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!

It’s Screen-Free Week! Let’s Play Outside!

April 29 – May 5, 2013 is Screen-Free Week, an annual national celebration coordinated by the Center for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), a national advocacy organization devoted to reducing the impact of commercialism on children.  Children, families, schools, and communities spend seven days TURNING OFF entertainment SCREEN media (TV, video games, computers, iPads, smartphones) and “TURN ON LIFE.”

Did you know that–

  1. Preschool children spend “an astonishing average of 32 hours a week” in front of screens—and it’s more for older children. CCFC writes, “Excessive screen time is harmful for children—it’s linked to poor school performance, childhood obesity, attention problems, and the erosion of creative play (the foundation of learning) constructive problem solving, and creativity.”
  2. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under 2 should watch NO TV and children age 2 and over should watch less that 2 hours per day.  But, on any given day, 29% of babies under the age of 1 are watching TV and videos for an average of about 90 minutes.  Twenty-three percent have a  television in their bedroom.
  3. TV watching “rewires” a child’s brain, leading to attentional issues by the age of 7.  The “pace of TV is sped up” leading the young infant to believe that the “quick scene shifts of video images” is normal.  TV watching may over stimulate the child’s brain, “causing permanent changes to developing neural pathways.”  As a child is staring at the TV, these hugely important neural pathways are not being developed.
  4. Developers of children’s apps for phones and tablets restrict screen time for their own children.  More than one of these developers said, “We have a rule of no screen time during the week, unless it’s clearly educational. On the weekends, they can play.  I give them a limit of half an hour and then stop. It can be too addictive, too stimulating for the brain.”
  5. Some toddlers are becoming so addicted to iPads and smartphones that they require psychological treatment.  “They can’t cope and become addicted, reacting with tantrums and uncontrollable behavior when they are taken away.”  Young technology addicts (some as young as 4 years old) experience the same withdrawal symptoms as alcoholics or heroin addicts and are enrolled in a “digital detox” program that weans children off computer games and mobile phones.

sharron kid watching tv

This information is disconcerting, to say the least, and needs to be taken seriously.  I worry about our children’s social emotional development, ability to interact with others, language development, and their communication skills.  Research shows that children learn one-on-one from people, not from videos and television!

“The skills children will always need to thrive–deep thinking, the ability to differentiate fact from hype, creativity, self-regulation, empathy and self-reflection–aren’t learned in front of any screen. They are learned through face-to-face communication, hands-on exploration of the world, opportunities for silence and time to dream.”~Dr. Susan Linn, Director, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

sharron kids climbing trees

Screen-Free Week reminds us to go outside and play.  How about committing to 30-60 minutes of active play each day.  Disconnect from all things electronic and do one of the following–

sharron kids running

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:

Decorate a Kite, kit for 12 (KIDSKITE)

Colorations® Washable Sidewalk Chalk, 50 pieces (SIDEWALK)

Shapes Walking Rope (WALKROPE)

Kickball Kit (KICKBALL)

Flying Discs (FLYD) and Soft Flying Discs (SFDISC)

14′ ClassicRider® Trike (REDRDR14)

Excellerations™ Junior Hoop Ball Goal (HOOP3)

Obstacle Course Activity Set (OCSET)

Rainbow Dancing Wrist Bands (RNBW)

Animal Hopping {Really Jumping!} Sacks

The old potato sack “ain’t” what it used to be.  This version of the classic potato sack is made more “kid-friendly” with the addition of pictures of animals that really do “jump” on the front of the sack—kangaroos, rabbits and frogs—and with two sets of handles to accommodate any age (3 to 103 years young!)  One set of handles is on the inside of the sack for little hands and the other is on the outside of the sack for bigger hands.  Once your body is standing inside the sack, there is only way to move from one place to another and that is by grasping the handles and using both feet to JUMP up and down. Hopping is on one foot and is not a recommended way to travel while in a sack.  It is best to play the following activities outside on the grass or on any cushioned or matted surface.  Whether you’re playing a game or competing in a race, you’ll have fun and experience success—no matter what your size!

Objectives/Learning Outcomes:
Playing and using the sacks promotes and develops…

1.  Overall physical fitness—cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, muscular strength and endurance.
2.  Gross motor development—using the large muscles of the arms, legs and trunk.
3.  Bilateral coordination—using both sides of the body at the same time in unison as in jumping.
4.  Eye-foot coordination—eyes and feet working together smoothly to meet a challenge.
5.  Spatial awareness—coordinated movement in relationship to other objects in the environment.
6.  Balance—being able to hold the position of the body through the interaction of muscles working together (maintaining body equilibrium) whether the body is stationary (static balance) or moving (dynamic balance).
7.  Cooperation and teamwork—2 or more people working and playing together rather than against one another, just for the fun of it.
8.  Fun— playful actions providing amusement and enjoyment.
9.  Listening skills—ability to follow verbal directions.

Games & Activities

Animals Jump                                                                                 Ages:  3 – 5

Set Up:
1. Players scattered in open space.
2. One jumping sack for each player.

Procedure:
1. Before starting this activity, discuss with the group about what jumps and what doesn’t.
2. An adult or child who understands the concept of the activity is selected to be the leader of the game.
3. Players stand inside jumping sack but do not hold handles.
4. The leader shouts out various things that jump.
5. Each time the leader names anything that “jumps” the players grab the handles of the sack, pulling it up, and jump up and down vigorously (e.g., “frogs jump,” “rabbits jump,” “kangaroos jump,” “crickets jump,” etc.).
6. If the leader names something that does not jump, players let go of their bags and stand motionless (e.g., “elephants jump,” “worms jump,” “tables jump,” etc.).

Animals Find Your Home                                                             Ages:  3 – 5

Set Up:
1. One animal jumping sack and one hoop or shape spot marker for each player.
2. Arrange hoops or spot markers in a large circle equally spaced apart.

Procedure:
1.  Position each player (standing in jumping sack) in a hoop or on a spot (the hoop or spot is their “home”).
2.  One player in a sack stands in the center of the circle without a hoop or spot  and calls out, “KANGAROO (name of animal sack they are in)  WANTS A HOME!” (e.g. “RABBIT WANTS A HOME!”).  All animals (including the one standing in the center) must leave their home (hoop or spot) and jump to a different and vacant spot or hoop.
3.  One player will be left without a hoop or a spot and should then take his or her place in the center as the next animal home shopper.
4.  The game continues until everyone has had a turn to be a new “home shopper.”  If “home shoppers” are too slow in finding a new spot or hoop, an adult or leader may pick the next home shopper randomly.

Listen & Jump                                                                                 Ages:  3 – 5

Set Up:
1. Players scattered in open space.
2. One jumping sack for each player.
3. CD player and lively upbeat music.

Procedure:
1.  First ask the players to jump in place when the music starts.
2.  When the music stops, the players are to stop and maintain their balance while standing in the sack.
3.  Challenge the players to jump freely around the open space while the music is playing.
4.  The game continues with the starting and stopping of the music.

Animal Facts                                                                                   Ages:  5 and up

Set Up:
1.  “Start” and “Finish” lines or boundaries using cones, ropes or other markers placed a maximum of 12 – 20 feet apart.
2.  One jumping sack for each player.

Procedure:
1.  Each player stands behind the boundary or start line at least an arms width apart from each other.
2.  Each player gets into an animal sack, pulls it up, and holds onto the size-appropriate handle.  Make sure each player knows which animal sack they are in—kangaroo, rabbit or frog.
3.  An adult or child who understands the concept of the activity is selected to be the leader of the game.
4.  The leader of this activity calls out animal facts and if the information is correct for the animal—kangaroo, rabbit or frog— that player(s) in the appropriate sack jumps forward one jump.
5.  Each time a fact is called out, the matching animal or animals jump forward one jump.  If the animal fact does not apply to the animals, nobody jumps forward.
6.  The game ends when all the animals cross the finish line.

Some Animal Facts or Characteristics that you can use in playing this game:
Ask questions appropriate for the ages of children playing.
Encourage the children to add more animal facts to this list.

This animal lays eggs (frog).
This animal is a mammal (rabbit, kangaroo).
A tadpole becomes one of these (frog).
Bunny is another name for this animal (rabbit).
This animal’s skin is smooth (frog).
This animal eats grass (rabbit, kangaroo).
A group of these animals is a herd (kangaroo).
Babies are called joeys (kangaroo).
This animal is a marsupial mammal (kangaroo).
This animal is an amphibian (frog).

Races & Relays

Individual Jumping Races                                                           Ages:  5 and up

Set Up:
1.  “Start” and “Finish” lines or boundaries using cones, ropes or other markers placed a minimum of 12 feet apart (place farther apart for older ages).
2.  One jumping sack for each player.

Procedure:
1.  Each player stands behind the boundary or start line at least an arms width apart from each other.
2.  Each player gets into a sack, pulls it up, and holds onto the size-appropriate handle.
3.  On the signal “GO!” players jump to the finish line.
4.  Every player who crosses the finish line is a winner!

Variations:
1.  Have players try and beat their own previous time.
2.  If not enough sacks for everyone, let those watching be cheerleaders and encourage the players by rooting for their favorite animal—“Go Rabbits!” or “Jump Frogs Jump!” etc.

Animal Team Jumping Races                                                     Ages: 5 and up

Set Up:
1.  “Start” and “Finish” lines or boundaries using cones, ropes or other markers placed a maximum of 12 – 20 feet apart.
2.  One jumping sack for each player.

Procedure:
1.  Players pair up or group together by the type of animal on their sack.
2.  Each animal team lines up single file behind the starting line.
3.  On the signal “GO!” players jump to the finish line, turn around, jump back to the start line.
4.   Upon crossing the start line the next player in the same animal team jumps to the finish line, turns around, and jumps back to the start line.
5.  Game continues until each animal player in the team has a turn.

Variations:
A.  Have same animals stand across from each other on opposite sides of the boundary lines. When one team member jumps across the line, the next team member on that side jumps to the other side and crosses the opposite boundary line.
B.  Make animal teams consisting of equal numbers of kangaroos, rabbits and frogs.

Three-Legged Animal Race                                                        Ages:  5 and up

Set Up:

1.  “Start” and “Finish” lines or boundaries using cones, ropes or other markers placed a maximum of 12 – 20 feet apart.
2.  One jumping sack for each two-person team.

Procedure:
1.  Players pair up and become a two-person team and pick an animal sack of their choice.
2.  Each team stands side-by-side and puts the leg closest to each other in the jumping sack, standing behind the starting line.
3.  On the signal “GO!” each two-person team jumps to the finish line.
4.  Every team who crosses the finish line is a winner!

Variation:
1.  This race can be done as a relay too, with additional two-person teams in the same animal sacks (kangaroos, rabbit or frog) in a line behind the same type animal team.  The first pair crosses the finish line, gets out of their sacks and runs back to the starting line, tagging the next members of their animal team, permitting them to now race to the finish line.

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Animal Hopping Sacks – set of 6 (HOPPY)
Brawny Tough Activity Hoops – set of 15 (HOOPSET)
Shapes Spots – set of 18 (SHSPOT)
Hamilton™ AM/FM CD Player (BOOMBOX)
Popular Children’s Songs CDs – set of 4 (TODCDS)
Colored Cones – set of 10 (SETC)
7′ Nylon Jump Ropes – set of 3 (RPST)

Feed the Frog! Gulp! Gulp! Gulp!

He’s a big green wide-mouthed frog and he loves to eat dragonflies!  I really like this Wooden Frog Toss (FROGTOSS) which comes with 2 supports (prevents it from tipping) and six rainbow-colored dragonfly beanbags.  The supports slide into slots when you are ready to play “Feed the Frog” and remove easily for flat storage. The feature I like the most is the target, the frog’s wide mouth, which is achievable for even the littlest thrower. So many bean bag toss games have several small holes that make it difficult for anyone (even the adult!) to succeed when attempting to reach the target. The Frog Toss game ensures that each child will experience success when playing while promoting eye-hand coordination, gross motor skills and, in this game, color recognition. It’s best to place the Frog Toss on a table or platform (inside or outdoors) where it is at eye-level for your children.  Place the dragonfly beanbags in a basket on the floor or ground and this wide-mouthed frog is just waiting to be fed–TOSS, THROW, TOSS, THROW the dragonflies–GULP! GULP! GULP!  YUM!

When introducing new equipment to children, please allow time for free exploration and practice.  Give children opportunities to throw from a variety of distances and to throw in different ways thus enabling them to experiment and find the position offering challenge but from which they experience success. I’ve provided some information and terminology that will assist you in understanding the levels and stages children go through in learning how to toss (slow or mid-paced looping throw using just fingers and hand) and throw (more forceful using arms and shoulders to propel the object).  Remember that learning a new skill is a process and each skill has its own developmental progression.

Stages of Throwing:

  1. Child only moves his throwing arm. The body does not move as he throws.
  2. Determine which hand the child usually uses for throwing.
  3. A child who throws with the right arm will step forward with the right foot.
  4. A child who throws with the left arm will step forward with the left foot
  5. Prompt children to step forward with the foot opposite their throwing arm. This is the mature way to throw.

sharron frog toss 1

Teaching Cues for Learning to Throw:

  1. “Look at the target.” (the frog’s mouth)
  2. “Bring the beanbag to your ear before you throw.”
  3. “Start with this foot in front.” (referring to the foot opposite the throwing arm)
  4. “Step, turn your belly button, throw.”

Teaching Suggestions:

  • Demonstrate the activity for the children.
  • Use hoops on the floor to designate where children are to stand when engaged in the activities.
  • To increase interest, choose other items for the child to toss into the frog’s mouth, such as: foam balls, soft blocks, plush play food, etc.

sharron frog toss 2

Objectives/Learning Outcomes:

Playing and participating in the activities and with the equipment promotes and develops…

  1. Throwing – a  basic movement pattern that propels an object away from the body.
  2. Tossing – to throw with a quick or light motion.
  3. Underhand throw or toss – made with the hand brought forward and up from below the shoulder level.
  4. Overhand throw or toss – made with the hand brought forward and down from above shoulder level.
  5. Gross motor development – movement of the large muscles of the arms, legs and trunk.
  6. Manipulative skills – gross motor skills in which an object (bean bag) is usually involved (manipulated).  These include throwing and catching.
  7. Fine motor development – movement of the small muscles of the fingers, toes and eyes.
  8. Eye-hand coordination – eyes and hands working together smoothly to meet a challenge.
  9. Color recognition – identifying the difference between colors of the dragonflies.

10. Counting – how many dragonflies did you feed the frog?

11. Cooperation – learning to take turns and play together

12. Listening skills – ability to follow verbal directions

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Wooden Frog Toss Board, with six dragonfly beanbags (FROGTOSS)
Classroom Activity Baskets – set of 6 (CATCHY)
4″ Foam Balls, set of 6 (FOAMBS)
Soft Velour Blocks, set of 24 (VLRBLK)
Yummy Plush Play Food, 25 pieces (YUMMY)
Fruit and Vegetable Sorting Set, 20 pieces (FRUVEG)