Archive for the ‘SPARK Blog’ Category


Just Dance: Improving a Child’s Emotional and Social Skills Through Dance

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

Dance class

There’s a reason why it feels so good when you have an uninhibited dance party in your bedroom. As well as being a great way to release tension — not to mention have a lot of fun — there are studies showing that dance is also an excellent way to foster the emotional and social growth of children.

Dancing combines all the benefits of physical activity with those of educating children about music and the arts. From an emotional and social standpoint, dance classes for kids between the ages of kindergarten and grade 12 are proven to have an impact when it comes to acceptance of others, respect, teamwork, and cooperation.

This could be because dance gives children the opportunity to express themselves freely and creatively, which allows an outlet for emotional and physical release. While children are still developing full cognitive abilities, it could be that they choose to send messages through dance rather than having to articulate their thoughts in speech.

Dance creates a social environment where kids need to cooperate with and trust one another to complete the moves and avoid stepping on toes. At a very young age, it also instills a greater respect for one’s body, and the bodies of others. Socially, it teaches children how to hold one another appropriately, how to be aware of someone else’s movement, and how to understand the physical abilities and limits of one’s own body.

Dance teaches the aforementioned skills in a language children understand: movement. Kids learn by doing, and there’s nothing better than moving through a dance routine to synthesize the lessons learned.

Bringing Dance to Schools

A survey conducted in 2014-2015 showed that 66% of LA-based schools that incorporated dancing reported seeing its students become more accepting of one another. This acceptance is important, especially in schools with at-risk students or communities where children come from diverse racial backgrounds. Dance, like music, is a universal language, and one that is relevant to every culture around the world. As research collected by NDEO states, dance can help at-risk students deal with more complex emotional and social conflicts, such as violence and race. By creating dance exercises that mirror the movements of different students, the head dancer is able to feel like a leader, and understands that they’re being accepted and respected by their peers.

As a bonus, participation in the arts is also shown to have a positive academic influence on children. A study on this topic found that students who took part in the arts performed better on standardized tests, had higher SAT and math scores, and were more focused in class. Dance can also have much needed health benefits at a time when 18% of American children aged 6 to 11 are obese and only 1 in 3 children are physically active on a daily basis.

If you’re wondering where to get started with bringing dance to your school, look no further than the SPARKdance DVD. Ideal for K-12 students, the DVD includes more than 20 dances and lesson guides so the benefits of the activity are within every educator’s grasp. There is also a Dance Decoded workshop for teachers who want to take their school’s physical education program to the next level.

What Activity Should You Add to Spice Up Your Lesson Plan? [QUIZ]

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Don’t let your Physical Education routine become stale – take our quiz to shake things up for your students!

 

Announcing the Specialty Workshop Contest Winner!

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

16-9-LMAS-Contest-Landing-Page-Image

In partnership with Let’s Move! Active Schools, we hosted the Sportime featuring SPARK Specialty Workshop Contest in the fall of 2016.

Educators were invited to enter the contest to win a Specialty Workshop and bring a past SHAPE America Teacher of the Year or SPARK Presenter to their school district for a unique hands-on professional development experience. Entries were open 10/6/16 – 12/10/16.

We received over 400 entries for the Specialty Workshop Contest! Thank you to all of the teachers who spent time completing the form for a chance to win.

Congratulations to the winning school!

Stetson Elementary School

Falcon School District 49

Colorado Springs, CO

Workshop: Magical MVPA Maximized!

“My students are cheerful, outgoing, competitive in a friendly way, have lots of energy, and have complete confidence in themselves. They are eager to learn new and creative ways to be active and stay healthy at school and for life-long living. The SPARK “Magical MVPA” workshop will provide me with the tools to teach those new and creative activities to the students. New equipment and resources are needed to enhance the Physical Education program at our school as well as replacing old equipment. Let’s Move, Get Active!”

— Matt Monfre, Stetson Elementary School

101_1596

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Winning School Receives:

  • (1) Specialty Workshop, brought to you by the SPARK Speakers Bureau. Click here to view our menu of Specialty Workshops to choose the best option for your school.
  • Presenter fees and travel are included in the award, value $2,200. The cost of substitute teachers or teacher stipends to attend the workshop are not included in the award, and are expected to be covered by the awardee.
  • (1) Sportime featuring SPARK voucher for PE supplies, value $800. Use the voucher to purchase instructional materials or PE equipment to support your program.

Total award value = $3,000

Search for other grant and funding opportunities on the SPARK Grant Finder.

We are proud to offer a wide selection of professional development workshops to fit the needs of your school or district! Presenters include past SHAPE America Teachers of the Year, SPARK trainers and program authors, and product experts. Click Here to view our full menu of training options.

Do Young Children Need Physical Education?

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Children Playing

As a parent, sometimes the things you hear experts say about children’s health, and the things you observe in your own kid(s), can seem conflicting. You’ve likely heard about initiatives to increase physical education programs in elementary schools. Yet, when you witness your own elementary-age kids speeding around the kitchen in a game of tag with the family cat, it certainly seems like they have limitless energy — at this age, do they really need a program at school to get them to be active?

Here’s the thing about physical education: yes, these programs encourage physical activity, but it’s the second part of the phrase — the “education” portion — that’s the key factor, and the reason all young kids should have access to formal physical education classes.

Your kids may not need any help being active (your exhausted pet can likely attest to this); but they won’t learn about nutrition, fitness, and the importance of a healthy lifestyle on their own. Here’s why it’s so important to offer physical education classes to children, especially when they’re young.

Promoting Lifelong Fitness

For years, studies on childhood obesity and the importance of health and wellness on development have painted a clear picture of the ways children can benefit from physical education.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the childhood obesity rate has more than doubled for both preschool children (ages 2-5) and adolescents (ages 12-19). For children between the ages of six and eleven, the rate has tripled. Obese adolescents are also more likely to develop prediabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes, as well as bone and joint problems.

While encouraging physical activity is the first step to combatting childhood obesity, educating our children about fitness is the step that will carry them into healthy adulthood. Curriculum-based physical education programs teach kids how to exercise, using safe and proper techniques, and how to keep their muscles and hearts strong.

When we teach our kids about health and wellness at a young age, and build a positive association around being active, they are much more likely to develop healthy habits that continue throughout their lives.

Boosting the Brain

There’s more to physical education than just keeping your body fit — it also keeps your brain fit. Scientists have discovered a link between physical fitness and brain functionality in children. Researchers found that the brains of children who are more fit have a bigger hippocampus (the region of the brain connected to memory). These kids performed better on memory tests and activities than their less-fit peers.

The cognitive benefits of PE extend into classroom learning — multiple studies have found an association between physical activity and increased concentration in school. Several studies have researched the link between physical education and cooperative learning — a teaching strategy in which groups of students work together to improve their understanding of a particular subject. Children learn the importance of team-building and collaboration through physical group activities.

While many physical education programs face the risk of being cut from academic curriculum in favor of increasing class time, the reality is that active children tend to perform better in subjects like reading and mathematics.

Eating Right

A big part of physical education is teaching kids how to make healthy choices for their bodies — and that includes food choices. A comprehensive physical education curriculum includes lessons about nutrition and diet, teaching children (at levels they can understand) why certain foods are good for their bodies.

We know that a nutritious diet is important for growth and development; but it’s easy to forget the true impact that poor nutrition can have on a growing child. Young kids who lack nutrients in their diets are often more susceptible to illness, have trouble focusing, and sometimes show emotional side effects.

Physical education classes teach kids about the importance of various food groups, and how they interact with the body — in every area from your bones and heart, to your brain and even your mood. Learning how to make smart food choices will help your children as they get older and need to make more choices on their own.

Building Social Skills

Formal physical education can also help facilitate healthy social interactions. Early on in life, children develop their sense of identity and social cues by engaging in various group dynamics.

Physical activity — like running around on the playground — builds muscles and improves cardiovascular health, while physical education — structured classes in which kids have to complete physical activities — also exercises a child’s self control and develops cooperative skills and consideration for others. Playing team games and activities in a supervised environment allows opportunities for children to learn social skills, like how to lose — and win — graciously.

Participating in group activities and team sports encourages leadership, community engagement, and even altruism. For very young kids, basic and essential lessons like sharing and speaking kindly to others are encompassed in a physical education setting.

Physical education plays a substantial role in shaping children’s health and development, teaching them valuable life skills in fitness, focus, nutrition, and social interactions. A good understanding of these topics can make the difference between your child growing into a healthy adult, or falling into lifelong unhealthy habits.

Physical Education vs. Physical Activity [INFOGRAPHIC]

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing! Although they work together like peanut butter and jelly, Physical Education and Physical Activity are two separate things — and it’s important for teachers and parents to understand the difference.

physical activity vs physical education

 

Share This Infographic On Your Site

Physical Activity

— any bodily movement that involves physical exertion

  • A physical activity program gets you up and moving, in some form. This can include recreational sports, fitness classes, after-school programs, and recess.
  • Physical activity is unstructured
    • Kids can make their own choices and create their own rules
    • Helpful for learning social skills and problem solving techniques
  • Just some of the things that count as physical activity…
    • Dancing
    • Walking the dog
    • Doing push-ups
    • Throwing a baseball
    • Playing tag at recess
    • And much more!
  • Physical activity is one part of a physical education program — but physical activity can be found in many areas outside of physical education.
  • Physical activity should be incorporated throughout the day: before and after school, and during recess

Physical Education

— curriculum-based program that teaches students the benefits of physical activity, builds techniques for leading an active lifestyle, and promotes lifelong healthy habits.

  • A physical education program not only gets children moving, but also teaches them why that activity is important, what types of activity benefit your body, and how you can stay active throughout your life.
  • Physical education is structured
    • Students are taught how to play and skills needed to play
    • Students learn the rules for how to play games and participate
    • There is a structured warm-up and cool down
  • Physical education teaches children the importance of being physically active and about the human body and body systems
  • Physical education programs include:
    • A written curriculum, with clear objectives
    • Some form of grading or assessment
    • Standards and Grade-Level Outcomes
    • Physical activity for most of the class time
    • Lessons in ways to lead a healthy lifestyle through physical activity, nutrition, fitness, and social responsibility
  • Physical education incorporates physical activity, along with many other things, to form a complete program.

Do You Need Both?

Yes, you do!

According to SHAPE America, physical activity should make up at least 50% of a physical education program.

Benefits of Physical Activity:

  • Releases endorphins
    • Children who get at least 15 minutes of recess a day behave better in class than students who get less than 15 minutes a day.
  • Strengthens muscles / bone density
    • Children ages 6-17 should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, according to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.
  • Reduces risk for diabetes, obesity, depression, and heart disease
  • Enhances cognition
    • Children respond to cognitive tasks faster and with greater accuracy after a session of physical activity.

Benefits of Physical Education:

  • Teaches safe and correct exercise techniques
  • Promotes good nutrition and understanding of the body
  • Encourages lifelong health habits, decreases chances of unhealthy adult lifestyle
    • Overweight teens have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.
  • Enhances academic performance
    • Endurance exercise increases oxygen to the brain, strengthens neurotransmitters, and stimulates brain growth — improving your ability to think, learn, and retain information.
    • In physically fit children, the hippocampus (region of the brain affecting learning and memory) is roughly 12% larger than less fit children.
    • In a study of D.C. schools, students received higher standardized math scores when schools provided at least 90 minutes of physical education per week.
  • Builds skills in setting and achieving goals

New Year, New PE Lesson Plans

Monday, January 9th, 2017

shutterstock_210167686

The New Year is a great time to try new things. With people taking the time to reflect and set new personal and professional goals, why not also refresh your physical education lesson plans in order to keep kids engaged in the curriculum?

Luckily for physical education teachers, it’s often a bit easier to get students engaged in PE class than it is in a math or science classroom. Physical education already has a distinctive advantage: kids are moving, which makes them better learners. Research from leading institutions across America has found that when kids move, their cognitive skills increase and attitudes improve, which leads to better performance in PE class and in their academics overall.

Still, there’s always room for improvement — and here at SPARK, we’ve got you covered!

Re-Assess Your Lesson Plans

Any physical education teacher knows that a class requires more planning than simply tossing kids a ball and having them kick it around. Just as with other subject lesson plans, it’s important to take stock of what you’re trying to accomplish with an activity, and during the setup you need to do that.

Take a game of basketball. A classic PE activity, a teacher needs a number of class materials, such as a certain sized gymnasium with activity lines on the floor, and the right type of ball. A physical educator also needs to know the rules of play and a game time limit.

Perhaps the guidelines and materials listed above are all that’s currently written in your PE lesson plan. That’s a great start, but it’s not all you should include. This New Year, take the time to do a “content analysis” of your PE lesson plan where you consider the learning outcomes you want to accomplish from each activity.

Basketball has a number of learning outcomes for students: improved hand eye coordination; increased locomotor skills from movements such as running and jumping; and expanded teamwork and cooperation as they plan with their teammates and work together to win the game.

By determining the specific physical, social, and intellectual learning outcomes for each class, you’ll be better able to guide students towards meeting those goals. Not only that, but at a time when physical education classes are being cut across the country, it will be beneficial for you to provide very specific learning outcomes to administration so they’re sure to see the inherent value of PE class.

Introducing New Games

As well as determining learning outcomes for your existing activities, the New Year is also a good time to add completely new games to your lesson plan roster.

Introducing new games doesn’t mean tossing aside your existing lesson plans. Just as in a science class where students may learn about the parts of the body, then cell structure, then cell reproduction, physical education lesson plans should be all about building on existing learning. That means taking a classic game like basketball and mixing it up a bit!

Look at the activities that you currently incorporate into the curriculum and find some way to modify them. Or, do this in reverse: write a list of the learning outcomes you’d like to achieve from your PE curriculum and then develop activities to match those outcomes.

SPARK has various activity plans designed specifically for elementary, middle school, and high school students. Each plan comes with instructions, learning outcomes, assessment tools, and more, so you can focus on what’s most important: creating an engaging physical education class for your students.

6 Ways to Help Students Keep their New Year’s Resolutions

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

New Year

With 2017 just starting, New Year’s Resolutions are a hot topic of discussion. Many people set a resolution, but it usually falls to the wayside after a few weeks. People see it as too difficult, or too time consuming, and give up.

There are many tips and tricks to find success, specifically when it comes to different ways to help students keep their New Year’s Resolutions. These actionable tips will encourage and inspire!

Aim for Reasonable

Everyone has things they want to change in their lives, but it’s important to set realistic goals so that students expect changes to actually stick. For example, instead of them saying, “I want to get stronger,” encourage them to say something more like, “I want to run three miles.” Take this a step further to make sure that all goals you set are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely (learn more about SMART Goals). And when they hit their first goal, encourage them to create a new one. This idea is all about creating a series of mini goals on the road to achieving one major goal.

Other great mini goal examples:

  • For a student aiming to eat healthier, have them cut out one junk food from their diet each month.
  • For a student who wants to commit to studying more, have them agree to clock in 30 minutes/day of studying.

Celebrate the “Small” Stuff

It’s okay to have multiple big goals going at the same time, but don’t let students get too caught up in the ultimate end on the way. It’s important to celebrate the small stuff on the way to a goal. A few examples:

  • If your student’s goal is to run further, give them a reward or heap on the praise for every 10 miles ran.
  • If your student’s goal is to get straight A’s, give them credit for raising grades from C’s to B’s.

Even actions as “small” as doing homework before it’s due should be rewarded to reinforce these positive actions that lead to big results for students. Encourage parents to assist with rewards, which may be things that help push students towards their next goal. Depending on the goal, these things might be new workout shoes or new school supplies. A reward doesn’t have to be big or expensive to be effective!

Make it a Friendly Competition

Making a goal with a friend who has a similar goal will help keep students on track. With a competitive aspect added to goal setting, students are more likely to work hard to achieve it. Motivation towards the desire to win or do better than the other person will fuel action, especially with kids.

Activity trackers allow you to track your fitness progress against other friends. The device lets you see how many steps a person has achieved in a day, and how you’re ranking against them. This can push users to be more active so they can “win.” Social activity trackers are a great way to motivate and create accountability between students.

Track Progress

One of the best ways to help students keep their New Year’s Resolution? Make sure that they write it down, and track it! By keeping a record of progress, it will help students see how far they’ve come over time. It will help students visualize their progress, instead of feeling like they’ve gotten nowhere. This is especially important when setting mini goals on the path to major goals.

To make this process easier, encourage students to use an app to track progress. After all, people are already glued to their smartphones – students might as well opt in for record keeping via an app.

One Goal at a Time

Most people’s New Year’s Resolutions are ambitious, and some people try to focus on more than one at a time. Oftentimes, this won’t end up working out, because people get overwhelmed and want to quit.

If a student has a few big goals (like eating less junk food, exercising more, getting better grades, etc.), they should pick one, and work towards that. Some goals will inevitably coincide, and students may achieve two goals while doing one, without realizing it. Also, encourage students to rethink their goals if they become something they hate. It’s okay to change a goal – it’s not failing, just rethinking.

Ask Someone for Help

It is okay to be struggling with a goal/resolution. Tell students that if they need a new way of approaching something, it’s 100% okay to ask for help from a friend, family member, or someone who has accomplished what they’re aiming for. By asking for help, it holds a person accountable to their goal. When someone has gone out of their way to help, it fuels the desire to do better.

It’s okay to slip up, we’re human! Tell students not to let that stop them from achieving their goals, even if they have to make adjustments. Keep at it, and ask for help if needed.

Keeping up with New Year’s Resolutions can be difficult, but not impossible. Helping students set realistic goals is a key to success, and holding them accountable is another. Finally, make sure students know to ask for help and adjust if necessary.

What would you add to this list of ways to help students keep their New Year’s Resolution?

Healthy New Year’s Resolutions for Kids

Friday, December 30th, 2016

shutterstock_489941380

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.