School is back in session, which means kids are back in their desks. But with all that learning comes a whole lot of sitting. How can we ensure kids make physical activity a part of daily life when they spend most of the day sitting at school? Here’s a few tips to make sure the school year is just as active as the summer.
1. Get to school 15 minutes early and leave 15 minutes late
Making time for the kids to climb on the jungle gym or swing on the monkey bars before they sit down for class has big payoffs. Exercise improves the brain’s chemical growth factors, helping us learn. Did you know researchers found that students score higher on tests after 10 minutes of physical activity? Taking the time to let the kids play before they sit and concentrate will actually help them concentrate better. Likewise, letting them blow off some steam after school by staying at the playground for an extra 15 minutes will help them focus on their homework once they get home – and help your afternoons run smoother.
2. Bike to school one day each week
There’s no reason why Bike to Work/School Day has to happen only once per year. Try getting in the habit of biking to school every Friday. Make it a routine and it’ll be easier to stick with it. It’s not only good exercise for the kids, it’s good exercise for you! Instead of driving back and forth to school in traffic each morning and afternoon, you’ll spend that time getting in your exercise for the day so that you can skip the gym later. Bonus points for spending fun, healthy quality time with the kids!
3. Schedule play dates at the park
When inviting a friend over for a play date, schedule it at the park. Kids will be physically removed from the temptation of playing sedentary video games and able to spend time in the fresh air in unstructured free play. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that free play is essential for children’s social, emotional and cognitive development. Too much scheduled time hampers children’s creativity and hinders their resilience. If your kids need ideas for things to do outdoors, check out this cute website full of great ideas for outdoor fun called “50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 ¾.”
4. Keep your car ready for anything
You never know when you’ll have kids who need to expend energy. Always keep some spare sports equipment in the car so that they can get moving on a moment’s notice. A hacky sack, Frisbee, jump rope and tennis ball are small and easy to keep in your car’s bag of tricks for the next time boredom strikes. Leave an old pair of closed-toe shoes in the trunk so that sandals or flip-flops are never an excuse not to run around for a while!
5. Make summer last throughout the school year
Even though school has already started, the weather is probably still warm outside, and your community pool is probably still open. Head out to the pool on the weekend and recapture some of that summer energy by swimming all afternoon. Did you know swimming uses nearly all your muscles? It’s a great and fun way to stay active. If the pool isn’t your thing, check out the Happy Family Movement’s Summer Bucket List Challenge for lots of homegrown ideas for summer fun.
6. Take an all-day Zamzee Challenge
Start a Zamzee Challenge at the beginning of the school day to provide extra incentive for the kids to move as much as possible during recess and breaks. We now have day-long challenges that last a full eight hours, so there’s plenty of time to earn enough Pointz at school to pass the Challenge. Have siblings take the same Challenge and see who can earn the most Pointz by the end of the day. For starters, why don’t you try our Back To School Challenge?
7. Set a positive example
Being healthy and active isn’t just for kids. When you model healthy behavior, it’s easier for kids to understand that physical activity is a fun and important part of life. Take the time to go on walks in the evenings or hit the gym during your lunch break. If you’re watching Monday Night Football, get up and move during the commercial breaks. Setting aside five minutes for movement throughout your day will increase your ability to focus, too! You’ll feel great and the kids will realize that being active is a lifelong endeavor.
How do you keep your kids active during the school year? Leave your suggestions in the comments below. We’d love to hear about it!