Archive for the ‘Physical Activity’ Category


5 Steps for Parents to Advocate for Better Physical Education

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

Portrait Of School Gym Team Sitting On Vaulting Horse

By: BJ Williston, SPARK Trainer and Curriculum Development Consultant

You’d have to be living under a rock to miss all the statistics about kids not getting enough physical activity these days. There are many reasons for this: not enough Physical Education (PE) in schools, too much time playing video games or on the computer, less time spent playing outside after school, etc. With such a push to improve academic test scores, many schools are failing to support physical education and physical activity (PA). Even though research has shown time and again that active kids do better in academic tests, they cut recess and PE programs to the bare minimum. The recommended dose is 60 minutes a day, yet most schools aren’t getting even half that. So, what can you, as a parent, do to urge schools to increase both the quantity and the quality of physical education? Be an advocate! Advocating is basically asking for something and then making it happen by changing policies and practices. If you would like to advocate for better PE and more PA at your school, here are five steps that can help:

  1. Educate yourself on the issue. Why is PE important? What are the benefits? What, if any, are the mandates your state has for number of minutes of physical education each week? Does the school have a Wellness Policy? Check out these PE Advocacy Resources on the SPARK website to learn about PE in schools.
  1. Learn more about the PE in your school. Do an assessment of the school’s PE environment and find which areas are in need of work. Learn about all the opportunities children have for physical activity at the school. This may include PE, recess, before and after school activity, and activity breaks during class time. Is PE being taught by a credentialed Physical Education Specialist? A Classroom Teacher? An aide? A volunteer? Is PE addressing state or national standards? Is the program evidence-based? Is it enjoyable? Are assessments used? Which types? Here are some tools you can use to help learn more about the PE program in your school:
  1. Recruit others to help you advocate. A lone voice is not as powerful as a choir. Spread the word using outreach techniques like PTA meetings, newsletters, bulletin boards, school websites, word of mouth, emails, mailings, posters at the school, etc. Use handouts, PowerPoint presentations, and videos that are available online to help get your message across to your fellow parents.
  1. Plan a meeting to inform the principal and other teachers about what you’ve found (e.g. PTA or School Board meeting). Invite members of the school board as well. Take this opportunity to show support for PE and PA at the school. Be sure a lot of parents and students attend the meeting to show support. Let them know how important it is to you and the students at the school. Cover the benefits of PE as well as the importance of quality PE taught by a credentialed PE Specialist using an evidence-based program.
  1. Start an action plan to begin tackling issues that need work. How can you help improve the quality and quantity of PE and PA at the school? Research available programs and decide which meet the needs of your school. Be sure the budget includes funding for PE Specialists, curriculum, equipment, and professional development to help the program get going and stay strong.

Think big, but remember most change happens in baby steps. Good luck advocating!

For additional tools and resources, visit:
http://www.sparkpe.org/physical-education-resources/advocacy/

Adapted Physical Activities for Recess

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

physical activities

Recess can be the most fun part of a child’s school day, and it’s important for any planned activities to be inclusive for all students.

That’s where adapted physical activities come in. These are activities that have been changed in one way or another to accommodate students who have sensory, motor and/or intellectual disabilities. The tools used in adapted physical activities are also often changed to fit students’ needs, and can include the use of textured sensory balls and padded equipment.

Adapted physical activities aren’t just for students with disabilities, and the right activity can be fun for all students to play together. They key is to have the proper equipment and supervision on hand so that all children participate equally.

Schoolyard Soccer

Soccer is one of the most popular recess sports, and can be easily adapted to allow for inclusion. Some strategies include:

  • Have students walk rather than run;
  • Use a slightly deflated ball, it rolls slower; or adapted equipment that is brightly colored, softer, larger, and/or is textured;
  • Make the playing area smaller and have less students on the field;
  • Ensure a teacher or student is on hand to blow a whistle or call out when a goal has been scored.

The above strategies aren’t dramatic shifts from soccer as we know it, but they do make the game more approachable for students with mobility issues and visual impairments.

Jump Rope

Jump rope can be an excellent way to increase both cardio levels and coordination. It can also be an excellent adapted physical education activity for recess.

One adapted technique is to have students change the way they move the rope. Rather than moving it in circles, try instead having two students hold the rope stationary at a height low to the ground. Students can then jump over the unmoving rope, mastering the movement it takes to jump rope the traditional way. Students without disabilities can be challenged by having the rope raised higher and higher with each subsequent jump. Students holding the rope need to hold it loosely that it comes out of their hands if a jumper trips over the rope, especially for students with limited gross motor skills.

For students who want to jump rope the traditional way, brightly colored ropes or a beaded rope can help increase awareness of when a child needs to successfully jump. The students turning the rope can also call out each time a student’s feet are supposed to leave the ground.

SHAPE America recommends ditching the skipping rope all together. By drawing a target on the ground, students can pretend to jump rope while hopping on and off that specific marker. That allows children to attain the same level of fitness and improve their coordination, without the pressure or frustration of having to keep the rope moving.

For students who can’t jump or children in wheelchairs, jump ropes can be an excellent tool to create a simple obstacle course on a smooth playground surface. Create a series of wavy lines or circles using the rope and have children run, walk, or wheel alongside that course.

Softball

Like soccer, this is another popular recess sport that can be made more inclusive. Recess supervisors should consider the following adaptations:

  • Use a velcro ball and provide those students with gross motor delays a velcro mitt;
  • Limit the pitching distance and have a batting tee on hand for students who have trouble with hand-eye coordination;
  • Reduce the distance between bases and have students without disabilities give tagging leeway for their classmates with a disability;
  • Replace bats with a tennis racquet for students who may have a hard time hitting the ball;
  • Have a bright colored, soft, or beeping ball that is better seen and heard by students with a visual impairment.

Since softball places the focus on one student at a time, it’s an easier activity to adapt for a child’s individual needs, regardless of whether or not they have a disability.

The key to incorporating adapted physical activity into recess is to ensure there’s buy-in from all children. This should be no problem at all if you maintain the tried and true elements of play: movement, laughter, and the opportunity to have fun.

 

Speak Up for Active Latino Kids!

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Young Children With Bikes And Scooters In Park Smiling To Camera

Latino kids and teens don’t get enough physical activity, which is critical for a healthy weight and proper physical and mental growth and development.

But you have an opportunity to speak up for active kids!

Public comments are being sought for the second edition of the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which sets vital activity recommendations for those ages 6 and up.

Add your public comment now: salud.to/activecomment

Not sure what to say?

Use this example comment from Salud America!, a national Latino childhood obesity prevention network based at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio:

Salud America! led a research review (http://www.communitycommons.org/groups/salud-america/big-bets/sa-active-spaces/) that found Latino children in underserved communities often have limited opportunities for physical activity. To be able to stay their healthiest, Latino children and their families need safe places to walk, roll, bike, swim, and play. Safe routes and shared or open use agreements are evidence-based strategies to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety, as well as increase equitable access to playgrounds, pools, and sports fields in order to increase physical activity among the underserved. This can help Latino children and families access the physical, mental, social, and health benefits of play and contribute to a culture of health in the United States.

Post this comment now: salud.to/activecomment

Learn more about Latinos and active spaces in your community here!

Ice Breakers to Get Kids Moving

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

ice breaker

Cultivating a comfortable classroom environment for students is crucial to how well they perform. Physical education classes in particular tend to come with a little more anxiety for some kids and a feeling of confidence is the key to their success.

One of the easiest ways to get new students acquainted with your PE classroom is through ice breaking games. Take a look at few you should try to help your class get moving.

Name Memory Game

Help students gain confidence in class and learn each other’s names through this classic – with a physical education twist. Have the class stand in a large circle that includes the teacher. Start by saying your name and doing some sort of physical movement (clap, stomp, jump, or spin around). The person to your left repeats your name and movement, and adds his or her own. The next person repeats both and adds a third. This repeats all the way around the circle, with the teacher going one last time to repeat everyone’s name and movement.

Cacophony

Have students arrange in a circle and hold hands. This game starts with the leader (usually the teacher) making a sound. He or she then squeezes the hand of the person to the left and continues to make the sound. The new person also starts making a sound and squeezes the hand of the next student who does the same. Soon the entire circle is a chorus of chosen sounds. When the hand squeeze returns to the game leader, he or she stops making the sound and squeezes the hand of the next person on the left who also goes silent. This continues until every sound has ceased.

Grab It

This game is best for preschool or early elementary students. Use a bean bag or another small object and pair up students who sit, facing each other, with the object in between them. When the teacher yells “Grab it!” the first person to pick up the object gets a point. Teachers can increase the difficulty by yelling things other than the command, and deducting a point if anyone is fooled.

7 Buzz

This game is best for students in upper elementary or middle school. The group forms a circle and each person takes a turn counting, in sequence, until the number 7 or a multiple of it is called. The person who should speak that number yells “Buzz!” instead and the circle reverses. To make the game even more challenging, use a lower number like 5 or 3.

What Am I Doing?

Divide the number of students in your class by 2 and then have them number off from 1 until the halfway number, and then again. Have the students with matching numbers pair up and stand next to each other in the large circle. Start with the team to the left of the teacher and have them go to the center of the circle. One student will start doing an action, like pretending to mow the lawn, and will ask the other student “What am I doing?” Instead of answering with the real action, the second student will mention a new action. The first person must then do it, while the second then asks “What am I doing?” You can put a limit on the amount of times the pair performs, or just let them go until they lose sync or are laughing too hard to go on. This is an especially good exercise to get new people to meet and interact, instead of sticking with the people they already know.

 

First days are hard – for students and teachers. Ice breakers that incorporate movement can help students loosen up and will help you get to know them a little better too.

Lacrosse 101

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

SPARK-Lacrosse

By: Dr. Scott Townsend and Dr. Derek Mohr, Appalachian State University

What sport is…

Considered the fastest game on two feet?
The national summer sport of Canada?
Originally derived from a game called Baggataway?

You got it – Lacrosse a.k.a. Lax!

Think you don’t know anything about lacrosse? Think again! Lacrosse is a field-based invasion game that is similar in strategy to sports like soccer or team handball. So while the skills of the sport are unique, the tactics are likely familiar.

Whether you are looking to freshen up your curriculum with new content or teach lacrosse again, the tips and resources below can help you be successful.

The Terrific 10

Here is a list of 10 basic rules of traditional lacrosse:

  1. Teams. 10 players per side; three defenders, three midfielders, three attackers, one goalkeeper.
  2. Games. Four 12-15 minute quarters with a running clock.
  3. Scoring. One point per score.
  4. Starting Play. Game starts with a coin toss to determine defending ends. Teams switch ends after each period.
  5. Restarting Play. After a goal with a face-off.
  6. Out-of-Bounds. Over a sideline: use a thrown-in to restart play. Over an endline: use a throw-in or run-in (possession of a missed shot that crosses an endline is awarded to the team with the player nearest the endline as the ball goes out).
  7. When a team fails to have at least three players in the attack half of field and less than four players in the defensive half; results in a 30 sec. penalty.
  8. Tie Game. Games tied are decided by extra time play, then penalty goal shootouts.
  9. Breaches of rules result in time-out penalties, divided into technical (non-injurious fouls such as holding; 30 sec.) and personal (severe foul such as slashing; 1-3 min.). While penalties are served, teams play shorthanded until the penalty time-out is over.
  10. May stop the ball with any part of their body or stick while inside crease. Consequently, offensive players may not contact or interfere with the goalkeeper in the crease.

Terms of Endearment

Whether watching or playing, knowing the terms below will make you more lacrosse-literate:

  • Clearing: Passing or running the ball from the defensive area to the attack area
  • Crease: Circle around the goal area
  • Extra Player: When a team has a player advantage due to a penalty on their opponent
  • Loose Ball: An uncontrolled ground ball
  • Quick Stick: Catching and passing or shooting in one fluid motion
  • Riding: A quick transition from offense to defense to prevent a clear

So Skillful

While the tactics of lacrosse are similar to other invasion type games, the skills are unique. Some of the most important stick-based skills include:

  • Scooping: Retrieving the ball from the ground quickly
  • Catching: Securing the ball in the pocket in preparation for a pass, shoot, or to run
  • Passing: Moving the ball around the field from player to player
  • Cradling: Maintaining possession of ball without passing, catching, or shooting
  • Dodging: Changing direction and speed to free a player up to either pass or shoot
  • Shooting: Similar to a pass but its intent is to score a goal
  • Stick-Checking: Defensive use of the stick to keep offensive player from scoring or passing

Did You Know?

SPARK is hosting a free lacrosse webinar on October 19, 2016 (click here to register) and has just rolled out a web-exclusive SPARK HS Lacrosse unit located on SPARKfamily.org. Please join us to learn more about this exciting sport and experience the vast array of educational resources SPARK offers to help you implement lacrosse in your PE program.

What are your experiences teaching or playing lacrosse? What advice would you give to someone who has never played the game or a teacher wanting to add this to their curriculum? Post a response below and let us know!

Click here to shop lacrosse equipment & resources.

Big Results in a Short Period of Time

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

New Research on SPARK Middle School PE program Published!

By: Paul Rosengard, SPARK Godfather

Did you know today’s SPARK’s Middle School Physical Education curriculum and teacher training program evolved from the three largest studies of MS PE ever conducted? It’s true. The three National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded research projects, M-SPAN (Middle School Physical Education and Nutrition), TAAG (Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls), and The Healthy Study contributed to the exemplary and award-winning program being disseminated today.

While the last of these studies concluded in 2010, middle schools across the country have partnered with local universities to conduct ongoing tests of the SPARK program and better understand its effects on students and teachers.

One such effort titled, “Effect of the SPARK Program on Physical Activity, Cardiorespiratory Endurance, and Motivation in Middle School Students” was recently published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health*. Several significant takeaways from this paper:

Background: This study examined the effect of a 9-week SPARK Middle School Physical Education program on physical activity levels, cardio-fitness, and motivation of 174 sixth through eighth grade students from two urban, private schools in Salt Lake City, Utah. This intervention group (using SPARK MS PE) was compared to other students in the same grades and schools who continued with their usual physical education program (Controls – referred to in the paper as Traditional group).

Measures: To ascertain student activity levels, students wore high-quality, research-validated pedometers. To determine their levels of cardio-fitness, students were administered the PACER test. To assess students’ motivation and enjoyment of the SPARK activities, they completed questionnaires (Sport Enjoyment Scale).

Results: Despite the very short intervention timeline, students participating in SPARK Middle School PE were more active, increased their cardio-fitness scores, and showed they were more motivated by the SPARK lessons and enjoyed them more than their “usual/traditional” PE program.

Here’s one interesting quote from the paper:

“The results from this study indicate that there were increases in-class PA for both the SPARK and Traditional groups from pre-test to post-test. However, the SPARK group had statistically greater increases on in-class PA compared with the Traditional group in younger children. These results support that SPARK, as an established health-related PE program, was significantly more effective in increasing middle school students’ in-class PA levels than the Traditional program in younger children.”

SPARK wishes to thank the authors, the University of Utah, and the participating schools and teachers for their time and subsequent contribution to the scientific knowledge base.

If your school is conducting research using any components of any SPARK program, please let us know via email, spark@sparkpe.org.

Ready to bring SPARK Middle School Physical Education to your school?

  • Click here to download free sample SPARK Middle School PE Lesson Plans
  • Click here to shop for SPARK Middle School PE curriculum sets
  • Click here to request a proposal for the full SPARK Middle School PE program (professional development training, curriculum, and content-alighted equipment)

*Article citation:

Fu, Y., Gao, Z., Hannon, J.C., Burns, R.D., Brusseau, T.A. (2016). Effect of the SPARK Program on Physical Activity, Cardiorespiratory Endurance, and Motivation in Middle-School Students. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 13, 534-542.

Click here to access the research article.

Parents: 3 Easy Actions You Can Take to Boost Play for Kids!

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

Fish-eye view of children on play equipment

School is back in session. But too many schoolyards are LOCKED UP after classes, especially in Latino neighborhoods, and families often lack safe places to play.

That’s why Salud America! has a new campaign urging schools to boost public access to recreational facilities. Salud America!, led by health researcher Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation national program. It was created to prevent Latino childhood obesity and is based at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio (@SaludToday on social media).

Here are three actions all parents can take today to boost play for kids:

DOWNLOAD our free toolkit for parents with easy steps to achieve open use of school rec facilities!

SIGN our letter campaign to urge your state PTA association to help schools develop shared or open policies for recreational facilities!

SHARE photos on social media of recreational facilities you want kids to be able to play on, tag with #ActiveSpaces, and enter a random drawing for a free Jawbone fitness tracker!

Open and shared use policies can increase opportunities for physical activity and play among families.

Schools can adopt an “open use” policy to formally grant public access to its recreational facilities after school hours. Schools also can work with other groups to develop a “shared use agreement,” a contract that allows the sharing of school facilities for the public or groups after hours.

Don’t miss this opportunity to download our toolkit, sign the letter, and learn more about sharing active spaces photos to show support for these healthy school changes.

The future health and weight of Latino and all children depends on accessible opportunities for physical activity and play!

This post has been provided by Salud America!

Learn more at salud-america.org.

Back to School: Creating that Positive Learning Environment

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

Group of little girls and boys in front of blackboard

By: BJ Williston, SPARK Trainer and Curriculum Development Consultant

The beginning of the school year is always a fun time for leading some icebreakers with your students. Icebreakers are meant to “break the ice” that might exist when a group of people, in your case, your students, don’t know each other. They are also helpful when kids do know each other but may be too shy or embarrassed to open up and work to their potential. Icebreakers done well can really help get your school year off to a great start. Here are five tried and true icebreakers that are fun, involve everyone, help students get to know each other better, and help break down barriers that may exist. Enjoy!

  1. 3, 2, 1
  • Find a partner. You have about a minute to come up with three UNIQUE things you have in common. E.g. You both swim on a team. NOT: You are both girls. (Have three pairs share their commonalities and give them time to discuss.)
  • Now, you and your partner join another pair to form a foursome. This time find two UNIQUE things the four of you have in common. (Have three groups share their commonalities and give them time to discuss.)
  • Finally, your group joins another to form a group of eight. Your task is to find one thing you all have in common! (Have three groups share their commonalities and give them time to discuss. Then discuss how they came up with their commonalities and how it helps to know things we have in common with others.)
  1. The Name Game
  • How quickly can we form a circle touching elbows?
  • In the Name Game we will start with me and move clockwise around the circle. When it is your turn, step forward, say your name loud and clear, and the physical activity you like to do best. When you say your activity, also act it out.
  • After each person, the rest of the circle calls out their name and acts out the activity while saying it. E.g. Joan likes to jump rope!
  • Continue around the circle, stopping to review every 5-7 students, until everyone has gone. Then we’ll do one final time around to review.
  1. Workout Buddies
  • Mingle, mingle in our activity area at a walking pace. Stand thumb to thumb with a partner. This is your Thumb Wrestling Buddy. Whenever I call “Thumb Wrestling Buddy!” find this person and begin thumb wrestling. (Explain and demo thumb wrestling. Allow them to practice for 30 seconds or so.) Say goodbye and thank you, then jog away.
  • Stand elbow to elbow with a new partner. This is your Rock, Paper, Scissors Buddy. You will be partners when I call “Rock, Paper, Scissors Buddy!” (Explain and demo rock, paper, scissors. Allow them to practice.) Say goodbye and thank you, then side-slide away.
  • Stand knee to knee with a new partner. This is your Knee Tag Buddy. In Knee Tag the object is to tag your partner’s knees while they try to tag yours. Use only one hand; the other hand wraps around the wrist of the hand you are using. (Allow them to play.) Say goodbye and thank you, and then skip away.
  • Stand back to back with a 4th This is your Secret Handshake Buddy. You will have one minute to create and practice a secret handshake that has five moves. (Allow time to create and practice.)
  • These Workout Buddies will be used for the first few weeks of school. Let’s do a quick review so we remember who our four buddies are and what to do when we meet them! (Call each buddy name and allow time for students to find their specific buddy and begin the activity. Once all have found each other, quickly move to the next buddy.)
  1. Change Three Things
  • Find a partner. You have one minute to look at and memorize what your partner looks like.
  • On “Turn away” both of you turn away from your partner (you’ll be back to back) and change three things about your looks; they can be subtle or obvious. On “Turn back” both of you turn to look at your partner and guess the three things they changed.
  • Turn away! (Give them about a minute to change things around.) Turn back! (Allow time for partners to figure it out.)
  • Now we are going to do it again! This time you will have to get even more creative! (Repeat at least one more time.)
  • (Discuss what it takes to be observant. Also, how were you able to change things and get creative?)
  1. Rock, Paper, Scissors Fan Club
  • Find a partner. On signal, play rock, paper, scissors with this partner. The lucky one raises their hand and looks for another lucky one with their hand raised to play again. The unlucky partner becomes the biggest fan of the lucky partner, cheering their name and following close behind them.
  • Then, after the next game, the lucky one repeats and this time all three of the unlucky partners are part of their fan club, which is now a growing fan club.
  • Continue until there are only two lucky ones left and half the class is cheering one name and half cheering for the other. These two will play one final match.
  • When there is one final lucky one, the whole class cheers for that player!
  • (Because it is based on luck, it is fun to see kids who have never been the center of attention or on the “winning side” of things. It is a nice way to end a class.)

Keep Kids Active With These Healthy Gift Ideas

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life that your children are likely to become less active throughout the winter months. From the end of October to the beginning of the New Year, candy, and treats means that unhealthy indulgence increases, while physical activity levels decrease.

Fortunately, with the right stimuli, most children love staying active, and this time of year is the perfect opportunity to introduce gifts that will encourage them to embrace a healthier lifestyle. This holiday season, consider giving your children a gift that facilitates active play. After all, learning to enjoy this kind of gift in the early years provides crucial building blocks for the future, and physical competence is ideal for building self-esteem at any age.

kid playing

Whatever their interests, here are some of our suggestions for healthy holiday gifts that will keep your children’s minds and bodies in action.

1. Interactive Video Games

In general, medical experts have been critical of video games because of their tendency to promote a sedentary lifestyle. However, the world of video games has come a long way over the decades – evolving from stationary hand-held devices, to active and engaging technology that relies upon physical motion and interactivity. Some studies have even suggested that certain video games, such as options for the Wii, or Xbox Kinect, allows individuals to access the same level of moderate-intensity activity that they would get from going to the gym.

Keep in mind that children are more likely to gravitate towards standard video games than physically active options, so if you do purchase a console for your kids, you’ll need to supply them with plenty of active games, and monitor their usage. While active games are better than sedentary options, don’t rely on them exclusively to promote healthier activities for children.

2. Toys Designed To Get Children Outside

One of the best things you can do for your children today is encourage them to spend more time outdoors, and less time cooped up in front of the television. Christmas provides a great opportunity to purchase a few special gifts that focus entirely on your child getting outdoors to make the most of their new toy. For example:

  • A toboggan can be the ideal choice for the winter if you’re in a location that experiences a lot of snow. Not only is it exhilarating, but it’s great for fitness, and a fantastic way for families to bond in a group activity together.

  • Kites can be a great solution for getting kids outdoors, because they work regardless of the season. All you need is a bit of wind, and you’ll be good to go.

  • Bikes and scooters encourage children to engage in a new hobby, and increase the chances that they’ll be happy to take trips using physical activity, rather than relying upon you to take them everywhere in your car.

  • Kids love to jump, so if you want to keep your little ones bouncing their way to a healthier lifestyle, a miniature trampoline for the backyard could be the perfect solution

Don’t forget, even if your children aren’t on a sports team yet, having sports equipment available such as a basketball and hoop, or a goal for soccer, could encourage them to practice their skills and create their own games. The right sports not only keep children active, but help them to develop their coordination skills, and self-confidence.

3. Personalized Sports Equipment

One great way to get your children interested in a more active lifestyle this holiday season, is to personalize the gifts you give them, to ensure that each item resonates with your child on a deeper level. For instance, if your child loves the idea of riding his bike, but complains about it being boring or scary, you could enhance the fun with cool helmet covers or light decals.

If your child has expressed interest in a certain sport or activity in the past, you can sign them up for lessons with a professional tutor or coach, and make sure that you also give them all of the equipment that they need to pursue their interest. For example, if your child wants to join a football team, get them personalized equipment with their name written on the shirt, or a signed ball from their favorite player. If they’ve shown interest in karate, buy them their first belt and karategi.

Encouraging your children’s interest in a particular sport not only helps them improve their health, but offers them the opportunity to build greater confidence and self-discipline.

4. Traditional Solutions for Younger Kids

If you think your child is too young to fully grasp the rules of sports, remember the benefits of art, dance, puzzles, and traditional toys. For instance, art and dance are great for helping children to express themselves, increase their focus, and develop hand-eye co-ordination. Similarly, though building blocks and puzzles don’t involve a great deal of physical activity, they do help children to enhance their fine motor skills and develop their minds.

Remember that encouraging your children to adopt a healthier lifestyle isn’t just about physical activity, it also means advancing their minds, evolving their understanding of the world, and helping them to pursue healthy goals.

Conclusion

As a parent your goal should be to encourage your children into remaining as active and engaged as possible – no matter the weather. Healthy, physically active kids are more likely to develop life-long healthy habits, as well as being more academically motivated, successful, and alert.

The Best Apps for Keeping Kids Active

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

apps

It’s safe to say that the world around us is becoming increasingly mobile and tech-oriented. People of every age are falling in love with their smartphones, tablets, and laptops, which can result in a more lethargic lifestyle and shortened attention spans. Having a healthy approach to life prevents your children from packing on the pounds during adolescence and also gives them the tools they need to set up a life of choices catered to their enhanced wellbeing. According to a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, the fate of a child’s weight can be determined by the time they turn five.

We all know that raising a healthy child is important, but that task can become more trying when you can’t pry them away from their smartphones. Perhaps the best way to deal with the issue is to use technology to your advantage.

Although too much screen time can be unhealthy for your children, innovative new concepts are emerging to help parents prompt their kids into physical activity. Health, nutrition, and fitness applications provide an education into how the body works, what makes it run better, and more, while feeding your child’s technology addiction.

Following are some of our favorite apps for keeping kids active.

Super Stretch Yoga HD

Super Stretch Yoga HD is a free application for the Apple iPad that works to teach children fun and easy yoga moves that they can try out themselves. Instead of simply watching cartoons on their iPad, your child can start trying out poses modeled by children of their own age, letting them stretch out their limbs and show off their skills. The application includes a total of twelve different yoga poses for your child to perfect, each with its own description and accompanying video.

Yoga is a great hobby to get your child interested in physical wellbeing and fitness. Not only does it improve strength and flexibility, but it’s also likely to be something that they continue to enjoy as they grow to later life. The videos included with this application offer reassurance to keep beginners trying time and after time, as well as advice on the best time of day to try out certain poses. You can even play the videos on your television with an Apple TV.

Strava

Are you the kind of parent that regularly walks their child to school or goes for small adventures on the weekend? Strava is an application that allows you to map your walks, bike rides, and hikes and time each journey, so you can show your children how much they’ve accomplished in a certain scope of time.

Typically, this application doesn’t market directly to children, but it is a great way to make walking to school and traveling to new places more fun. The further you go and the more you do, the more of an excuse your child has to be proud of themselves. You even get little notifications when you create a new personal best in your time, allowing you and your little one to celebrate each milestone together.

Iron Kids

Iron Kids is an application lovingly developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics to help children eight years and up get more exercise as they grow. In 2013, the Iron Kids application won it’s very own Web Health Award for providing young athletes with everything they need to safely and effectively improve their fitness, balance, and strength.

The app centers around nine exercises that involve the lower body, upper body, and core. Videos are included to help your kids understand how they can do the exercises and how those exercises benefit them.

Smash Your Food HD

An interactive and informative game intended to teach your children important real-life skills, such as how to read nutrition labels and what they should be eating, Smash Your Food HD is an impressive application for kids. Your child will enter their age and how much exercise they regularly get so that the app can calculate how much salt, sugar, and oil they should be consuming.

With the nutritional labels given for common fast foods as a guide, your kids will then need to estimate how much oil, sugar and salt is in each item. After they’ve submitted their answers, they’ll be able to find out whether the food they’re looking at is healthy for them. Finally, your young ones will get the opportunity to smash the food to pieces, watching a can of soda rip apart or a jelly donut burst!

Fitness Kids

Fitness Kids is an application designed by experts in the fields of pedagogy, physical education, and health. Packed with interesting exercises for children between the ages of 6 and eight, this app teaches children each movement through the use of colorful, engaging videos.

What makes Fitness Kids a little different from other applications is that it offers funky music and colorful backgrounds for a stimulating experience, and the exercises themselves are fun to do. Your kids will keep coming back for more as they figure out their favorite movements, such as the Conga or the Crab. Your children can also engage in competition with their friends, and their skill levels will improve as they continue to progress.

Keep Moving!

Getting your child to give up on technology might be an impossible task, but using that technology to your advantage could provide a safe and easy way to invest in their health. Think about how much time your child currently spends in front of a computer screen and ask yourself if you’d feel better knowing that they were playing a game designed to get them learning and moving.

The earlier your child starts to get in shape, the more chance they have of reducing their risk of certain illnesses. Kids who are frequently active experience:

  • A lower chance of becoming overweight
  • Stronger bones and muscles
  • Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Potentially lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels
  • Leaner physiques
  • Improved confidence

On top of this, the more active a child is, the better he or she will sleep, deal with emotional challenges, and manage physical strain.

Let us know if you’ve discovered any great applications tailored to children that get your young ones moving more often.

Resources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brad-spirrison/kids-health-fitness-apps_b_3580013.html
http://www.parents.com/fun/sports/exercise/10-benefits-of-physical-activity/
http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/features/digital-home/3520917/how-much-screen-time-is-healthy-for-children/
http://www.naturalnews.com/043761_weight_fate_childhood_obesity_healthy_eating.html
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/super-stretch-yoga-hd/id456108738?mt=8
http://www.parents.com/fun/sports/exercise/the-benefits-of-yoga-for-kids/
http://www.strava.com/
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/iron-kids/id552037626?mt=8
http://www.foodnme.com/smash-your-food/
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fitnesskids/id534467673?mt=8