Happy, Successful Kids Are Active Kids
Preston Blackburn is a certified health coach, group fitness instructor, youth fitness specialist, and the mother of two twenty-something daughters who are currently taking on the world. For two decades, her company Pop, Hop & Rock™ has been designing and delivering youth play programs in Richmond, Virginia to rave reviews and big smiles, annually spending thousands of hours with preschool- and elementary-aged students sharing her lesson plans and purposeful play curriculum. In addition, she inspires hundreds of teachers and administrators each year to get their kids active for improved learning and behavior. Preston knew having fun in big physical play leads to happier kids and better grades, so she launched her second company, Pivot to Play™, to help schools anywhere get kids active so they can thrive socially, emotionally, behaviorally, and cognitively.
- Get Creative
- Ride Bikes
- Game Play
- Get Dirty
- Climb Trees
- Help Around the House
- Multi-Age Play
Did you know?
- 44% of school administrators reported a reduction or elimination of recess in exchange for more class time.
- Children spend 35% less time in outdoor independent play than their parents did as children.
For many adults, memories of childhood are dominated by long, active after-school hours playing outdoors, building forts, riding bikes, and games like Kick the Can. Today, children’s lives are far more sedentary - during school and after - and it is taking a monstrous toll not just on their health and fitness but on their ability to perform academically.
It is easy to see the link between sedentary behavior and loss in physical fitness and health. But what is the link between the loss in physical fitness and learning? There is a direct link between physical movement of the body and the development of the brain.
Movement is the foundation for all types of development: academics, communication skills, social and emotional skills. Fundamentally, movement lays down the neural wiring necessary for self-regulation and learning, the keys to success in school, in friendships, and in family relationships. Increased movement can have a dramatic ripple effect on the health and well-being of your child.
Studies consistently show an increase in school performance with an increase in movement. While an increase in recess time may take away from instructional time, teachers have seen the benefit with less fidgeting, less tattling in their classrooms resulting in improved overall academics.
All of this means, getting kids active leads directly to improved learning and happier children because their bodies are feeding their brains the information needed to operate in the world.
What happens when children do not get the chance to move, missing out on these fundamental steps in development? They will move anyway, whether it is at circle time or desk time at school, in the car or at the dinner table at home. That fidgeting looks like poor behavior, but it is really the manifestation of too much sitting and not enough movement. Children will seek the movement they need and when we fail to provide the time and space for that need, they will seek to satisfy it in other, less productive, ways.
Development and moving go hand in hand. When we make time for physical movement, children build a strong neural foundation on which to build success in the classroom, with friends, and at home.
Here are some fun active ways to play to help kids build their bodies and their brains:
- Exercise: Do squats, wall push-ups or jumping jacks while waiting for everyone to be ready to walk out the door in the morning to help kids get moving at the start of the day.
- Get Creative: Provide watered-down washable paint and big paint brushes to paint the back of the shed, the swings, or the back fence. (Add a little dish soap for easy clean up.)
- Ride Bikes: Take a family bike ride around the neighborhood after dinner. Kids will have more fun and be more engaged when they participate with the people they love and respect.
- Game Play: Teach elementary-aged kids classic games and invite their friends over for a big-body game night. Try classics like Kick the Can, Capture the Flag, Grab the Bacon, or Marco Polo. Even older preschoolers can keep up in these games when the big kids teach them the rules.
- Get Dirty: Dirt is fun and getting dirty feels like it is breaking the rules making it more fun. Dirt and mud are very sensory, feeding young brains vital information about their world. Weather-permitting, playing with dirt outside makes the clean-up easier.
- Climb Trees: Climbing a tree (safely) allows a child to take appropriate risk. It builds physical strength and hones balance, but it also builds a confidence that is internalized and applied elsewhere, like friendship development and classwork.
- Household Help: Turn laundry time into a game of basketball! Toss laundry into the laundry basket, supporting an understanding of space and direction.
- Multi-Age Play: Older kids learn empathy and leadership while younger kids learn respect and self-sufficiency.
Any time is a great time to start incorporating more physical activity into your child’s day, and once you see the benefits, you’ll want to continue all year round!