like “I need to lose weight” in a child can be damaging, especially as that child becomes a young adult. So even if losing weight is your resolution as a parent, avoid bringing that up with your child. Instead, resolutions should be linked to proactive and positive goals.

Without further ado, here are some healthy New Year’s Resolutions to set with your children this year, divided into the four categories listed above.

Healthy Eating

Food is possibly the area of their lives where children make the most choices. Parents have the opportunity to guide healthy eating resolutions, classifying food not as “good” or “bad,” but rather as something that should be consumed in moderation. These resolutions should look at alternatives to unhealthy food, and encourage kids to be experimental in their eating.

  • I will try one new food a month, and will finish eating it even if I don’t like the taste;
  • I will go to the grocery store with Dad and pick and eat one fruit that is unknown to me;
  • I will drink water or milk on a daily basis, and save soda and juice for special days;
  • I will eat fruit and vegetables as my afternoon snack rather than chips;
  • I will bring my own healthy snack to the movie theater instead of having Mom buy me popcorn.

If your child needs some healthy eating inspiration, try introducing them to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate, MyWins resource, which features colorful graphics for food groups and valuable tips for how their plate should be filled.

Another excellent way to get your child more invested in the food they’re eating is to have them help prepare it! Check out Kids Can Cook Gourmet, a food blog that includes video guides on how to make different recipes.

Physical Activity

These are important resolutions, especially at a time when more than one third of American children are considered either overweight or obese. Childhood is the best time to instill the value of physical activity in your child’s life. Why not do that through a few of the New Year’s Resolutions listed below?

  • I will ride my bike to school two days a week;
  • I will find a sport I like doing and join a team in order to play it regularly;
  • I will spend just as much time outside playing as I do on my computer or gaming device;
  • I will participate more in my school’s physical education class.

An excellent way to ensure your child is getting more physical activity is to lead by example. Find activities that you can do together — both your bodies will benefit!

School

These are resolutions aimed at improving a child’s academic performance. It is especially important to stay positive in this category of resolutions — parents should be regularly offering words of support about a child’s school performance and should offer help, when needed. School-based resolutions can include:

  • I will improve my grades in my favorite subject by the end of the school year;
  • I will attend every sport practice this semester;
  • I will ask my teacher for help if I don’t understand something being talked about in class;
  • I will finish all my homework before watching television at night.

If you really want to help your child accomplish their school-based resolution, sit down with their teacher and tell them what your kid has in mind for the year. That way they can nudge your child in the right direction if they’re lacking motivation.

Self and Family

These are resolutions meant to build a child’s sense of responsibility for oneself and one’s community.

This category can include resolutions such as:

  • I will tell an adult when I am feeling sad or upset, rather than keeping those emotions bottled up inside;
  • I will resist peer pressure at school and ask a parent if someone is trying to get me to do something I’m not sure about;
  • I will make Sunday a day for family fun;
  • I will volunteer in my community at least once a month.

Resolution Success

To make each of the above resolutions more attainable, try breaking down the large resolution into a series of smaller steps. For example, if your child’s resolution is to get an A+ in English class by the end of the year, the tiny steps could involve him/her studying every night after school for 15 minutes, reading two books a month, and reviewing every test with a teacher to find areas for improvement.

Creating these smaller steps within a resolution will demonstrate to your child that goal setting is a long term process that requires a lot of work, and isn’t something just accomplished overnight.

Staying Active in Winter: Tips and Tricks for Kids

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

active

Staying active in the winter months can be a daunting task. Most people would just rather stay inside, veg out on the couch, and call it a day. But these kinds of activities aren’t good for your physical or mental health. Fortunately, there are numerous indoor activities that can be a good substitute for more typical outdoor sports during the winter months.

SPARK Lesson Plans

If your students are unwilling to go outside, there are several different games/activities that can be played indoors with little equipment.

We’ve put together collection of lesson plans that are perfect for indoor winter activities. Here are a few worth your attention:

Rock-Paper-Scissors Tag

In this game, kids partner up, play rock-paper-scissors at the midline, then whoever wins is “IT.” This person chases other players towards the endline. A point goes to the chaser if they tag a runner; a point goes to the runner if they make it safely to the endline. You’ll need cones, and flag belts are suggested.

Paper Plate Aerobics

In this game, kids have to keep a paper plate underneath each foot while doing some sort of movement. Examples include lunges, push-ups, and crunches. You could also have students use a softball and play catch with a couple others, without lifting feet off the plates.

Toy’s Alive!

In this game, everyone spreads out and pretends they are a toy (like in Toy Story). When they hear “Andy’s coming!” they must freeze in position. Students count down from three to one, and wait to hear “All Clear!” to move again. In order to move, they must use a bean bag as a “battery,” balanced on their head or shoulder. If the bean bag falls, the student must freeze until another toy-student helps them out. You’ll need cones and bean bags for this activity.

YMCA’s, Open Gyms, and Community Centers

Encourage students to take fitness into their own hands, outside of school. During the winter season, there’s a lot of time over break that should be used to constructively balance holiday indulgence.

YMCA’s offer a multitude of options for indoor activities, that vary depending on the location. A few different things that may be available at your local YMCA:

  • Gymnastics, swim classes, youth fitness classes (yoga, dance, Zumba)
  • Sports; basketball, flag football, volleyball, martial arts, running

Besides YMCA’s, open gyms, usually reserved for basketball, are “open” for anyone to use. They can also have space for gymnastics or volleyball nets. This is a great option to suggest to students with specific activity preferences.

Local community centers offer a variety of different activity options that are similar to what a local YMCA might provide. A local community center might offer martial arts, dance classes, and various sports teams to sign up for. But staying active doesn’t always mean doing a sport or exercise class. Another “activity” might be something like taking a cooking class as a family at a community center.

Bowling/Indoor Rollerblading/Indoor Trampoline

The best way to get a student to exercise? Make it seem like something that’s more “fun” than “work.” A few ideas to suggest for staying active in winter:

Bowling

Bowling gets you up and moving, plus it’s fun. You don’t have to be great at bowling, and there are bumpers on the lanes for kids. It’s also relatively inexpensive!

Indoor Rollerblading

Students may claim it’s too cold to go outside to ice skate, so encourage them to opt instead for indoor rollerblading. There are many health benefits associated with rollerblading: it’s easier on the joints, improves your overall mood, and can also help with endurance and agility.

Indoor Trampoline: Indoor trampoline parks are getting more and more popular. It’s an indoor park composed of trampolines and a pit of foam cubes to jump into. Trampolining is a great way to get kids active! Did you know that a ten minute bounce is the same as a half hour run?

Outdoor Activities

Just because it’s winter, doesn’t mean you HAVE to be stuck inside! There are many activities to do outside that kids, and parents, can enjoy. Some suggestions:

  • Build a snowman or snow fort
  • Go skiing, sledding, or snowboarding
  • Bundle up and go for a walk

Indoor Activities

We aren’t out of ideas for staying active in the winter yet! Here are some indoor activities to suggest to students that will probably please their parents.

Cleaning the House

It doesn’t have to be a chore! You can do a couple things to make this fun:

  1. Make it a game: whoever cleans their bedroom the fastest (an adult has to approve of thoroughness) gets a simple reward (like their choice for dinner).
  2. Turn the cleaning into a dance party and blast some tunes.

Cooking/Baking

Cooking and baking can really get you moving in the kitchen. You can turn it into family time, as well and cook/bake together. If it’s around the holiday time, encourage parents to bake cookies and decorate them with the kids. Learning to cook and manage your nutrition is not only a valuable skill, it’s also something fun to do when it’s freezing outside.

Active Video Games

Many gaming consoles have active video game titles kids can play. From Nintendo’s Wii Sports, to Xbox’s Kinect, there are plenty of options. You might also suggest dancing games like Zumba and Just Dance.

Staying active during the winter is difficult for many, and being cooped up isn’t fun either.  But staying active in winter helps physical health as well as mental health. You will have more energy and be less lethargic if you use some of these tips!

4 Ways to Keep Kids Healthy During the Holidays

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

holiday

While most children eagerly await the start of winter break, the time off from school can present a challenging conundrum to parents: in a season when so many activities are centered around eating and indulging, how can we ensure our kids stay healthy during the holidays?

Unlike summer vacation, there aren’t as many camps and organized activities hosted for kids during the holidays. Plus, it’s easy to get cabin fever inside when the days are short and the weather cold — snacking, watching TV, and browsing our computers becomes much more appealing.

Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to encourage your kids to stay active and healthy; from games they can enjoy on their own, to gifts that encourage physical activity, and fun activities that can involve the entire family. Here are a few ideas to get you and your kids started.

1. Wrapping Paper Soccer

This is a creative way to use the leftover gift wrap paper after everyone has opened their presents. Have each child make a small paper ball out of wrapping paper and tape. On cue, have players dribble their own ball around the game area (your living room, for example), and try to kick the ball between another player’s feet (the wrapping paper goalie). You earn a point every time you get the paper ball through the person’s feet. Check out our lesson plan for this game, including a number of additional exercises you can try to make this fun activity even more physical.

2. Go for a Walk

What better way to appreciate holiday family time than heading outside together?

Taking a walk is an easy and inexpensive way to get kids to put down their devices, and leave the house. If you live in a location that has snow, bundle up the kids and head out with a toboggan. Challenge kids to pull one another, dive from the toboggan, and run to jump in again. The snow acts as extra cushioning, so children can leap and fall more than they’d be able to in the summer months.

If the idea of a simple walk isn’t enticing enough to hold their attention, try setting up a scavenger hunt in your neighborhood featuring holiday themed items such as candy canes, strands of lights, and Santa hats. Or, save your stroll for the evening when you can explore the neighborhood as a family, and select your favorite displays of Christmas lights.

Going for a walk can even be as simple as bringing children along to the mall, while you do your holiday shopping. Anything that gets them on their feet and moving is great for their physical and mental health.

3. Toys Alive

There’s a famous scene in the classic Christmas ballet The Nutcracker, in which the Nutcracker leads his army of toy soldiers into a fierce battle against the Mouse King and his rodent army. Toys Alive is a fun and silly game inspired by that scene.

Set out a large play area (this could be your backyard) and have players scatter themselves. In this game, all players pretend to be toys that have come to life, moving around the play area — until someone yells “freeze!” When you hear this word, the players must hold whatever position they’re in for three seconds, until that same person unfreezes them and allows them to move freely once more. This game is great for young kids, as it helps them build their control and balance skills, there are no winners and losers, and there are sure to be plenty of laughs.

4. Paper Plate Aerobics

Too cold to go outside? You can mimic winter sports with just a little bit of imagination, and a set of paper plates.

This activity is called Paper Plate Aerobics, and it involves children shuffling and sliding along the floor, while standing on a plate. Kids can “skate” on their paper plates by sliding one foot at a time forward in a diagonal motion. Encourage them to lean forward into the movement, and hold their hands behind their backs like a classic skater.

Likewise, children can use paper plates to pretend they’re cross country skiing. Standing again on the plates, have your kids try to imitate the movements of a skier — alternating sliding their feet forward and backward, with their arms moving in the opposite direction.

To make each of these activities more fun, pull up a YouTube video of someone skiing or skating, so the kids can keep up with their movements, and pretend they’re skiing in the mountains or in the winter Olympics.

5 Dishes to Consider Removing From Your Holiday Dinner Plans

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

holiday dinner

Holiday seasons are the perfect time to have fun, bond with family members, and of course, eat. Most people use the holidays as an excuse to ditch their diets in favor of calorie-laden delicacies. After all, Thanksgiving is America’s “Biggest Cheat Day.”

Unfortunately, because of the season and the desire to enjoy the holiday, people tend to overlook the after-effects of gorging themselves on indulgent dishes. Most foods on the holiday dining table, regardless of how tasty they are, are bad for you if eaten mindlessly. The problems compound if you normally follow a strict health-related diet.

Luckily, being conscious with regards to the foods you prepare for your holiday dinner doesn’t mean dishes have to be bland and boring. Healthy options can taste just as good as diet hazards.

If you need some guidance as far as dishes to consider removing from your holiday dinner plans, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s what to cut down on, and how to replace them!

1.Mixed Nuts

Nuts are a favorite snack at every holiday party. They have a lot of health benefits:

  • Rich in Calcium and Vitamin E
  • Good source of folate
  • Contain heart-healthy fats

The problem is not the quality of nuts, but the quantity most people eat. Once you start eating nuts, it’s hard to stop. Most people munch on them until they’re gone. A couple handfuls of nuts can equate to 450 calories with 40 grams of fat.

If you’re not willing to remove nuts from your menu, consider creating a small batch of spiced-nut mix. The preparation will feel more like a treat and less like a snack. By serving spiced-nuts in small bowls, you’ll reduce overall snacking and make sure guests still have room for dinner!

2. Pecan Pie

The problem with nuts runs deep. Pecan pie is a dessert, which automatically gives it the “unhealthy” label. Unfortunately, pecan pie can be a worse dessert choice than others, despite it’s lack of candy coating!

Like other nuts, pecans can be a good source of nutrients, but are calorie bombs in large quantities. When you make a pecan pie, you’re also adding in large quantities of sugar, butter, and corn syrup. Depending on how generously you cut your pie, one slice of pecan pie can contain over 500 calories with 37g of fat and 26g of sugar.

But during the holidays, it seems almost sacrilegious to ditch dessert altogether. You can still have your pecan pie, and eat it too! A few suggestions to make it a little healthier:

  • Give yourself a smaller serving
  • Create a healthier pecan pie with low-fat butter, egg whites, and lighter corn syrup

Alternatively, you can opt for a healthier pie that still fits the season. Apple pie has less than a quarter of the fat per slice of pecan pie, and also offers a serving of fiber thanks to the inclusion of apples!

3. Stuffing

During the holidays, one of the must-have dishes on every table is turkey with a side of stuffing. Just think carefully before getting stuffed with stuffing! The standard preparation can destroy anyone’s diet.

Stuffing consists mainly of bread, butter/margarine, and sausage, and contains about 175 calories per cup. If it contains sausage, stuffing can reach up to 400 calories per cut with 26g of fat.

For a healthy stuffing alternative, substitute whole wheat bread for cornbread, replace sausage with cranberries, or try a gluten-free recipe.

4. Green Bean Casserole

This dish to consider removing from your holiday dinner plans might throw you off a bit. After all, green beans are a vegetable. Aren’t they supposed to be healthy?

On their own, green beans are nutrient-packed greens. It’s the ingredient additions to this classic holiday dish that move it into a different category.

Green bean casserole is calorie-packed, with loads of sodium thanks to cream of mushroom soup, fried onions, butter, and cheese. One serving has at least 230 calories and 500mg of sodium. Incredibly, a full batch has 785 calories and 4,128mg of sodium!

Skip your stretchy pants and make this holiday dish work for you. A lighter preparation of stuffing (with fewer calories and less salt) might include broccoli and water chestnuts.

5. Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Spinach and artichokes are two types of vegetables you probably wouldn’t suspect of being unhealthy. But just like all the other healthy ingredients that have been mentioned, it’s the add-on ingredients that make this one of the dishes to consider removing from your holiday dinner plans.

Spinach and artichoke dip includes large amount of mayonnaise, sour cream, and cream cheese. A half-cup serving is almost 300 calories – and that’s without the chips to pair with it!

Like many of these other holiday favorites, there are healthier ways to prepare this dish. Alternatively, you can reduce your calorie intake with raw veggies to dip, or salsa as a dip alternative.

Did we miss any of the major dishes to consider removing from your holiday dinner plans? We’d love to hear how you’re making the holidays healthy, yet delicious, in the comments below!

The Jekyll and Hyde Holiday Dilemma: How to Prevent Unhealthy Habits

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

holiday eating

The holidays are a time of year to gather round the table, spend time with family — and potentially break every promise you’ve made to yourself to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Who doesn’t love an extra helping? A little more eggnog? You’ll be sure to burn all those calories off during January, right? The truth is, you probably won’t. When you fall out of your good habits, it’s not just the extra calories that get to you; it’s the fatigue and the procrastination that set in from a period of overindulgence.

Half the battle of defeating poor decision-making comes down to identifying your own behavioral tendencies. If you don’t take the time to understand why you’re doing something, you’ll end up with your own personal version of the Jekyll and Hyde dilemma: “Part of me wants to keep up my exercise routine and my low-sugar diet, but the other part of me is saying to skip the treadmill and try some of Aunt Pam’s cookies!”

With a little foresight and advanced planning, you can nip the bad habits early, before your own personal “Mr. Hyde” gets the best of you. Here are some simple things you can do to catch yourself in the moment, and overcome these common holiday bad habits.

Mr. Hyde’s Holiday Mistake: Eating Until You’re Overstuffed

Dr. Jekyll’s Solution: Drink More Water

You should be drinking a healthy amount of water throughout the year, but this is especially important during the holidays. We’re ready to smother everything in gravy and butter. We all want that piece of pie and cobbler, and a few scoops of ice cream. If you’re going to enjoy these indulgences, do one easy thing to help counter that icky overstuffed feeling, and the extra calories. Drink more water.

Have a glass of water for every glass of wine, or beer. Carry your water glass around with you throughout the evening. Consciously try to drink more water during your holiday mingling. Sounds pretty simple, right? You’ll be surprised by how much better you feel. Plus, when your body is well hydrated, you feel less hungry — so, you’ll end up eating less while still satisfying your cravings.

Mr. Hyde’s Holiday Mistake: Overdoing it on the Gravy – or the Pie

Dr. Jekyll’s Solution: Eat Balanced Meals

Imbalance is really at the center of almost all food discomfort (aside from allergies). Even as young children, we learn that no one food group is the best or worst, because our bodies need a balance of all food groups in order to stay healthy. “Macro imbalance” is a technical way of describing how well fats, carbohydrates, and protein in your food are balanced for your body’s needs.

There is a lot of conflicting evidence about how many meals per day are best for you, but all nutritionists agree on one thing: it’s not a great idea to binge on one massive meal, or to eat from entirely one food group. It’s easy to get carried away with extra helpings of your favorite foods, leaving little room on your plate for much else. To help you eat balanced nutritional meals, make a point to grab equal portions of a vegetable dish and lean meat — along with a (smaller) treat to satisfy your sweet tooth. This is a great time to be a role model for your children, and encourage them to mix a balanced variety of foods on their plates, just like you.

Mr. Hyde’s Holiday Mistake: Napping Before (and After) Dinner

Dr. Jekyll’s Solution: Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

New Year’s resolutions are right around the corner, but why wait until January 1st? Now is a great time to get started (or to continue) with some healthy behaviors. Of course, the holiday season isn’t a convenient time to join a CrossFit gym, or a Zumba class. A much easier solution would be to a take a walk in the morning with the family, to socialize and get some cardiovascular activity in; perhaps do the same post-dinner, before you sit down for a nightcap, or some dessert.

Go for a stroll before and after meals, do 10 crunches at night before bed, read your holiday books or magazines on the treadmill — whatever you do, make a point to participate in some form of physical activity every day. Do some power walking laps around the shopping mall, if you like. Regular physical activity will help prevent unintentional overeating, give you more energy throughout the holiday festivities, and pay real dividends for your overall health as you head into the new year.

Mr. Hyde’s Holiday Mistake: Taking a Break from “Everyday Life”

Dr. Jekyll’s Solution: Maintain Your Routine

Other than excess calories — and a propensity for becoming a permanent resident of your couch — what often suffers the most during the holidays is your daily routine. Family comes into town, or perhaps you go out of town to visit them; and like hurricane-force winds, you feel forced to drop all of your usual day-to-day habits.

Maintaining a sense of normalcy is important for both mental and physical well-being; this is especially true if you have children. If you are used to getting up every morning and having a cup of coffee, then do so — even if you’ve got a few extra members around the table, or you have to learn to use Aunt Beth’s new coffee maker. If you are used to taking some alone time to decompress at the beginning or end of your day, schedule the time — even amid the trips to the mall, the extra baking, and the wrapping of presents. Try to keep your children as close to their usual routine as possible. That means getting them to bed at a decent hour, eating meals when you normally would, and not skipping out on your usual bedtime story or afternoon walk around the block. Your family will thank you; your mental health will thank you too.

Our Top 10 Posts on Early Childhood Education

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

physical activity

Minds of young children are sponges for information. Every lesson about life, behavior, and humanity is absorbed to form the foundation for lifelong skills. Known by experts as the “formative” years of life, early childhood experiences help  shape the person a child will become.

Over the years, we’ve covered some important topics relating to early childhood education. Let’s revisit just some of our favorite posts, and see how they can help you learn more about promoting positive early development.

1. Introducing Young Children to Exercise Routines

Thanks to technology, children are now more likely to live a sedentary lifestyle than any generation that came before them. In fact, 89% of children between the ages of four and five spend more than two hours a day watching television. This post demonstrates how to keep kids active by introducing youngsters to positive habits and exercise routines while they’re still young.

Start Them While They’re Young: Introducing Kids to Exercise Routines

2. What is Necessary For Early Childhood Education?

Part of developing a good system for early childhood education is understanding exactly what is necessary for a holistic approach to learning. From the value of physical activity to the importance of play, recess, and nutrition, this blog examines the pillars of youth development.

Schooling, Health, and Youth Development – What is Necessary?

3. Encouraging Early Childhood Learning in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

Since 2014, STEM jobs – careers that require education in science, technology, engineering, or math – account for more than 10% of all professions within the United States. With that in mind, it makes sense that parents and teachers alike would want to support early childhood learning in these areas. This post looks at how to encourage valuable STEM skills for the modern generation.

How to Support Early Childhood Learning in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

4. The Importance of Play in Early Childhood Education

Promoting growth and development at an early age isn’t only about pushing your child to spend more time in an academic classroom setting. Playtime, physical activity, and recess play crucial roles in developing skills associated with socialization, collaboration, and emotional intelligence. This blog outlines the real power of play.

Early Childhood Education: The Power of Play in Physical Education

5. Encouraging Healthy Lifestyle Habits

Perhaps the easiest way to ensure that a child will grow up happy and healthy is to encourage them to take part in positive activities as part of their everyday routine. Since children learn from repetition, this post shows how promoting healthy behaviors like nutrition and physical activity early helps to set the foundation for life-long habits.

11 Ways to Instill Healthy Lifestyle Habits In Your Children

6. Does a Healthy Lifestyle Improve Behavior?

Creating a holistic path for development means understanding the value of healthy living not only as a tool against childhood obesity, but also as a method of promoting good behavior and positive character traits. The earlier teachers and parents begin promoting good behaviors, the more likely it is that they will develop into lifelong aspects of a child’s personality. This blog outlines the scientific link between character and healthy living.

Can a Healthier Lifestyle Promote Good Character in Kids?

7. Using Exercise to Improve Academic Performance

Since early childhood education is so important to a youngster’s future, it’s important to encourage positive mental, physical, and emotional development wherever possible. This post demonstrates the science behind studies that show exercise as a valuable tool in helping students to excel academically.

Can Exercise Help Students to Excel Academically?

8. Creating a Positive Environment For the First Weeks of School

Part of promoting a positive early education relies on the ability of guardians and educators to represent the school as a place of growth and enjoyment. Children need to approach learning with the right attitude to get the best results, and this blog offers some ways for educators to create a positive learning environment, which can set the tone for the school year.

Back to School: Creating that Positive Learning Environment.

 

9. Structured Physical Activity – The Benefits

We all know that physical activity is essential in early childhood – but is it better for that activity to be structured, or unstructured? This post underscores some of the benefits of structured physical education for early childhood programs.

The Benefits of Structured Physical Activity for Early Childhood Programs

10. The Benefits of Physical Activity in School

One of the best ways to turn healthy behaviors into habits at a young age is to help children understand the true value that physical activity has in their lives. This infographic is a fun and simple collection of all the information you need to know when creating a plan for comprehensive childhood development.

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind – The Benefits of Physical Activity in School [INFOGRAPHIC]

A Holistic Approach to Early Education


At SPARK, we believe in the benefits of an active and holistic childhood education. For a child to grow to be healthy and happy, they need to understand the value of positive behavior like physical activity,  how to cooperate and socialize, and discover the full strength of their inner resilience, patience, and brain power.

What do you think of our list? Are there any great posts that you think we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below!

How Much Activity Do Young Children Need?

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

exercise

Physical activity is an important factor in the healthy development of children. Inadequate physical activity negatively impacts childhood development and puts children at risk to become obese, develop Type II diabetes, and cardiovascular health risks, Unfortunately, many parents underestimate the role that activity  plays in keeping children happy and healthy. According to a recent survey outlined by WebMD, only 15% of parents regard overall physical health as a primary concern for their children.

Young children have an inherent desire to be active, which can be fostered by parents and caregivers. Strategies for encouraging positive activity and nutritional behaviors should start during early childhood because this stage of development is a critical period learning.  Inactivity becomes the norm when children are not giving opportunity for movement. Physical activity activity time is rapidly being replaced with “screen time” (television and computers). Major cities and towns have become less physically active friendly with  automobile commutes where children are confined to car seats for long periods of time.  

Parents, caregivers, and early childhood learning centers should provide environments that promote structured and unstructured physical activity time. Structured activity is teacher/adult led through a curriculum ensuring both a physically and emotionally safe environment, Unstructured physical activity is “free play” or recess.

What Do the Experts Say?

According to SHAPE America (The Society of Health and Physical Educators) , toddlers should be engaged in at least 30 minutes of structured physical activity and  preschoolers 60 minutes of structured physical activity.  Both groups should have a minimum of 60 minutes of unstructured physical activity time and should not be sedentary for more than 60 minutes at a time except when sleeping. These activity times can be divided into smaller blocks of time throughout the day to avoid large periods of time when children are sedentary.  

The American Heart Association suggests that a sedentary lifestyle represents a significant risk factor for the development of coronary artery disease and may boost the risk of significant cardiovascular threats, such as low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity. The AHA agrees that all children above the age of two should be getting at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day. Their guidelines also suggest splitting the full activity hour into several shorter periods for children who struggle to exercise for extended periods of time.

What Should the Recommended 60 Minutes Include?

Parents and caregivers can help shape a child’s attitudes towards physical activity by encouraging young children to be physically active. Children require a variety of activities to maintain and promote physical health.

The SPARK Programs (Sports, Play, and Active Recreation for Kids) encourages that Early Childhood structured physical activity time engage children in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA)  at least 50% of the session time. Moderate physical activity is the equivalent of a fast walk while vigorous physical activity is similar to a jog.

SHAPE America also recommends “Preschoolers should be encouraged to develop competence in fundamental motor skills that will serve as the building blocks for future motor skillfulness and physical activity.”  These fundamental motor skills include locomotor skills and object control skills.

Physical activity programs like SPARK Early Childhood include academic integration during physical activity that focus on readiness skills such as listening, following direction, colors, numbers, shapes, literature, science, social skills, and rhythmic activities. SPARK Early Childhood also includes Family activities, simple fun activities that can be done with parents or caregivers, that require little or no planning.

Promoting Healthy Growth

If you’re concerned about how to incorporate such a wide range of exercise opportunities into your child’s day – remember it’s not as tough as it seems.  Learn what your child likes to do and get creative. For instance, if your child likes to explore, head for the nearest jungle gym. If your little one prefers creative activities, then go on a nature hike and collect leaves for a picture. SPARK suggests simple as turning on music and dancing or imitating animal movements instead of turning on a “screen” are wonderful ways to incorporate movement.  If your child is enrolled in an early childhood program, inquire about the physical activity program offered at the site to see if it meets the recommendations of SHAPE America and includes important school readiness skills.

It doesn’t matter how your child gets their recommended activity each day — what matters is exercise and movement are given the attention that they deserve.