No matter what generation you identify with, if you watched TV while you were growing up, you probably had a pretty cool fitness icon to look up to. Whether it was Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 70s, Jane Fonda in the 80s, or Richard Simmons in the 90s, there’s always been someone who made fitness look easy and fun. Nowadays, fitness gurus are around every corner with reels, Instagram stories, TikToks, and YouTube videos. With so many different ways to find exercise resources, it can feel like your program has to stand out just to keep up! What can your afterschool program do to help keep kids engaged and active, while instilling a life-long love of fitness that doesn’t get lost in the shuffle? Easy! Make it fun, educational, and meaningful.
Here are some quick tips that will help your kids learn to love physical activity for years to come while mixing in fun, making it meaningful, and adding in a little education on top!
1. Play. Remember, kids are kids. All day long they’ve been cooped up in their classrooms, hard at work on assigned lessons and projects. Your afterschool program is the place where they can finally exhale, relax, and have fun! When they know the pressure’s off to perform, they can relax and choose to have fun at an enjoyable pace!
2. Teach them something new about their bodies. For instance, if kids learn simple body clues, like how aerobic activity can help build a healthy heart or how eating certain foods, like carrots, helps other body parts function better, they can not only learn something new about the body they have, but they can carry that home to their families to help their families build healthier bodies alongside them.
3. Get creative. Change the scenery, order of exercise, or even topic. Creativity prevents boredom, and mixing it up a little bit keeps your program fresh. If you have the opportunity to go outside on nice days, add that in! If you don’t, find other ways to incorporate that creative touch, from inviting different kids to be the leader-of-the-day, to rewarding hard work with acknowledgement and affirmations.
4. Make it a competition… with a twist. Kids love competition, but instead of making it about who can run the fastest, or do the most push-ups (which can favor kids with natural abilities,) why not engage their youthful imaginations and propose who can do the silliest jump rope moves, or the weirdest basketball toss? Giving kids permission to be kids gives them freedom to have fun, and adding that competitive touch helps make sure kids aren’t just goofing off as they stay on track to achieve fitness goals!
5. Add music. Whether it’s at the end of the day for good behavior, or all afternoon long, what kid doesn’t love dancing along to cool tunes? We’ve all heard of that one teacher who played music in their classroom that the kids remember decades later, right? Your afterschool program can create those same special memories with an inexpensive portable speaker and a few iconic classics mixed into a kid-friendly playlist.
6. Offer a regular curriculum. As much as spontaneity is fun, having no structure at all can be chaotic for kids. Skillastics® offers multiple afterschool programs that are easy to implement with little to no learning curve for instructors. Our programming–including Digital Specialty Programming, Skillastics Activity Kit Digital Curriculum, or even Family Engagement Resources–helps physical activity instructors take the guesswork out of which activity they should do that day. With beautifully designed plans and ready-to-go curriculum, physical activity leaders who use our programs spend less time learning how to get started and more time on activities!
7. Love fitness. Sounds simple, right? Or is it easy being an Afterschool program director who also loves physical activity teaching kids how to love fitness? It is simple, but one of the best ways you can help kids learn to love fitness is to lead by example. When you share the joy you have of moving, staying physically active, and finding fun ways to incorporate activity in everyday movement, it helps create the mindset that fitness is a lifelong journey, and not just for kids.
8. Last but not least, be that positive force, supporting and encouraging students. Irrespective of what’s on students’ minds while doing after school physical activity, knowing you are on their side transforms your program from just a place to stay until they go home, to a place where someone cares.
These tips sound simple, but they can make a lifetime of difference in the life of a child. Whether you try one or all, they can help your program become more fun, educational, and meaningful as your kids learn to love physical activity, one day at a time.
P.S. Don’t forget about our 20th Anniversary celebration and giveaway, where you can win one of our amazing AfterSchool Program Activities! To enter our quarterly giveaway and see the full contest rules, click here.