Physical Activity for Children with Special Needs

childrunningwadult

A child with special needs is one who requires some form of special care due to physical, mental, emotional or health reasons. Children with special needs are also commonly referred to as children with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a child with a disability more specifically as one who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits the child’s ability to care for herself or himself, perform manual tasks, or engage in any other “major life activity,” such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, or learning, in an age-appropriate manner.

Children with disabilities are more similar than different from other children.  Avoid becoming too focused on a child’s disability.  Treat each child as a whole person.  Every child needs to feel successful and capable. Children with Aspergers, autism or attention deficit hyperactive disorder often have the uncontrollable need to move and physical activity can help them learn to do so appropriately.  Most young children need to and want to move frequently and all children benefit while promoting physical fitness (muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility), developing motor skills  (run, jump, hop, walk, gallop, skip, throw, catch, kick, bounce, strike, stretch, bend, twist, turn, balance), improving coordination, and building self-confidence.  The ways you include a child with physical differences or impairments will benefit all the children in your care.  Here are some strategies for inclusion.

  • Modify the environment
  • Modify the task for the individual
  • Use safe, soft objects
  • Simplify instructions
  • Give visual, oral, and kinesthetic cues
  • Provide plenty of repetition
  • Have role models
  • Use communication systems
  • Eliminate elimination games
  • Minimize waiting time

The primary reason that children participate in active play is to have fun, and the key reason they quit is a lack of fun.  With that being said, here is an activity that everyone can get in on the fun!

 Constructors & Destroyers

What:

20-30 Colored Cones
Portable iPod/CD Player
Music Suggestions: Taking Care of Business by Randy Bachman, Barefootin’ by Jimmy Buffett, Footloose by Kenny Loggins

Where:

Outdoor space (grass area or playground, etc.) or large indoor space (gym, multi-purpose room, etc.)

Who:

Children who want to move and play!

How:

  1. Set up the cones randomly spaced about 4-6 feet from each other.
  2. Knock over about one-third of those cones.  Space out those that are upright and those that are on their side.
  3. Organize the children into two groups.  One group is designated as the Constructors and the other group is designated as the Destroyers.  It is better to have a few more Constructors than Destroyers!
  4. The Constructors “job” is to stand up all the cones that were knocked over.
  5. The Destroyers “job” is to GENTLY tip over the cones that are standing up.  Make sure to remind the children to be gentle and only use the palms of their hands to touch the cones.  No kicking or throwing of the cones is allowed.
  6. The game begins (players move through the space doing their job) when the music starts and ends when the music stops.
  7. When the music stops, begin the game again but this time let the Constructors be Destroyers and Destroyers become the Constructors.

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Colored Cones – set of 10 (SETC – $16.99)
Hamilton® AM/FM, CD and MP3 Player (BEATBOX – $158.99)

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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)

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.”

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Colorations® Super Washable Chubby Markers, set of 200 (CHBST)
Colorations® Extra Large Crayons, set of 200 (CRXLG)

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)