Summer Mini-Olympics

The Summer Olympic Games will take place from July 27 to August 12, 2012 in London, England. But just don’t let the kids sit and watch, why not hold your own Mini-Olympics? Involve them in all the fun physical activity by staging a kid-friendly version on the playground or in your own backyard.

Opening Ceremonies
Provide materials for each child to make their own Olympic Flag (FLAGS). Kick-off your Mini-Olympics Day with a parade as the children march around holding their flags. Play music, such as the Olympic theme or “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Events
In setting up a developmentally appropriate Mini-Olympic Day for young children remember to provide opportunities for every child to voluntarily choose from a variety of Olympic-style events. Set up stations where children can move from one event to another at their own pace and rate. Remind the children that finishing first is not as important as having a good time. The emphasis is more on fun than on skill.

Before starting any of the events, lead the children from station to station and explain and/or demonstrate the “how-to’s” or challenges of the event at each station. To get started, divide the class or group into equal numbers according to the number of stations set up. This eliminates children standing in a long line and waiting for their turn. For example, if you have 6 stations and 24 children, you would put 4 kids are each station. With a blow of a whistle (WHIS), children begin the physical challenge of the event. When they have completed that event they move on the next one and so forth until they have completed all the stations. And, of course, they can go through them again and again!

Let The Games Begin
Target Toss (Archery): Draw a large circle on the asphalt using sidewalk chalk (SIDEWALK). Make smaller circles or place shape spots (SHSPOT) inside the large circle as targets. The players take turns tossing beanbags from a specified throwing line until they hit a target. 

Running Races (Track and Field): Set up start and finish lines about 15-30 feet apart. Challenge the racers to run, walk backwards, gallop, crab walk or creep on hands and knees to get from the start line to the finish line.

Throwing for Distance (Shot Put): Use a small sensory ball (SENBALL) or a tightly wrapped ball of aluminum foil for your makeshift shot put. Show the kids how to hold the ball near the ear and launch it forward by extending the arm. They cannot move their feet. How far can they throw the ball? 

Jumping (Equestrian Jumping): Set up two cones fifteen feet apart. Have kids “saddle up” a ball hopper (horse), hold the handle and jump to the opposite cone and back again.

Disc Toss (Discus Throw): Using a Frisbee or flying disc (FLYD), child will throw the disc (throw away from the waist with a flick of the wrist) as far as he/she can. How far did it “fly?”

Kicking (Soccer): Set up a soccer goal (GOAL) a least fifteen feet from a specified kicking line. Players stand behind the line and kick a soccer ball (SOC) into the goal.

Gymnastics (Olympic Gymnastics): Put out a tumbling mat (TMAT) and encourage children to freestyle dance with a streamer ribbon, do a trick with a hoop, and perform simple acrobatics (tumble, twirl, spin, etc.)

Canoe Race (Canoeing and Kayaking): Set up five cones for children to weave through as they ride (sitting, kneeling or prone position) their scooter board or roller board kayak or canoe.

Closing Ceremonies
It doesn’t matter if there are no medals distributed for this Summer Mini-Olympics. What’s really important is how much fun everyone had as they played together and cheered each other on. Remember, the Olympics are a celebration of friendship, unity and peace!

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Canvas Flags (FLAGS)
Whistle (WHIS)
Colorations® Washable Sidewalk Chalk (SIDEWALK)
Target Toss Game (TTBB)
Shape Spots (SHSPOT)
Colored Beanbags (CBB)
Whopper Hopper (WHOPHOP) and Mini Hopper (HOP)
Sensory Balls (SENBALL)
Brawny Tough Activity Hoops (HOOPSET)
Soccer Ball (SOC)
Soccer Goal (GOAL)
Flying Discs (FLYD) and Soft Flying Discs (FDISC)
Rainbow Dancing Wrist Bands (RNBW)
Angeles® Tumbling Mat (TMAT)
Roller Board (ROLLIT)
Colored Cones (SETC)
Start to Finish (STRTFIN)

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Take 5 and Exercise!

The brain needs to be oxygenated every 15 to 20 minutes and the best way to accomplish that is to “get off your seat and onto your feet.” When we physically move, we are sending blood and glucose to the brain, thus providing much needed oxygen and nutrients that help the brain to retain information, improve concentration and focus attention. So start your day or intersperse throughout the day five different stretches or exercises.  As you lead each movement have the children count out loud to five.  For example, start out with five Toe Touches. Instruct children to bend over at waist and touch their toes as they say, “One.” Then say, “Up,” as children raise their arms over their heads. Then say, “Two,” as children bend over and touch their toes again. Continue until you have completed 5 Toe Touches.  Ask the children to show you with their fingers/hands and shout out loud how many Toe Touches they have completed. Ask the children what other exercise they can do five times.  Here are some suggestions —
Tummy Twists — hands on waist as children twist from side to side 5 times

Arm Circles — arms out to sides and make big circles while counting to 5

Jog in Place 5 Miles — children count a slow but steady and loud 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Jumping Jacks — arms at sides, feet together. Jump up while spreading arms and legs apart at the same time.  Lift arms to ears and open feet a little wider than shoulder width. Clap or touch hands above head. Return from jumping up by bringing arms back down to side and feet back together. Continue with 4 more jumping jack repetitions.

Remember, after each exercise, to ask the children to show you and tell you how many exercises they did. It reinforces learning and perhaps will encourage you and the children to include some physical activity when waiting for the next activity or including throughout your day a much needed “brain break!”

Let’s Go Outside and Play!

Ask a child what their favorite part of the school day is and they will most likely say, OUTSIDE! October 16-22 is “Take It Outside!” week. Open the door and turn your learning environment inside out. Share the wonders of the natural world with young children while increasing moderate to vigorous activity, fostering creativity and imagination, activating all the senses, extending children’s language skills, encouraging loud and unstructured free play. The many health benefits of outdoor play (vitamin D exposure, increased immunity, better sleep, lower stress levels) create happy and healthy children. Here are some ideas of what you can do in your Outdoor Classroom:
• Roll down a grassy hill. No hill? Pull out a tumbling mat and have children roll like a log from one end to the other.

• Pull out the parachute and move it like the wind, gently blowing (slow and soft movements up and down) or create strong gusty gales (fast and quick shaking movements). When the wind blows in the autumn, leaves fall from the trees, twirling and dancing in the wind. Place some real leaves on the parachute and have the children shake the parachute accordingly as you describe how the wind is blowing, either gently or more briskly. After a big, stormy strong wind the leaves have all scattered. Children will have fun as they “rake” up the leaves that have blown (shaken) off of the parachute.

• Pick up a stick, find a rock, climb a tree, look for bugs, smell the flowers, collect leaves, go on a nature hike, dig in the dirt, jump in a puddle, have fun in the mud.

Go on a hike and count tree rings!

• Play “I Spy Outside.” Take turns saying, “I spy something _____” and then together run to that object.

• “Wanna Play Chase?” Children just want to run and it’s always fun to run with or after someone. Tell the children to always ask the person they want to chase, “Wanna play chase? I’ll chase you first and then you can chase me. On your mark, get set, go!”

• Move like the animals — fly like a bird, slither like a snake, scamper like a squirrel, walk like a bear, jump like a frog or a rabbit.

• Set up a Nature Scavenger Hunt. After assessing your playground or yard, make a list of things that the children have to find. The list might include an acorn, a Y-shaped twig, a pinecone, a clover, a pillbug, a gray rock, or whatever else might be in the immediate environment. Naturally, the list will depend on the season and the age of the hunters.

• Make a Sidewalk Chalk Obstacle Course. Using sidewalk chalk create a maze for children to follow using different movement skills. Draw — straight lines, curvy roads, zig-zag paths for children to walk on; lily pads to frog jump onto; shapes to hop into; rivers to cross; and rainbows to jump over.

Make nature and the outdoors a part of your teaching. Lead the way and be the first to say, “Let’s Go Outside & Play!

Tumbling and Wrestling and Roughhousing, Oh My!

Preschoolers Sally and A.J. are ready to engage in some tumble play, also sometimes known as roughhousing or wrestling. The tumbling mat is out and they are in the starting position, on their hands and knees facing each other. Shoes are off and other items are removed — glasses, name tags, belts, jewelry or other impinging articles. We have gone over the rules for this kind of contact play:

1. No hitting
2. No kicking
3. No biting
4. No pinching
5. No choking
6. No hair pulling
7. Respect one’s face, eyes and other sensitive parts of the body

At the signal, ringing of the triangle or bell, the action begins as Sally and A.J. tumble and wrestle each other. When one of the pair is off the mat, the action ceases. It’s now time for another pair of children to take their places on the mat, facing each other on their hands and knees.

“Roughhousing,” as we called it, was always a positive part of my preschool curriculum. On those days when we were pent up inside due to inclement weather or when there was a buzz of high energy in the room, I would take out the tumbling mat, place it in the middle of the circle time rug or carpet, and announce that it was time for roughhousing.

Children who wanted to participate would sit around the edge of the mat and talk with their friends who had joined them about who was going to wrestle with whom (participation was voluntary and children could pick their own partners). An adult was always present. We would go over the rules and demonstrate the difference between a hit or punch, with a closed fist, and a soft push with an open palm or soft shove with a shoulder. There is a world of difference and it is necessary to illustrate it.
Usually, I would ask one of the children or one of my colleagues to demonstrate with me so that I could visually show the group what is acceptable and what is not appropriate behavior.
The children would pick a partner, usually someone who matched their own weight and height, and those two would take their place on each half of the mat. I always had the children start on the ground at the same level.
If you feel an activity like this might be appropriate for the children in your care or classroom, it’s important to note that play that involves tumbling and roughhousing is meant to be active and fun for both participants, not a time to knock each other down or intentionally hurt each other. There are differences between aggression (hostile, injurious or destructive behavior) and roughhousing (rowdy, uproarious play or behavior). When aggressive, children frown and fixate on hurting the other child. In rough and tumble play, children willingly participate while smiling and laughing. At the ring of the bell they begin and at the next ring they end (when one of the children is off the mat). The entire “match” lasts between 30 – 90 seconds. The children return to their places around the edge of the mat, ready to wrestle with another friend. After 15-20 minutes, we would be done and the mat was put away.
Children who learn the difference between play wrestling/tumbling and aggressive fighting also develop important social skills. It can, over time, improve a child’s ability to solve problems that arise in social situations — the give-and-take mimics successful social conversations and interactions. Physically, children are benefiting from the intense physical exertion of rough and tumble play which supports cardiovascular health. Tumbling and wrestling can also help develop gross motor coordination, spatial orientation, directionality, laterality, body image, visual motor control, body awareness and eye hand coordination. After active play such as wrestling/tumbling, children are much more able to sit still and concentrate because they’ve been able to participate in some physical activity.

Many boys and girls enjoy the experience of the big-body play that tumbling/wrestling offers. The preschool period is a critical period for children to develop both physically and emotionally. Tumbling and wrestling for preschoolers can indeed be developmentally appropriate and if you feel it can be appropriate for your youngsters, I encourage you to give it a try!

Angels in the Snow


Growing up in the Midwest, snowy days provided us with winter fun and entertainment in the form of making “snow angels” or “snow fairies.”

A snow angel is created by lying down on your back in powdery snow and moving your outstretched arms on the snow, going from head to waist in a sweeping motion while also moving your legs apart as far as they will go and then bringing them back together.

Keep repeating these motions (it’s like doing jumping jacks while lying on your back) until a large enough indentation has been made. You’ll see the shape of an angel or fairy (a body with a skirt and wings) when you stand up. We would try to make several angels in the snow, always looking for the perfect angel (one without foot prints or handprints in the middle of it).

I didn’t grow up having Liquid Watercolor but wouldn’t it be fun to put some Liquid Watercolor™ into a spray bottle and spray the finished angels different colors to make them stand out?

Making snow angels can be great fun for the kids in your care. Mastery of angel-making in the snow is a fine example of building physical coordination (parts of the body moving smoothly together.)

The best news is that kids don’t have to live in snow country in order to make snow angels/fairies. These can be made on tall grass, in sand, and invisible ones can even be made on classroom or home carpets or on tumbling mat . Making snow angels can be a good cool-down activity to conduct after active play as it helps the heart and body to return to its normal resting state. To create a calm and relaxed mood, a teacher or caregiver can put a CD such as Putamayo “Dreamland” CD in the CD Player. As the soothing music plays, lead the children in the activity of angels in the snow.

For the developing young child, this activity may be harder to do than it looks.

Provide direction and guidance by following this procedure:
1.Child lies down on back.
2.Staying in contact with the surface of the floor, mat, snow, ground
or carpet, the child opens and closes legs. Arms are kept down to sides of body.
3.Child practices opening and closing legs, keeping legs in contact with floor.
4.Once a smooth, sustained legs-apart, legs-together movement is mastered, instruct the child to move arms away from sides of body to shoulder height and then return them to side of body, keeping arms in constant contact with floor.
5.Now instruct the child to open and close legs while moving arms.
6.Emphasize that the arms and legs stay in touch with the surface of the floor while there is movement.

Obstacle Courses = A"maze"ing Fun!

Versatile and inviting, an obstacle course can be great fun for young children, and a course is easy to set up inside or out. Weather permitting, consider setting up the course outside. Fresh air can help energize brains and bodies!

An obstacle course is an arrangement of physical challenges or tasks, using simple equipment, set in a line or route around an area. For young children, moving around, over, under and through an obstacle course promotes motor planning abilities, physical skills and movement concepts. Colored yarn, chalk, traffic signs or hand and feet prints can be used for the children to follow. Depending on the age of the children, start with 4 to 6 tasks or events that make a simple yet challenging course. Spread out the obstacle course as much as possible. Adapt, add and change the course to fit your location and abilities of the children.

Before children attempt any obstacle course, ask them to watch as you or a child demonstrate the “how-to’s” (verbally describe directions for each task). Next, line up everybody behind each other at the start of the course and tell them to follow the leader through the course while you describe the physical challenges they are attempting. Emphasize that the obstacle course is not a race and they should not speed through the activities. The teacher or adult leader should stress to the children to keep some space between them. If a “traffic jam” does occur, tell the children to please wait patiently while the person in front of them completes the challenge on the equipment before proceeding ahead.

Having a theme or focus for an obstacle course provides structured physical activity for children because it is purposeful play with a clear goal. An all-time favorite is the “The Super Daring Obstacle Course.” It’s adventurous because of the “maze” of obstacles and the “perilous dangers” the children are challenged to avoid by correctly maneuvering through the course. “Dangers” are pretend and explained with great fanfare, such as the “quicksand” area or the “bottomless swap.” The more creative and imaginative the adventure, the more the children will love it!

The Super Daring Obstacle Course:

1. Start–place a pole, rope or piece of clothesline between two cones to make a crossbar for jumping over. Place a hoop on the ground on the other side of the rope or crossbar for children to jump into. Children jump over the “flaming” rope/bar and land with two feet in the hoop.

2. Jumping Pattern–place 4 hoops in a hopscotch pattern. Children jump with two feet into the first large hoop; straddle jump (feet apart) into the medium hoops placed side by side; end with two feet together again in the last large hoop.

3. Bridge Walk–place a rope lengthwise on the ground or set up a balance beam. Children try to walk heel-toe from one end of the beam/rope to the other, balancing above the “bottomless swamp.”

4. Helpful Turtles–place 4 to 6 spot markers, Hop Around Steps or Balance Pods in a row 6- 12” from each other. Encourage children to step or leap from one spot marker (shells of turtles to help them avoid the “quicksand”) to the next as they travel on their adventure.

5. Tunnel of No Return–set up a cloth or nylon tunnel or use a large box. Children creep through quietly on hands and knees to avoid waking the “alligators.”

6. Perilous Path–set up 4 to 6 cones in a row about 2-4’ apart from each other to make a pathway. Children to travel in a zigzag pattern, snaking their way around and through without waking the “snakes.”

7. Stop–place a tumbling mat several feet away from the last cones of the Perilous Path. Children run to the mat and fall down on it or log roll to the end, survivors of The Super Daring Obstacle Course!

8. Direct children to the start of the course as you inevitably hear them ask, “Can we do it again? Can we do it again?”

As I once heard a child say, “The obstacle course is THE BEST thing I like at school!” It’s a wonderful thing for preschool teachers and early childhood caregivers to include as part of physical activity or movement programs.