Keeping Kids Active at Home
By Rosa Ramirez Richter, Director of Chicago Programs + Policy
Parents are dealing with a lot right now, and we’re all trying to juggle keeping our kids safe, educated and happy. Like parents everywhere, I’m also trying to keep my two kids active during this challenging time.
I know how important it is for kids to get regular physical activity during the school day. Research shows that boosting physical activity increases cognitive ability and academic achievement, affecting perception, memory, focus and reasoning. Health experts advise that kids engage in daily exercise for their mental and physical well being. The Institute of Medicine and the CDC recommend that students engage in 60 minutes of physical activity each day to promote long-term health.
Now that school has moved home, keeping kids active requires a little more creativity. So how can you meet your children’s exercise needs?
We have been trying to get outside as much as we can. If you can, encourage children to play outdoors, taking family walks and jogs around the neighborhood or going for bike rides—adhering to social distancing guidelines, of course. Turn walks into fun games by creating an outdoor I-Spy scavenger hunt or a neighborhood map with specific destinations along your route for jumping jacks, skipping, balancing and other aerobics. This Fit to Learn: Walking the Walk lesson plan can be modified for landmarks in your own community. These activities allow for exercise and fresh air while maintaining necessary social distancing.
Of course, if outdoor access is limited or weather doesn’t allow, there are also many indoor options. One of my favorite indoor activities has been to create an obstacle course in our living room with things from around the house. Normally a broom is for cleaning, but these days it’s been used for weightlifting and jumping over. Painting tape on the floor is now a balance beam or a line to bunny hop from side to side. The kids are busy crawling through a fort or doing burpees, and I get to enjoy my morning coffee.
Check out these fun online activities for children: yoga, dancing, family indoor recess and play at home movement games. Chicago Run has a Free Family Kit that includes daily videos and other resources to help keep kids and families active. Active Schools has created a list of resources for various age groups to keep kids moving at home.
Research also demonstrates the importance of “brain breaks,” short, energized bursts of activity, to help students get a mental recharge so they can better focus and retain information. These can be as simple as five minutes of stretching, running in place, or walking up and down stairs. Check out this HSC blog on fitness tracking to consider how you might adapt these ideas from a classroom teacher to your home setup. Shape America created a fitness calendar (English and Español) with short activities each day.
To help you track physical activity and brain breaks, we adapted a physical activity tracker we created for teachers as part of our Fit to Learn program for you to use at home. This tracker (English and Español) can help you and your children as you create a new movement routine.