Months ago, the entire nation started making adjustments to everyday life to accommodate the newly arising challenges caused by the coronavirus. Unfortunately, this means that thousands of schools and after school programs shut their doors to keep teachers, students, and families safe from potential illness.
After school programs are an essential resource for many American families and, sometimes, are the only place where a child can spend time playing and staying physically active. Despite the dark outlook, many programs are finding new ways to move after school activities online so participants can still reap the benefits of regular exercise.
How After School Programs Can Help Inspire Healthy Children
There are endless amounts of well-documented reasons why young people need physical activity to lead a healthy life. After school programs that provide fun physical fitness resources and nutritious snack options are instrumental in improving children’s overall well-being. After school programs that prioritize physical activities enable participants to improve several skills and healthy attributes, including:
- Social and emotional skills
- Communication skills
- Motor skills
- Hand-eye coordination
- Eating habits
After school programs provide students with all the necessary tools to take care of their minds and bodies as they grow. Instilling a lifelong love and appreciation for physical activity enables children to prosper well into the future.
Finding New Passions
In-person after school activities are an excellent way to help children expand on existing skills and find enjoyment in exercise. Kids have the opportunity to try new sports, games, and activities during after school programs, potentially finding a new passion. Programs can implement activities that focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects, second languages, and nutrition, helping children form healthy habits and strong interests for the future.
Educational and Emotional Improvements
Additionally, time spent with other children teaches kids how to communicate and collaborate effectively. These benefits are often reflected in improved schoolwork, grades, and test scores. There’s also a strong correlation between physical activity and better mental health. This is an incredibly important factor in fitness since depression and anxiety are so prevalent in younger populations.
Staying Active In the Age of Technology
It’s crucial for children to stay active as the issues of 2020 continue to advance. Since schools are primarily providing online or hybrid learning environments, children take in an extended amount of screen time. Too much time spent in front of the television, tablet, computer, or other devices can cause behavioral problems, sleep deprivation, attention issues, and other physical health concerns. For this reason, it’s essential that after school programs offer opportunities for participants to perform physical activities away from the screen too.
Demand for engaging after school activities is still high, with over 10 million American youths participating in after school programs annually. Educators can instill a passion for physical fitness and healthy living in students who spend extensive amounts of time at after school activities. Although the current coronavirus situation creates a lot of uncertainty for after school programs, there are still an array of unique virtual resources available to keep kids active.
Keeping Kids Active Amidst Covid
In 2020, programs are confronting the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. Closures of in-person programs are forcing after-school educators to find unique and engaging ways to keep kids healthy and moving while they’re stuck at home. In states where local regulations are more relaxed, programs can create a hybrid curriculum, with half in-person and half online activities. With all the developing insight into the coronavirus’s dangers, after school programs have to shift gears swiftly to online activities so kids can still safely socialize and stay active amidst these unpredictable times.
Setting aside dedicated time for physical activity in an after school program agenda encourages children and young teenagers to incorporate healthy habits into their lives long-term. Kids are constantly growing, and their musculoskeletal systems crave fully-engaged body movements that expend energy. The daily recommendation for children’s physical activity is sixty minutes of moderate to vigorous movement. Even if your in-person after school program is still shut down, it’s easy to encourage physical activity with online tools.
Online Resources for After School Programs
Finding the time, space, and resources for at-home fitness activities can seem complicated during a pandemic. Luckily, there are extensive resources available to educators to implement in online or hybrid after school programs. After school programs can provide opportunities for physical activity, even online. Educators or program coordinators can shop for virtual learning programs that make exercising fun and easy to do at home. There are a variety of activities to choose from that make kids want to get up and move. Consider implementing any of the following virtual physical activity programs to show participants just how exciting exercise can actually be:
- Martial arts
- Cup stacking
- STEM and sports programs
With the ever-evolving nature of new technologies, it’s easy for educators to use online resources to promote an active lifestyle. Understanding and adjusting to online programming can seem daunting. But don’t worry; there are tons of after school training programs to teach you how to use online physical activity resources the right way.
Physical activity after school can include a wide variety of enjoyable activities, from games or sports to online exercise programs. Encouraging after school program participants to stay active amidst the pandemic can improve their emotional and physical well-being while identifying new, exciting interests. As coronavirus continues to keep most after school programs closed, educators must find ways to keep kids engaged and healthy without succumbing to the adverse effects of too much screentime. Coordinators can contact a physical activity training resource to find innovative solutions to some of the most pressing problems posed by the pandemic.
About the Author
Sandy Slade is the CEO & Founder of Skillastics®, the #1 on-site and virtual physical activity resource for groups of children of all sizes. The on-site programs are designed around Skillatsics Activity Kits. These Activity kits include an innovative technique of play, executed on an oversize mat, where up to 100 children can play at one time.
The virtual programs provide students with an amazing variety of physical activity experiences that consist of 30 days of content lasting 30-40 minutes a day taught by national experts.
Skillastics® is enjoyed by over 10 million students in more than 25,000 Physical Education and After School settings nationwide.