A Whale of a Role Model!

I feel very fortunate to live near the ocean in Santa Cruz, CA.  It continually inspires me to venture outside and enjoy all that it affords.  It is a place of beauty, incredible wonders, and home to the greatest diversity of life on earth.  This week, humpback whales can be spotted not far from the beach.  They are joining herds of sea lions and flocks of birds to dine on the abundant anchovies that are present in the bay.  In the photo below taken by Chris Elmenhurst, you can see a mother humpback teaching her baby calf how to feed on the tiny green fish. The whale mother and her baby will share the strongest of bonds for one year with the mother preparing and strengthening her newborn for the long migration up the coast.  It’s common to see a baby trying to perform a good breach over and over and then have mom come up unexpectedly to show junior how it should be done.

Photo by Chris Edinger at Surf the Spot - click photo to view more photos.

Photo by Chris Elmhurst at Surf the Spot – click photo to view more photos.

While I was watching the humpbacks, I also spotted a mother and son exercising together on the beach.  I couldn’t help but notice the correlation between the mother whale with her calf and the mother and son lifting weights.  Just as the mother whale role models for her baby, so does a physically active parent role model for her child.

sharron whale 2

Parents who encourage and endorse physical activities in their own lives are more likely to pass on these good habits to their children.  Research shows that children who exercise do better in school, control themselves better, and have fewer behavior issues. More good news is that children who lead active lifestyles are likely to remain active as adults and pass on their healthy lifestyle habits to their own children.

Consider the following benefits of regular physical activity for growing children:

  • Promotes healthy growth and development
  • Builds strong bones and muscles
  • Improves cardiovascular fitness
  • Increases flexibility
  • Improves balance, coordination and strength
  • Assists with the development of gross motor and fine motor skills
  • Provides the opportunity to develop fundamental movement skills
  • Helps to establish connections between different parts of the brain
  • Improves concentration and thinking skills
  • Provides opportunities to develop social skills and make friends
  • Reduces feelings of depression, stress, and anxiety
  • Improves sleep
  • Promotes psychological well-being, including higher levels of self-esteem and self-
  • concept

Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, be a role model. Show children physical activity is important by enthusiastically participating in it!

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Fit & Fun! Get the Ball Rolling!

kids playing outside

Recent research shows that children spend about 70% to 83% of their time in child care centers being sedentary, not counting the time spent eating and napping. About 2% to 3% of the time is spent in vigorous activities. This study published in “Pediatrics,” the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, found that educators said they know vigorous physical activity (physical activity that can produce fatigue in a short period of time and is performed at an intensity in which heart rate and breathing are elevated to levels higher than those observed for moderate physical activity–activity that is easily maintained and is performed at an intensity that increases heart rate and breathing) is important to children. But they cited several barriers, including concerns about injuries, parent’s pressure on schools to pursue academics, and limited outdoor space and playground equipment. We know it doesn’t take a lot of expensive equipment for children to be active. They just need to be given the time and opportunity to engage in structured  physical activity (activity planned and directed by a parent, caregiver or teacher, and that is designed to accommodate the infant, toddler or preschooler’s developmental level and unstructured physical activity (child-initiated physical activity that occurs as the child explores his or her environment). Teachers need to intentionally plan moderate to vigorous physical activities every day.  Please see this previous post: Why Should We Get Our Kids Moving.

I’ve designed a Daily Physical Activity Chart which helps you and your students to actually document their physical activity.  It asks, “Can you do something physically active for 40 minutes every day of the week?  Color in a wedge each time you complete five minutes of physical activity outdoors or inside!”  If the children spend 10 minutes outdoors in unstructured play, color in two five-minute wedges.  If you led the children in a five-minute structured physically active game, such as Driving with Hoops! color in a five-minute wedge.  I recommend assigning one child each day to be “in charge” of coloring in the wedges or sections (with markers or crayons) on the ball. Perhaps, the first day you do this, only half of the ball (20 minutes) was filled in. The next day aim for 25 minutes of physical activity. With your Planning, Encouragement, and Participation (PEP) you can ensure that the entire blank ball turns into a colorful ball!  Feel free to make copies of this document and post five balls on the wall at the children’s eye level so they can document and see their progress for the week (click here for a weekly chart).  Need more ideas of what to do for structured physical activity?  Don’t forget to browse the archives of this blog, or better yet, invite me (www.sharronkrull.com) to come to your school or organization to present my physical activity workshop, “Get Your Motor Running! Fun Physical Activities for Young Children.”  As Aristotle said, “What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing.”

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I Am Moving, I Am Learning!

This month I attended the “I Am Moving, I Am Learning” (IMIL) Facilitator Training in San Jose, CA. As a play and physical activity specialist, I totally embrace the IMIL program. It is a proactive approach for addressing childhood obesity in Head Start children and one of the BEST models I’ve seen for implementing a literal “call to action” on a very serious issue impacting our country. The program is also consistent with the objectives of the First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative. While at the training, I thought, “I am learning (and moving!) so much!” and I wanted to share a few of my ah-has with you:

• Our children inherit more than our genes. They inherit our lifestyles. We need to be healthy and consistent role models for physical activity and nutrition. We have the first generation of children who will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

• “Approximately one in five children are overweight or obese by the time they reach their sixth birthday…” (White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity report to the President, May 2010.)

• As little as 10 minutes of physical activity (short bursts of moderate to vigorous physical activity) is beneficial to children and adults. It yields improvements in blood pressure, waist circumference, mood and attention span.

• Many children can be the “boss of their body” and “tell their muscles what to do.” In other words, they can self-regulate their movement behaviors and motor activity. We just need to provide the space, time and opportunities!

• There are many motor milestones (i.e., hopping, skipping, throwing, catching) in early childhood. We should make a career of celebrating early childhood milestones with children.

• We need to be intentional about how children play; we need to provide quality experiences facilitated by informed adults.

• Make physical activity FUN and children and adults will COME! (Plan and participate in the activities or games that you are facilitating.)

• Here are two great resources that I look forward to tapping into: http://www.choosykids.com/, http://www.headstartbodystart.org/

Physical activity and play is receiving a great amount of attention that we should all take to heart and body! Now, let’s get moving! Remember to keep checking back here to see the many games and activities that will be featured in this year’s Sharin’ with Sharron Blog on Movement, Play and Physical Activity!