Put Your Best Foot Forward in 2012

A study just published this month in “Pediatrics,” the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, found that kids spend about 70% to 83% of their time in child care being sedentary, not counting the time spent eating and napping. Only 2% to 3% of the time is spent in vigorous activities. Educators know vigorous activity is important to children. But they cited several barriers, including concerns about injuries, focus on academics and limited outdoor space and playground equipment. Research shows that children are more likely to be active if they are given time, space, freedom, and simple equipment (balls, hoops, and jump ropes). “Put your best foot forward” means to embark on a journey or task with purpose and gusto. Make a good start this year by planning and including physical activity outdoors and inside…while also meeting curriculum standards Be a great role model. Encourage and participate with children in physical activity. Adults demonstrate the importance of health and fitness through their actions as well as their words. Let’s get ‘em moving! Here’s how…

1. Go outside and play Shadow Tag: Instead of tagging bodies, the children step on each others’ shadows in this run and chase game.

2. Shadow Freeze: Play lively music and have children move in the open space. When the music stops, children must “freeze” their shadows. How long can they hold their shadows still? When the music starts again the children resume moving.

3. Shadow Dancing: Imitate each other’s movements. “Shadow Dancing Song” by Greg and Steve on “Kids in Motion” CD.

4. Shape Parade: Take your rhythm instruments outdoors and have a parade. Use appropriate marching music. Draw large shapes (circle, triangle, square, rectangle) with chalk on your outdoor surface. Have children march with instruments around each shape.

5. Create a unique movement path by placing Riverstones (AP6226J) or Activity Hoops on the ground. Pretend they are rocks in a river. Get from one side to the other without stepping in the river.

6. Go for a Wacky Walk: Place Movement Spots (arrows, shapes, hands and feet spots) on the ground outside. Make paths for children to go in straight lines, then zig-zag lines, then curvy lines, and then try walking backwards. Place the hands and feet spots in such a way to encourage children to walk like dogs or bears.

7. I Spy: Go outside and take turns saying, “I spy something ______” and then have the children run to that object

8. Include motor skill challenges during transition times. For example, “Let’s jump like frogs to circle time,” or “Please hop on one foot back to your seat.”
9. Snakes: Give each child a Nylon Jump Rope (RPST) and instruct them to place their rope on the ground in the shape of a “snake.” The snakes should all look different. When you say, “walk,” the children are to walk around without stepping on any of the rope snakes. Now add a variety of other locomotor movements as ways to travel around the snakes–tiptoe, run, jump, hop, gallop, skip, walk backwards.

10. One, Two, Buckle My Shoe: Take children outside and have them line up (shoulder to shoulder) facing you. Instruct children to clap and jump on the numbers in the rhyme and then act out the words. Do it in unison.

                        One, two…Buckle my shoe.
                        Three, four…Shut the door.
                        Five, six…Pick up sticks.
                        Seven, eight…Lay them straight.
                        Nine, ten…A big fat hen.

On the word “hen” let children run in a circle counting from one to ten. On ten, they must be back in place to start the rhyme again.

Scrambled Eggs and Icebergs

Have a few minutes and don’t know “what to do next???” Here’s an “egg”-ceptionally active game for the whole group. It promotes moderate to vigorous physical activity and an opportunity to practice gross motor skills and even some creative movement. Let the “egg”-citement begin!

Indoor or outdoor space with boundaries — Colored Cones or Hop Around Steps

Let’s Get Started:
1. Children standing or sitting as they listen and watch as the directions are given and demonstrated.

2. When children hear the command, “scrambled eggs,” they are to jog (running at a slow pace) in the play space without bumping into each other.

3. When the command “icebergs,” is given, children are to freeze (children cease all activity) in place without falling down.

4. Other commands of locomotor transport skills/traveling actions will be given, such as jumping, marching, hopping, galloping, tiptoe, etc. When children hear that command they must switch to the new movement.

5. Example of how game would flow: “scrambled eggs” (jog), “icebergs” (freeze), “jump” (blasting off with two feet and landing on two feet), “scrambled eggs” (jog), “hop” (blasting off on one foot and landing on the same foot), “icebergs” (freeze), “marching” (a precise type of walk, accompanied by lifted knees and swing arms), “icebergs” (freeze).

1. Try to trick children by repeating a command twice in a row.

2. Encourage creative movement by asking the children to “fly like an airplane,” “gallop like a horse,” “move like a train,” etc.

3. Ask the children give the movement commands or let one child be the game leader and give all the commands.

1. Physical activity: any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure.

2. Locomotor transport skills or traveling actions: body propels, projects, or moves from one location to another by jumping (with both feet), hopping (with one foot), galloping (step-hop with one foot leading forward), tiptoe (balance on balls of feet and toes with heels raised), skipping (series of step-hops done with alternate feet), among others.

3. Gross motor skills: using the large muscles of the arms, legs and trunk(to perform traveling actions).

4. Space awareness: knowing where the body can and should move in relationship to other people in the play space.

5. Shared space: all of the designated play space that can be used by everyone.

6. Cooperative play: games and activities that the participants play together rather than against one another.

7. Listening skills: ability to follow verbal directions.

Driving with Hoops!

I never tire of sharing games and activities using the very versatile Activity Hoop. In a blog I posted in May of 2010, I gave directions on how to play a non-competitive version of musical chairs using the hoop. This time, we’re going to use our imaginations as we pretend that our Activity Hoop is a steering wheel. Get ready to start your engines!

Car and Driver
Materials and Set Up:
One hoop per child
Available indoor or outdoor space

Let’s Get Started:
1. Children watch and listen as directions of how to play are demonstrated.
2. Each child, standing up, holds the hoop in front of their body. Tell them to imagine that the hoop is the steering wheel of a car and that they are the driver.
3. When children hear the following commands they are to do the corresponding movements as directed:
Green Light = GO (walk and turn hoop like driving)
Yellow Light = MOVE SLOWLY (getting ready to stop)
Red Light = STOP (freeze in place as if at a stop light or stop sign)
School Zone = SKIP
Highway = RUN
Uphill = MARCH
Flat Tire = HOP
Tunnel = DUCK DOWN (bend knees and lower level of body)
Pot Hole = LEAP
Woo-Woo-Woo = MOVE TO THE SIDE AND STOP (emergency vehicle coming)

• With younger children only use 3 – 4 commands/movements.
• Vary the length of time between the commands.
• Try to “trick” children by repeating commands twice in a row.
• Children may devise other commands and movements.

On the Road Again
Materials and Set Up:
One hoop per child
Available indoor or outdoor space
Music player and music (i.e., Song: Little Deuce Coupe by The Beach Boys or On the Road Again by Willie Nelson)

Let’s Get Started:
1. Instruct the children to put their hoop on the ground and stand inside it.
2. Tell them that the hoop is their steering wheel. When the music starts, they are to lift the hoop up to waist level and use both hands to turn it right and left as if driving while they walk around in the open space.
3. When the music stops, the children stop and drop their hoops to the ground as if they’ve reached a stop sign or stop light.
4. When the music starts again, they bend down and pick up their hoops and continue to drive.
5. Fun ensues when you start and stop the music for short intervals or keep it on for long stretches. Add some dialogue to the game by mentioning that they may be caught speeding if going to fast.
6. The game lasts the length of one song.

Challenge children with this variation of the game. When the music stops ask the children to pair up. One partner steps inside the hoop and holds it at waist level. The second player steps in front of his partner in the hoop and holds his hoop in front of his body like a steering wheel. Children are to work together and move using both hoops when the music starts. When the music stops, they switch places and get to play opposite roles. This game teaches the children to work together and make cooperative decisions about moving in the same direction. Encourage the partners to come up with other ways to move together using both hoops.

Both of these hoop games promote and develop the following goals or learning outcomes:

• Locomotor transport skills: body moves from one place to another by walking, leaping, hopping, skipping, etc.
Gross motor development: using the large muscles of the arms, legs and trunk to perform movements such as walking, running, marching
• Directionality: the inner sense and knowledge of where things are in relation to the body
Spatial awareness: coordinated movement in relationship to other objects in the environment
Bilateral coordination: using both sides of the body in unison
• Midline: the invisible line running from the head to the toes and dividing the body into right and left halves
• Crossing the midline: means that one hand spontaneously moves to the other side of the body to work there (i.e., turning the hoop like a steering wheel in a large arc)
Listening skills: ability to follow verbal directions
Cooperation: two or more people playing together rather than against one another, just or the fun of it
Agility: quick, easy, lively movements
• Imagery: formation of mental images by memory, imagination or fancy

Want To Have Fun? STOMP ON IT!

I’ve been using a stomp board (also known as a launch board) for over 25 years! It is a must-have, and one of the kids’ all time favorite item for active play! I’ve used it in the classroom as well as at children’s birthday parties and citywide children’s festivals. I use them in obstacle courses inside (on carpet or linoleum) or outside (on cement, grass, etc.) As far as I’m concerned, every classroom could use at least two stomp boards! Discount School Supply carries one called the Joey Jump. In my opinion it really is superior compared to the wood ones I’ve used in the past. The Joey Jump is lightweight, plastic, comes with two bean bags and can be used by both preschoolers and school-age children.

The board is designed for a stomp—forceful step with one foot (not an actual jump)– on the short end, propelling into the air a soft object (i.e. bean bag) was placed on the other end. The child then tries to catch the object that was launched off the board when they stomped. Because of the design and incline of the board, the object does not go shooting off randomly but propels straight up off the board and the child with outstretched arms can try to catch it in his/her hands.

Children must concentrate on getting their hands ready to catch the beanbag and focus on watching the beanbag as it moves through the air. Children should first focus on attempting to catch the beanbag with both hands at the same time, then try with the right and the left hand alone. As children get better at catching, other challenges can be added such as: stomping more firmly on the board so the beanbag goes higher; attempting to catch two beanbags at the same time; and launching and catching other items such as a foam ball, fleece ball, sensory ball and even a small stuffed animal.

I also like using foam dice with the stomp boards. Kids can put the die on the end, stomp and launch the die. Ask the child what number is facing up when he/she catches it. When using dice, we are not only working on the fundamental motor skill of catching but also addressing the core standard of mathematics–number concepts, counting and geometry (the die is a cube). The stomp board promotes physical development with the use of eye-hand coordination, eye-foot coordination, gross/fine motor skills, and it promotes social/emotional development: self-confidence and independence.

Kids love to do the stomp board over and over again as they try to catch the bean bag or sensory ball. It does take them a couple of times to get the hang of it, but once they do—they are self-motivated to experience THE FUN over and over again!

Animal Moves

Adapted from TeacherQuickSource, this activity is a great one for helping young children work on gross motor skills and to get them up and moving. This activity can be done indoors or outside, and is great for any size group. “Animals” can be big, small, real and imaginary. They can go on a parade, have a dance or take a wild romp through “the wilderness.” The creative possibilities with this activity are as large as the animal kingdom itself!

Goal: To introduce or enhance balance and control during locomotor activities.

Materials needed: Pictures, drawings or video of animals

Let’s Get Started:

1. Show the children one of the animal pictures.
2. Discuss the sounds and movements of that animal.
3. Have the children move around the space pretending to be that animal.
4. Repeat the activity with a different animal.

Ready, Set… RUN!

It’s official: This week marked the beginning of summer! Summertime means more time for outside play, and when children go outside they naturally want to move—and not just move, but run and run! Running is a fundamental motor skill that helps children move from one place to another. Once children learn how to crawl, creep and walk, running naturally follows in the developmental order of learning locomotor skills. And when children discover that they can run, they usually can’t get enough of it.

Running’s benefits include the promotion of gross motor skills, vigorous physical activity, and the development of the components of health-related physical fitness–muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance. Here are some activities that will get you off to a running start in helping children in your classroom or home to master movement:

Run Like the Wind
Set up boundaries using ropes or the Start to Finish Lines 15’-24’ apart. Have children run from one line or boundary to another holding a crepe paper streamer, scarf or Rainbow Dancing Wrist Band. They will automatically return to the start line and ask to do it again and again!

Flying Paper Plates & Newspapers
Set up boundaries using ropes or the Start to Finish lines 15’-24’ apart. Have children place a paper plates or sheet of newsprint (9” x 12”) or newspaper (11” x 12”) on their chest and start running. As they run faster and faster they will discover that the newspaper or plate will stick to their chest… a lesson in science, too! Another option is to put a paper plates on the palm of each hand and start running to see what happens.

Run & Roll
Set up boundaries using ropes or the Start to Finish lines 15’-24’ apart. Place a tumbling mat or playmat a few feet in front of the finish line. When you say, “Get ready, get set, run,” the child at the “start line” runs to the mat and falls, rolls or tumbles to a stop. Without even directing children to the start of the running course, they will be in line just panting and waiting for another turn to “Run and Roll.”

Non-Competitive Red Rover, Red Rover
Set up boundaries using ropes or the Start to Finish lines 15’-24’ apart. Two people at the finish line hold a sheet of newspaper (~ 22” x 24”) with two hands on each corner. When you say, “Get ready, get set, run,” the child at the “start line” (with the palms of his hands touching and pointing forward) runs and bursts through the newspaper!

Set up boundaries using ropes or cones in the available space. Each child tucks a scarf or Rainbow Dancing Wrist Band ribbon into their waistband behind their back. The scarf or ribbon is now their “tail.” The game starts when the music starts and the children run in the available space. The game is played like tag, but instead of tagging each other, children pull the scarves or ribbons out of others’ waistbands and drop them on the ground. The child whose scarf or ribbon is pulled, picks up his scarf (tail), goes to “the tail repair area” (a designated spot, such as a classroom door, tree, etc.) to replace the scarf in their waistband. Once the scarf is secure in their waistband, the child returns to the game and resumes pulling “tails.” The game ends when the music stops. This group game promotes cooperative play, vigorous physical activity and offers lots of laughter!