Keeping fit and healthy in 2021-Part 2: Children’s physical health.
Written by Sheila O’Reilly
In my previous blog, I explored a variety of ways to look after our children’s mental health. Of course their physical health also needs our attention, particularly at the moment during lockdown. Even prior to this lockdown, my little girl hadn’t returned to swimming, tennis or dance lessons as most activities weren’t happening or I was too anxious to send her. So I’ve been trying to ‘think outside the box’ to be more creative in getting my girls moving every day.
We get outdoors for a spell every day unless it’s really pouring down! We all need the fresh air for our mental health, as well as our physical health. To make walks more entertaining, I will usually have a focus for their attention such as a scavenger hunt, looking for nature clues, a colour hunt, bird spotting etc. They are much more enthusiastic when there’s a challenge involved (and will walk a lot further too!!)
I also incorporate games into our outdoor time. For example, ‘What’s the time Mr. Wolf’ is a current favourite. We also play the ‘traffic light’ game, ‘Tall as a house’ and ‘Simon Says’. All very simple games but they absolutely love them😍.
They enjoy taking their toys outside for play including balls, skipping ropes and scooters/bicycles. The number bean bags are brilliant for outdoor play too. I use them for balancing races (balance on their head or on a slotted turner), throwing and catching, number games such as calling a number to see who will find the correct bean bag first. For big sis, I might call out a number sentence and she has to find the correct bean bag answer etc. I’ve written a blog about lots of ways to use the number bean bags (check out my Outdoor Maths blog😀).
On rainy days, I’ve used yoga and exercise videos online and I’ve also set up simple circuits in our kitchen- jumping, star jumps, bunny hops, running on the spot and so on. My girls also really love music and we often have dance parties!! Really good fun and great exercise too😍.
To add a physical element to home learning activities, I have read stories with rhyming words and every time they hear a word that rhymes with another word I’ve selected, they have to do two start jumps/hop five times etc. Great for listening skills, as well as developing phonological awareness. Similarly with number activities, we play games like number tennis, where they take turns to say a number in a counting sequence and every time they reach a particular number they must hop/jump/ run/clap etc. I also play counting games where they throw a bean bag to each other while counting forwards/backwards/ in ones/twos/fives/tens etc.
Mindfulness activities are very important too, where they are physically moving (albeit gently) and also have an awareness of their breathing. One of their favourites is ‘Rainbow breathing’. They must reach down to their toes and then stretch up high and use their arms to ‘paint’ each coloured arc of the rainbow. As they reach down and stretch up, they take a big breath in and then exhale as they stretch their arms out to either side to make the rainbow arc shape. This activity really calms both girls and they love the stretching element.
For children doing homeschool activities, brain breaks are so important. When I am teaching in school, I regularly implement brain breaks and have found children to be more focused, less prone to daydreaming and therefore in a better mental space to work or complete and finish activities.
Some fun activities include:
* 54321! Where the children do a set of exercises in descending order. For example, 5 jumping jacks, 4 bunny hops, 3 clap hands, 2 sit ups and 1 forward roll. It’s fun to let your children come up with exercise ideas to include too. They are always more enthusiastic when they feel like it’s their own idea😍.
* Find it fast: Use objects around you in the room. Call out clues and whoever is last to reach an object is eliminated each time.
* Animal pretend: My youngest loves this activity, where I call out lots of animals and they have to pretend to be the last animal that I name. We’ve also played where one child pretends to be a particular animal and the other has to guess what animal she is.
* Exercise lucky dip: We made a list of fun exercises and put them in a jar. Every so often, they take turns to have a lucky dip. Whichever exercise they pull out of the jar, they must do for 30 seconds (we started with 10 seconds and I’ve been extending the length of time as they get better at some of the moves!)
It is so important to get our little people moving every day and I am lucky that I can draw on my experiences as a teacher to give me ideas for activities. There are also plenty of websites and apps packed with ideas for keeping children active during lockdown.
I hope you find some ideas from my blog to try out with your children at home. If you do, don’t forget to tag @thewoodenplayden and use #wpdplayideas or #wpdhomelearning . And if you want to tag me, I’d love to see what you get up to😍😍. Good luck and have fun! Sheila x