After-School Activity

The first day of school is coming up. With the rush of gathering school supplies, packing lunches, and meeting teachers, it can be easy to lose track of time and forget to include time for children to be active. Start the school year off on the right foot by planning for physical activity!

 

Some children get physical activity at school during recess, physical education class, and after-school sports, but there are also many ways children can be active at home after school! Try a variety of activities to keep children interested and excited to be active. Find what works for your family and stick with it. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Have a Dance Party: Dancing is a great way for gets to let loose and get their energy out after a long school day! Let children pick music that will get them moving.

Go for a Walk: Walking is great activity for the whole family. You can walk in your neighborhood, on a hiking trail, through the mall, or on an indoor track. If it’s raining, you can march through the house together, letting children take turns as the leader.

Outdoor Games: Being active as a family, you can play team sports and games like basketball, soccer, kickball, baseball, and more! Try games that are easy to play in your yard or in the driveway like four square, tag, and relay races.

Yoga: Children of any age can try different yoga poses. Yoga can be a great way for children to be active while winding down their day. Doing yoga helps build strong muscles and improves flexibility. Do yoga in a room with enough space for everyone to stretch out, or you can try yoga outside.

 

What activity can you and your children try after school next week?

Fitness Basics for Youth

We know that physical activity is good for us and our children. For children, being active regularly can help improve cardiorespiratory fitness, strengthen bones and muscles, keep them at a healthy weight, reduce anxiety, and reduce the risk of health problems like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and obesity. Whether your children are already active or are just getting started with physical activity, there are some fitness basics to be mindful of.

 

How much physical activity should youths aim for?

Children and adolescents should try to get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. This activity should be moderate to vigorous. Moderate activity includes activities like brisk walking, hiking, dancing, and bicycling less than 10 miles per hour. When doing moderate exercise, you’ll breath faster, but you’re not out of breath; you can talk, but you can’t sing; and you’ll start sweating after about 10 minutes. Vigorous activity includes activities like running, swimming freestyle laps, aerobics, basketball, and bicycling more than 10 miles per hour. When doing vigorous exercise, your breathing is deep and quick, you can’t say more than a few words without taking a breath, and you’ll sweat after just a few minutes. Also, youths should include aerobic activity (e.g. walking, running, swimming, dancing, bicycling), muscle strengthening activities (e.g. gymnastics and push-ups), and bone strengthening activities (e.g. jump rope and running) every week.

 

Warming Up and Cooling Down

Warming up helps prevent injuries when exercising. A warm up can just be a slower version of the moderate or vigorous activity your child does. For example, if your child is going to run, they can warm up by walking to help get their heart rate up slowly. Breathing will start to be deeper than when you’re at rest, but not as much as moderate or vigorous activity. After activity, have children cool down by stretching or walking slowly for about 5 minutes to let their heart rate come back to normal.

 

Hydration & Nutrition

Children should drink water before, during, and after exercise. This will help replace the water that children lose by sweating during physical activity. Drinking water is especially important when exercising outside in the heat to prevent heat illness. Also, children should eat a nutritious snack after they exercise, such as whole wheat crackers with peanut butter or low-fat yogurt with fruit.

 

Remember if your children are getting little to no activity, it’s okay to slowly work their way to 60 minutes of exercise daily. They don’t have to go right from 0 minutes to 60 minutes! Help them find activities they love to make them excited to play everyday! How can you be active with your children?

 


References

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/physicalactivity/facts.htm
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise-intensity/art-20046887

Touch Football

August is here which means football season is upon us. As a family you can play a non-contact game of football that doesn’t involve tackling–either touch football or flag football. These variations make it easier for young children to learn how to play.

 

Before you play touch or flag football, make sure you have plenty of space to run free of obstacles and other hazards. Between four and nine players per team is a sufficient number, but you can play with fewer or more people, depending on the size of your group. In touch football you tag the opposing team member to end a down and in flag football you remove a flag from the opposing team member to end a down. Touch football may be preferable to flag football if you don’t have flag belts.

 

Short bursts of intense physical activity when playing touch and flag football are good for heart health and can also help children release their energy. Whether they play on a non-tackle team or casually with friends and family, non-tackle football like touch and flag football can be great forms of activity for children–especially teens.

Preparing Your Preschooler for Kindergarten

Your child’s toddler and preschool years are the time to prepare them for kindergarten. While kindergarten may seem far off, there are many factors that go into kindergarten readiness, including gross and fine motor skills, that your child should be developing as they grow. Motor skills are related to your child’s physical abilities and muscular development, making them great skills to practice during play.

 

Examples of gross motor skills are running and jumping, while fine motor skills involve smaller finger movements like holding a pencil. Activities to help develop these skills include the following:

  • Popping Bubbles: chasing after bubbles and trying to pop them helps with fine motor development.
  • Monkey Bars: climbing on monkey bars helps children develop muscle strength.
  • Kicking and Throwing a Ball: kicking a ball helps with balance and throwing a ball helps with coordination.
  • Simon Says: leading your children in Simon Says, you can have them do movements that help with motor development, such as side bends, touch toes, and jumping jacks.
  • Obstacle Course: set up an obstacle course with any materials available to you, such as a hula hoop for children to jump in and out of.
  • Hopscotch: going back and forth between hopping on one foot and two feet can help with balance and coordination.

 

Motor development is just one aspect of kindergarten readiness. To learn more about preparing for kindergarten, visit http://www.pbs.org/parents/experts/archive/2011/08/helping-children-prepare-for-k.html and http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/kindergarten-readiness/art-20048432?pg=1

 

Tell us what activities you try with your children!

Group Games for School-Age Kids

Once children reach elementary school, they might have outgrown group games like “Duck, Duck, Goose.” Games can help children develop cognitive and motor skills, so group games are still great forms of physical activity for school-aged children. Rethink group games for your elementary schooler! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

 

Snake in the Gutter: This game is for 6 or more people. Make half of the group “snakes,” who form a gutter by standing in a line with a large amount of space between them, facing the rest of the players. The players who aren’t snakes should be standing at a distance from the snakes. One player (could be you, another adult, or a child) yells, “Snake in the gutter!” and the players try and run through the gutter without being tagged by one of the snakes. Players who get tagged become snakes and stay with the other snakes. Players who make it through without getting tagged can go back to the starting line and try and go through the gutter on the next turn. The game goes on until all players become snakes.

 

Giants, Wizards, and Elves: This game is for at least 4 players, but the more players you have the better! Its played like Rock, Paper, Scissors, but you engage your whole body instead of just your hands. Explain these rules to the players:

  • Giants conquer wizards. To be a giant, raise hands high above your head.
  • Wizards conquer elves. To be a wizard, make a triangle with your arms over your head (like a wizard hat).
  • Elves conquer giants. To be an elf, place your hands alongside your ears with index fingers extended.

Divide the group into two teams with about 4 feet in between them. In secret, each team decides if their team will be giants, wizards, or elves (they should also pick a backup choice). After that, the teams are ready to take the turn. On the count of three, both teams yell who they are and do the motion. The team that beats the other chases the opposing team to a safe zone, and anyone who gets tagged before they get to the safe zone becomes part of the opposing team. If both teams give the same answer, they should go again and use their backup choice.

 

Blob Tag: This is a variation of tag. When the tagger tags someone, they join hands to form a “blob.” When the blob tags someone else, that person becomes part of the blob. Keep playing until all players are tagged.

 

For more group game ideas for school-age children, visit http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/school-age-games.html.

 

What other games can you play with your elementary schooler?

7-Minute Workout

It can be hard to fit physical activity in your day. Finding ways to be active as a family can make it easier for everyone to fit in physical activity. A short, high-intensity workout that works all parts of the body can be a great way to fit in exercise with your school-aged children. Also, it can help your children stay active during the hot summer months where they can’t spend as much time outside.

 

This workout only takes 7 minutes–which you and your children can simply get back from your day by leaving out some screen time. Try each of these exercises for 30 seconds each with 10 seconds of rest in between–you can even repeat the routine depending on you and your children’s fitness level.

  1. Jumping Jacks
  2. Wall Sits
  3. Push-Ups
  4. Abdominal Crunches
  5. Step-Ups
  6. Squats
  7. Tricep Dips on a Chair
  8. Planks
  9. High Knees Running in Place
  10. Lunges
  11. Push-Ups & Rotations
  12. Side Planks

 

Having a whole list of ways your children can be active every day, no matter the weather or how much time you have, can help ensure they get the exercise they need. Workouts like this can be done as a family without much time, so keep a 7-minute workout in mind when you’re thinking of ways you and your children can be active together.

 

Supporting Your Children Playing Sports

Next week (July 16-22) is National Youth Sports Week. Sports help children and adolescents develop character while keeping them fit and active. Children who play sports learn how to work with others as a team, self-motivation, and how to deal with emotions when a game is lost.

 

As a parent or caregiver, you can play a role in building your children’s character and sportsmanship through sports. Here are some ways you can do so:

  • Be There: Go to as many of your children’s practices and games as you can. They’ll love seeing you out there cheering them on, no matter how they perform. Focus on positive cheering and be respectful to everyone–coaches, referees, opposing team members, and other spectators–even if you don’t agree with a call that was made.
  • Help Improve: Try and learn the different skills involved in playing your children’s sports. This is great activity for you and it can be fun to participate with your children. Plus, they’ll get a “built-in coach” at home as you can help them improve their skills.
  • Promote Hard Work, Not Winning: Sports are a great way to learn that winning isn’t everything. Encourage your children to put in their best effort, but not get down if they lose. Remind them the importance of trying their best and being respectful, whether they’re winning or losing.
  • Look Out For Unhealthy Behaviors: Playing sports can put a lot of stress on children, especially pre-teens and teens. If you see your children putting pressure on themselves, talk with them and remind of their successes, not their failures. Remind them that their value isn’t based on their performance in sports and that you love them no matter what. Also, pay attention to unhealthy weight-control practices, especially in sports like cheerleading, distance running, diving, figure skating, gymnastics, swimming, and weight-class football and wrestling where “making weight” is considered important for success. These might include overexercising, self-induced vomiting, avoiding eating, and using medications to lose weight. Talk to your child’s pediatrician if you suspect any unhealthy practices like these.

 

While sports can be fun and promote both emotional and physical health, sports can turn into an unhealthy practice when children have negative attitudes about themselves, others, or the game. Do your best to be involved with your children as they play sports and be their biggest fan!

 

For more information on youth sports, visit https://healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/sports/Pages/default.aspx.

Relay Race

Relay races are a fun way for kids, especially preschoolers, to learn sportsmanship as they compete against other teams to win. They’re a great activity to include in your summer cookouts and neighborhood block parties with friends and family. There are many ways to play, but you usually will split into two (or more) teams with an equal number of players on each team. Leaving plenty of space in between teams, each team stands in a line as one player at a time goes from the start to a certain point ahead of them (perhaps 20 feet, more or less depending on your children’s age and skill level), and back to the start, doing a movement like running or skipping. After one player returns to the start, the next player takes their turn. The team whose players complete their turns first wins the game.

 

Before playing, make sure there’s enough room to race safely without obstacles like rocks and away from potentially dangerous objects like barbecue grills. An open backyard or field at a park away from the road are great locations to do relay races. Even the adults can participate with the children! You can make teams by family, who has a summer birthday vs. who doesn’t, and whatever other criteria you can think of.

 

Here’s a list of different relay races your children can try:

  • Crab Walk Race: Each player will crab walk when they take their turn. To crab walk, sit on the ground and lift yourself up with your hands and feet. On all fours, walk sideways to the other side and back to the start.
  • Three-Legged Race: Teams should be split into pairs. Tying one players right leg to another player’s left leg with a bandana or scarf, pairs of players go to the other side and back to the start with one of each of their legs tied together. The key is to move at the same pace as the player tied to you so you can move faster and without tripping.
  • Spoon Race: Players will walk normally, but while carrying a spoon with a hard-boiled or plastic egg on it. If a player drops their egg, they have to pick it up and put it back on their spoon before continuing. You can also try this with other objects that are hard to balance, such as water balloons.
  • Wheelbarrow Race: Like the three-legged race, each team should be split into pairs. One player (the wheelbarrow) walks on their hands while the other player holds the “wheelbarrow’s” ankles as they walk. After getting to the other side, players should switch places and then return to the start.

 

For more relay race ideas, visit https://pbskids.org/zoom/activities/games/.

 

What’s your child’s favorite way to relay?

National Park and Recreation Month

July is National Park and Recreation Month! The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) exists to promote public parks, recreation, and conservation. Children with access to safe parks and recreation are more likely to participate in physical activity,¹ so parks play a critical role in children’s health. This month, get your children outside and utilize the plethora of activities provided by parks and recreational activities!

 

Here are some ways you and your family can participate in National Park and Recreation Month!

  • Playgrounds: Playgrounds provide all kinds of activities that young children especially will enjoy. Equipment like monkey bars help children build strong bones and muscles. Also, taking turns on the equipment can help children learn manners and sharing.
  • Fishing: Fishing is a fun way to enjoy the outdoors and get physical activity without overly exerting yourself on a hot July day. State parks with bodies of water are often available for fishing as long as you have a fishing license and abide by state regulations.
  • Boating and paddling: Many state parks have bodies of water flowing through them. These provide great opportunities to see the beauty of the park while getting physical activity by boating through the park. Oftentimes you can rent a canoe, kayak, or paddleboat to explore the water.
  • Rock climbing: While children should learn to climb indoors before trying outdoor climbing, rock climbing is a great strength-building activity. Older, more experienced children may enjoy climbing outdoors under adult supervision and with an appropriate permit from the park office.

 

Whether you visit a local park or a state park, you’re sure to find activities the whole family will enjoy! To find a park near you, visit https://findyourpark.com.

 

What will your children play at the park?


References

  1. http://www.sophe.org/focus-areas/chronic-diseases/partnering-4-health/july-national-park-recreation-month/

Fitting in Physical Activity

School-aged children spend much of their day focused on school between waking up early, spending all day at school, and doing homework when they get home. With the demands of school, it can be hard to fit in physical activity, especially when the whole family is tired from a long day. Physical activity can help us sleep better, reduce stress, and keep our brains working well.All of these benefits are especially important for children! To enjoy the benefits of physical activity, think of ways you can fit physical activity into you and your children’s day. Encourage children to do activities that they already enjoy and even try some new ones. When possible, participate in physical activity with your children to set a good example! Here are some other ideas to help your children fit in more activity–no matter what time of day or day of the week it is:

  • At Home: There are endless ways children can be active safely in the house, whether they’re playing a game, stretching or doing yoga, or exercising using a formal work-out routine. Even cleaning and other household chores can be a great way to exercise at home! Children can play games that require more space in the yard or another safe place in the neighborhood with family and neighbors, such as an outdoor basketball court. Try taking a walk around your neighborhood as a family after school. Toddlers can benefit from moving around instead of sitting in stationary bouncy seats–provide plenty of toys and activities inside that get them moving. Since preschoolers spend more time at home than school-aged children and love to be active, there are plenty of opportunities for preschoolers to play at home. Check out these tips for encouraging physical activity no matter what age your child is.
  • At School: Recess and physical education classes provide great opportunities for your children to be active at school and to take a break from regular classroom instruction. Encourage your children’s teachers to include activity in classroom instruction, such as these “energizers” for school. If you live close to your child’s school, you can walk with them to and from school. School-aged children old enough to play after-school sports may enjoy playing a sport that interests them, such as soccer, track & field, or basketball.
  • On the Weekend: Weekends are a great time to be active as a family! You can take your children on outings to a park, playground, walking trail, swimming pool, or other locations. Children old enough to play organized sports can join a team, and they may have games over the weekend. Keep a list of activities your children enjoy and let them take turns choosing what activities you’ll try together that weekend.

 

No matter what physical activity your children participate in, it’s always more fun with someone else! So whenever possible, make physical activity a family event!

 

How else can you fit more activity into your family’s day?


References

  1. https://medlineplus.gov/exerciseforchildren.html