All posts by Sandy Slade

Guide to a Healthy and Active Student

Students today experience unparalleled pressure compared to previous generations. The stakes are higher for education and college entrances, a college degree likely won’t be enough preparation for a career, and technology has increased speed and decreased privacy which can be for good but also the bad.

Kids today are under a microscope, held to high standards, and not only expected to outperform their peers but also their past performance. Even kindergarten, when school is supposed to be sweet and fun, has picked up its game. Now, full-day kindergarten combined with much more stringent standards for math, writing, and reading has created a new, more challenging experience.

It all trickles down from the competition for jobs experienced at the end of their academic careers, but that means kids these days push up-hill against academic and life pressures from the very start of school until the finish. It’s hard and arduous, and kids need help. How can we keep students healthy and active so that they succeed in life?

Establish Positive Coping Mechanism

Coping skills for stress are crucial for a successful academic career, but too many children fall into using unhealthy methods. From overeating convenience foods and processed snacks to absorbing themselves in sedentary worlds of too much screen time, kids have options to soothe away the stress that are easy, but often unhealthy.

Children need to recognize the connection between their success and their health. When we choose to exert ourselves and exercise, we create added benefits beyond just weight loss. People who move are more likely to cope with stress better. They will feel stronger because realistically, they are stronger at the biological level, and that will impact their brain. There is a highly identifiable connection between an active lifestyle and improved cognition.

Create The Opportunity To Move

For this generation of children who experience more confined and structured play, they may need to seek out an activity. They may not gravitate to sports or exercise on their own, so it’s best to build in movement and activity within their lifestyle.

For these children, they will benefit from learning skills and ways to be active that they can apply throughout their lives. Instead of choosing a sport to master, children today can learn the fundamental skills required to be active. By breaking down sports into skills, we can provide opportunities to gain the foundation for movement that equip this generation to find and participate in activities throughout life.

Offer Fun And Engaging Options

When kids enjoy themselves while being active, they are more likely to return to the same activity or springboard to another one. The feeling of accomplishment from participating will motivate and inspire more of the same behavior. As they grow, this sense of enjoyment and accomplishment from exercising will grow, too, so it’s essential to instill the joy of exercise as early as possible rather than coerce kids to move.

No one wants to feel forced into exercise or activity. If kids do feel this way, then they usually abandon the project or task as soon as they feel frustrated or unmotivated. The best way to engage children in an activity is to make it fun so that they feel enjoyment. The overarching goal is to promote a healthy lifestyle that inspires children to seek out exercise and movement. Making the development of skills into a fun experience ultimately helps foster the established goal.

Focus Attention Away From Screens

You can get your students to fall in love with the idea and actuality of activity. It requires adults who inspire, motivate, and demonstrate a passion for exercise in such a way that kids see the movement as fun, not fearsome. Children are afraid to fail, and too many children who fear failure will avoid anything that feels too risky. When we break down barriers and create safe places to explore movement, then children will respond.

It’s tough today to break kids out of their comfort zones, primarily the screens that occupy them. Screen time offers safety; when they’re watching television or playing a video game, no one witnesses any failures. We are tasked with convincing these children to learn new skills and take risks in ways that rival the security of a screen.

Adults must provide a level playing field, accessible games, cooperative environments, and consistent reassurance. Having this responsibility can feel like a tall task and may be overwhelming. What can compete against the screens?

Providing programs that exist to build skills using play can break the dependence on screens and create healthy and active students. From the youngest to the oldest child, all children enjoy playing. When you layer in skill development with just enough challenge to keep kids’ interest without intimidating them and provide a supportive environment in which to enjoy movement, then kids finally have a reason to put down their screens.

Tips And Tricks To Make Exercise Fun For Kids

There is nothing like the feelings of elation and accomplishment after exercising, but too many people never get there because they never get started in the first place. If exercising is daunting, then often, it gets avoided.

When kids fall into this category and avoid exercise, then you may need to break through resistance and find ways to overcome obstacles. How do you reach these kids so that they experience the joy and benefits of exercise?

Make it fun.

If You Build It, They Will Come

Made famous by a movie, this line is nevertheless true. Build a fun exercise program, and children will participate. Exercise can be hard for kids, from learning new moves to feeling sore muscles, and children may be difficult to convince that this discomfort is worth it.

Rather than try to prove otherwise, show them another way to view exercise. Instead of pushing kids to get active, put together programs with cooperative games in a supportive environment led by an enthusiastic and positive adult role model.

Make it fun, and kids will come.

Making Exercise Fun

Kids love to have fun, and it’s part of the joy of being children. So, you want to find ways to make exercise fun to engage them and break down any barriers to exercise.


  1. Be Fun. Most children will respond in kind to an adult, so be conscious of the tone you set. Develop a persona that is approachable, non-judgmental, and lighthearted. Consider your tone of voice when you explain rules or must provide redirection and shoot for one that is upbeat and high-energy. Demonstrate enjoyment for the activity with your body language and facial expressions.
  2. Have Fun. Role model enthusiasm for exercise. The children are watching you explain and lead the exercise, so let them see you having fun with it. Enthusiasm is contagious, and your ability to be playful, laugh, and love what you’re doing will show through and inspire them.
  3. Be Empathetic. Like anyone, children respond better to empathy, particularly when it comes to feeling uncomfortable. Worse, they may compare themselves to your ability level and feel ashamed. Break down any barriers to exercise by letting all participants know that you understand their personal goals differ and that you don’t expect perfection from the start. You can also level the playing field by acknowledging that anything is hard at first when it’s new, but as time goes on, things can get easier. Too often, the struggle to breathe and feel muscle strain prohibits people from pursuing exercise, and they give up before the benefits arrive. Reassure children that result come slowly and not overnight.
  4. Provide Motivation. Because results from exercise are slow to appear, it will take constant reminders that the current work will pay off in the future. Children are so invested in the present that it’s hard for them to see long-term or understand a future outcome. Keep their eyes on the prize with regular reminders that they are working towards a goal and show them their progress as often as possible.
  5. Celebrate Small. Keep your eyes open for the small victories and inflate them with praise. If you spot improvement, even in the tiniest way during the activity, take a minute to consult with the child and share your observation. Be cautious that while some children will love the attention of public praise, others are more sensitive and require quieter recognition.
  6. Create Games. Most kids like a challenge and nothing inspires a young child more than the invitation to race! So, play on their youthful exuberance and build in small challenges. Find ways to incorporate exercise into fun games. Avoid games that penalize like individually timed events or breaking into opposing teams, but think more cooperative activities like working together to pass the ball across the gym, relay races as a group to beat a pre-set time, or letting each kid take the lead and rotate until all have had a chance to be a group captain throughout a game.
  7. Set Expectations. It may seem basic, but when you tell the kids your expectations, then you can rule out any negative behaviors with a simple reminder of the rules. Early, tell the group that no one gets left out, everyone participates, and all of them must be supportive. Encourage positive comments to one another, reward team behavior, and spotlight leadership when you see it. Set an environment that is positive, and kids will feel safe and try new activities.

Encourage Yourself, Too

Be aware that there is no magic key; nothing works every time on every kid! Stay flexible and reflective, learning from each experience, and tweaking your plans if necessary.

Remember, the real key is to keep trying.

Getting Your Students to Fall in Love with Physical Activity

Love is in the air! Valentine’s Day celebrates love, and it doesn’t always have to be romantic. Love boils down to a passion for something (or someone!), and so we can celebrate the holiday by sharing the love for physical activity with students.

When you feel passionate about something, it shows. Your enthusiasm, energy, and enjoyment are palpable, visible as the expression on your face, gestures with your hands, and sound of your voice. When you talk about something you love, the feelings bubble up and over into everything you do or say.

Falling in Love with Physical Activity

There are ways to transfer your passion for physical activity to others so that they can experience the same enthusiasm and joy. Here are a few ways to helps students fall in love with physical activity:

1. Exude Positive Energy. Invite the students in with positive energy. Show them your feelings with exuberant talking, exciting demonstrations, and fond memories about your own participation.

2. Provide Easy Wins. Give students a chance to succeed. Break down the activity into smaller roles and make it fun.

3. Offer Encouragement and Support. Acknowledge when it’s hard and recognize efforts when they try.

Role Model Passion for Physical Activity

High levels of excitement are contagious, and students will be influenced by your attitude. When you talk with enthusiasm and demonstrate with zest, you transfer your excitement to the students. Let them see your passion for the activity and look through your eyes at the joy of participating in it.

When students see your love for physical activity, they experience an example of the way they could feel, too. You are a role model showing them the ways physical activity can make them feel. So be excited, talk passionately, share your joy, and be thrilled when you take part in the activity. They will follow suit.

We are showing the love this month by offering a 10% discount on all Skillastics® products you order ONLINE. Use CODE: lv2020 at checkout.

Social and Emotional Learning Through Physical Activity

Social and emotional learning (SEL) enhances students’ capacity to integrate skills, attitudes, and behaviors to deal effectively and ethically with daily tasks and challenges. A physical active environment is the ideal place to enhance these skills. Whether achieving a personal best in the mile run, competing on a successful team, or dropping a catch during a key play – these are all situations where social emotional learning come in to play.

There are five core competencies that can be taught in many ways across many settings;

  1. Self Awareness
  2. Self-Management
  3. Social Awareness
  4. Relationship Skills
  5. Responsible Decision-Making

Physical Education or a physically active environment allow perfect “teachable moments” in all five.  Below we’ve outlined how participating in Skillastics® create experiences that help enhance proficiency in these core areas.


The ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior.  The ability to accurately assess one’s strengths and limitations, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism and a mindset of growth.

  • Identifying emotions
  • Healthy self-perception
  • Recognizing strengths
  • Self-confidence
  • Self-efficacy

Skillastics® is a resource of team activities. The success of Skillastics, is dependent on each  participants behaviors.  Personal and social responsibility is crucial.  How one interprets and expresses information about an activity, how one encourages his/her teammates, and how one demonstrates his/her  level of involvement,  all factor into recognizing and assessing individual emotional involvement. Skillastics® allows children of all ages and skill levels equal chance of participating and working on a level playing field.  Skillastics® allows each participant to lead and succeed, raising the level of self-confidence and self-efficacy. 



The ability to successfully regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations – effectively managing stress, controlling impulses, and motivating oneself.  The ability to set and work toward personal and academic goals.

  • Impulse control
  • Stress management
  • Self-discipline
  • Self-motivation
  • Goal-setting
  • Organizational skills

Skillastics® offers both a competitive and non-competitive option.  The competitive option challenges participants to play at a higher intensity (MVPA) while encouraging teamwork, fair play and responsibility. Skillastics® is self-directed, and provides instructors the freedom to assess participants individually or within a small group setting.  Skillastics® creates a positive environment that invites both, participant self-reflection and self-evaluation, which enhances  personal and social responsibility.



The ability to take the perspective of, and empathize with others, from diverse ethnicities and cultures.  The ability to understand social and ethical norms for behavior and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.

  • Differentiated
  • Empathy
  • Appreciation for diversity
  • Respect for others

Skillastics® is an all-inclusive activity for all ages and abilities.  Children are grouped into 6 teams of varied abilities and cultures.  In order for teams to advance, each team member takes a turn being the leader.  Skillastics offers diverse, academically integrated questions and activities to engage individual cultures, ages and abilities. Skillastics diversity depends on individual strengths and differences to create a strong and successful team.  



The ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups.  The ability to communicate clearly, listen well, cooperate with others, resist inappropriate social pressure, negotiate conflict constructively, and seek and offer help when needed.

  • Communication
  • Social engagement
  • Relationship-building
  • Teamwork

Skillastics® is a team activity. Skillastics’ teams work collectively to complete the desired repetitions required under the direction of a team leader.  Each team member participates in the role of the leader.  As a team mate, effective communication, listening and comprehension skills are required to advance around the mat.  Positive relationships are built as each team succeeds.



The ability to make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on ethical standards, safety concerns, and social norms.  The realistic evaluation of consequences of various actions, and the consideration of one’s self and others well-being.

  • Identifying problems
  • Analyzing situations
  • Solving problems
  • Evaluating
  • Reflecting
  • Ethical responsibility

Skillastics® rules are simple and easy to follow, Skillastics® rules are paramount to the success of the activity.  Overall performance is enhanced when Skillastics®® rules are followed.  Skillastics® provides it’s instructors with behavior modification differentiation. Skillastics® provides opportunities for large group management behavior redirection allowing more time on task. Skillastics® provides a positive cooperative learning environment that integrates academics from STEM, nutrition, fitness, problem solving, and more.   

Character is Cool Skillastics provides the perfect balance between physical activity and SEL. Each of the 26 activities are associated with a character trait and are based on teamwork and leadership activities.  CLICK HERE to learn more.


How Group Exercise Benefits Students (Secrets to Success)

Exercise takes many forms, but for students, the best option is a group exercise. There is no argument against solo activities and lone forms of exercise, like weightlifting or exercise machines, for contributing to health, but they lack an important ingredient for youths: external motivation and affirmation.

For students, there are often internal struggles to feel validated or good about themselves. Any activity that gives them more self-respect is a huge plus. When students participate in group exercise, they gain more of the building blocks for self-esteem. 

Classes or teams in which students exercise together create significant benefits for students’ social, emotional, and physical needs. The group exercise is more likely to push them further than they would imagine possible, allow them to feel a greater sense of purpose, and further develop their potential.

Why Group Exercise 

Watching another person accomplish the same activity that you’re doing is motivating if you fall behind or affirming if you are keeping up. Exercising in a group provides instant feedback that keeps you engaged and focused.

When a group of people exercises together, it forms a community in which each individual shares the same goal: to achieve the activity. How and the ways in which each accomplishes the goal varies, but those variations are the important aspects of group exercise because they set examples others can learn from.

Effects Of Group Exercise

Exercising in a group helps students believe more in themselves and their abilities. The following are just a few of the key ways that group exercise strengthens self-respect:

A Competitive Edge

Competition gets our blood flowing, meaning we push ourselves harder when we compete. There’s an inherent desire to win driving us during a competition, and it causes us to rev up mentally and amp up physically; we rise to the challenge.

When students exercise in a group, they tap into this inner drive that makes them want to best an opponent. They see a peer excel, and they want that for themselves. There is an inner push to strive harder when they compare their progress to another’s.  

This competitive edge can be healthy when initiated properly. Students work harder because they want to test themselves, push past their boundaries, and achieve more based on a comparison of ability. In a group, students see each other’s skills, understand the possibilities, and strive for this higher benchmark. They put more faith in themselves and their ability.

Source Of Inspiration

There is nothing more contagious than a mood, good or bad. People can spread feelings faster than the flu, and in a group setting, students can benefit from the positive influences of others who feel good during the activity. Just as one bad apple can spoil it for the bunch, the opposite is true; one inspiring, enthusiastic participant can raise the moods of others and bring everyone’s spirits up.

When we reach a low point in our physical ability, whether we’re out of breath or feeling the strain from pushing ourselves, it’s so tempting to let go and give up. However, seeing another’s energy and high-level enthusiasm can inspire us to keep going. Their energy resonates within us, and we feel just as pumped as they do, allowing us to revive and push through.

Students who work together in a group can help one another with flagging spirits or low-energy moments, sharing a communal feeling of achievement so that there is reason to keep going when they are tempted to quit. They develop their potential and learn to believe in themselves.

Sense Of Belonging

In a group physical activity, students learn to work together and negotiate their space, giving them a better understanding of themselves within a bigger picture. Participating in physical activity bonds the participants through shared efforts and a mutual goal. They are in this together!

That feeling of a community against the odds or toward an achievement creates a real sense of purpose and belonging. For students, working in groups gives them a sense of place and membership, key ingredients for self-esteem building. 

The more students feel like they belong to the group, the more they invest and work to stay with the group. They will participate better, care more, and work harder when they feel that the group matters to them—and that they matter to the group. They discover their worth and value themselves.

Benefits Of Group Exercise

Students who exercise in a group are more likely to feel better about themselves and stick with the activity. When they participate with others in an activity, there is a greater sense of accountability to the group and themselves. This accountability is a key building block for self-respect because it helps students appreciate themselves in relation to the group and care about themselves and others.

5 Reasons Why Skillastics® Will Make Your Program Great


Can you imagine your job getting easier, and more productive?  What if you could maximize participation without wasting the limited time you have?  Wouldn’t it be great to have a resource at your disposal guaranteeing a glowing administrative review?

With Skillastics® you can.

The Skillastics® Activity Kit System is a powerful resource that will transform your program. Not Convinced? Following are 5 key reasons why Skillastics® will undeniably make your program great.

1) Increase Academic Learning
A requirement you are constantly hearing from your administration. Skillastics® bridges the gap between physical activity and academics by seamlessly incorporating vocabulary, literacy, math and STEM learning. Skillastics® is an innovative way of including more academic integration.

2) Connecting with Classroom Teachers
What makes Skillastics® stand out beyond any other physical activity resource is its ability to connect directly with classroom teachers through the Skillastics® Custom Question Card Templates for nutrition, STEM and math. Simply share these templates with classroom teachers and ask them to create questions that are relevant to the lessons that they are currently teaching. You would then take these questions and add them to your program while your students are playing Skillastics®. Instant connection!

3) Organized Chaos
The best large group resource available! You will not find a better large group resource out there. Period. Any instructor that is using Skillastics® properly will tell you that the Skillastics® Activity Kit System exceeds their expectations and reinforces all the reasons why they decided to add Skillastics® to their program.

4) Steller Assessment
It is crucial to assess students to make sure they are really learning. If you, your students, parents, and administration truly want to see fitness progression in your class, the Skillastics® Activity Kit System is the most effective resource to measure movement in a variety of ways.

Fully Engaged
Students are full engaged, which frees you up to conduct formative assessment,    measuring all students progress and mastery of skill without interruption.

Effective Feedback
With students fully engaged, Skillastics® provides a more relaxed atmosphere for feedback and individual instruction when needed.

Summative Assessment with Technology
Skillastics® is the most effective resource to measure student outcomes using heart rate monitors or other technology based devices.

5) The Skillastics® Activity Kit System Saves Time
Do you see your student’s once a week? Twice a week if you’re lucky? How many times do you see a new lesson activity that looks like fun, but takes much too long to set up? The innovative Skillastics® technique takes less than a minute to set up and allows for maximum participation while increasing fitness levels.

Introducing the Skillastics® Activity Kit System into your program will exceed your expectations and fulfill all your objectives. Visit or email us at to transform your program today.

Basketball Tips and Ideas – Focus on the Present

I remember the first time I performed at the halftime of a Boston Celtics game. What a thrill it was to perform on a court with so much history associated with it! When I started the dribbling routine of my performance, my mind started to wander – here I was standing on the Leprechaun, thinking about all the historical games that were started with a jump ball right here. I was thinking completely about something else other than thinking about what I was doing in front of 20,000 people at that moment! I made a slight mistake, which shocked me back into focusing on the present and then I finished the performance successfully.

Have you ever felt your mind wander during an important moment in a game? We’ve all experienced this at one time or another in our lives, and it’s easier said than done to “snap out of it” and get back to focusing on the task at hand. Below are 7 Keys to Staying Focused in the Present:

  1. Refocus – Become aware of the slip of attention, and then choose another focal point or direction of attention to turn your mind to.
  2. Use Task Goals – Concentrate on the specific challenges of the event. This may include technique or strategy points, executing plays, or simply being involved in the game.
  3. Keep it Simple – Do not become overly analytic in your desire to take an “active mind” approach to performance. Do not fill your mind up with so many thoughts.
  4. Plan for the Competition – Planning well in advance of the event involves working out where to focus at different parts of an event. By preparing mental plans in advance, you are free to carry out the plan during performance.
  5. Make Back up Plans – These are developed by preparing responses, or refocusing strategies, to use in adverse competitive situations. Of course, you can’t plan for all possible scenarios, but working out in advance how you would respond can facilitate an appropriate response being made when the “heat is on.”
  6. Practice Concentration – Here is a meditation exercise. Sit in a comfortable position. Take a note of the time on your watch. Close your eyes and focus on one thing (for instance your breathing). Pay attention to your breaths in and out. Do this for as long as you maintain this focus. Open your eyes when your focus moves and note the time on your watch. Continue to try to increase your focus time.
  7. Direct your attention – Dissociate the emotional content from the noise of the crowd. Know that the crowd is there, but don’t let it affect your feelings.

Some information in this tip comes from: Flow in Sports: The Keys to Optimal Experiences and Performances.

SHAPE America Asks Moms & Dads: “Will Your Children Be Ready”

Parents may be surprised to know that the majority of children in the United States are LESS active during the summer than during the school year and therefore are at risk for unhealthy weight gains,” warns SHAPE America Hall of Famer Chuck Corbin, professor emeritus at Arizona State University. Citing statistics from Active Living Research (ALR), Dr. Corbin recommends parents monitor their children’s physical activity levels and eating habits during the summer so that when they return to school they will be healthy, fit and ready to learn.

The ALR report suggests that today’s youth have “fewer of the freedoms many adults may remember from their childhood summers.” For example, many adults remember “riding bikes to the corner store, walking to the local swimming hole, playing active games with neighborhood friends, but this has become less common among today’s youth.” In 1969 41 percent of American youth walked or rode a bicycle to school, but now only about 13 percent do so. Without structured activities many children’s activity levels may not reach the recommended standards.

National guidelines recommend 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day for children and teens. Yet the majority of youth do not meet this standard. For example, only 41 percent of children 6 to 11 meet the standard and only 27 percent of high school students are active 60 minutes a day on a regular basis.

According to research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, school based physical activity programs, such as those promoted by SHAPE America, provide much of the activity necessary to meet national activity guidelines. During the school year physical education can account for more than a third of the activity necessary to meet national guidelines. Physical education combined with recess, classroom activity breaks, and walking to and from school add up to 58 minutes of activity each day. These types of activities are not available during the summer. 

Other reasons for the decrease in physical activity and the increase in weight gain over the summer, include greater screen time (e.g., TV, video games, social media) and the availability of food not typically available during the school year. According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, children “now spend more than seven and a half hours a day in front of a screen (e.g., TV, videogames, computer).” This is almost four times the amount of screen time as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (two hours or less per day). Because youth are not in school five plus hours a day in the summer, they have more free time to spend sitting in front of a screen.

During the summer kids also have access to snacks at home that are not available during the typical school day. The ALR report also notes that summer camps, especially day camps, often promote poor dietary habits. For example, 50 percent of children bring sugar-sweetened beverages and chips to summer day camps. Only 33 percent bring fruit.

SHAPE America President Fran Cleland of West Chester University suggests families work together to create daily/weekly activity and meal plans. “Children and adolescents need structure, but also choice,” says Dr. Cleland. “Activities need to be age-appropriate and relevant to their interests. Regarding nutrition and eating habits, I would suggest having children/adolescents learn to make their own healthy meals starting with grocery shopping together. That helps to keep ‘healthy’ in the forefront as well as choice and individual needs.”

To maintain and/or improve your children’s fitness and nutrition this summer, Dr. Corbin has these suggestions: 

Staying Active

  • Plan home recess and physical activity periods to simulate school activity programs.
  • Encourage outdoor activity.
  • Find ways to be active on hot days (e.g., swimming, morning or evening activities).
  • Include some vigorous activity each day.
  • Be active with your kids (e.g., family walk, biking, roller skate, ice skate).
  • Arrange active play dates. ″Take active vacations.
  • Walk or ride a bike as opposed to driving.
  • Find an active camp, sports team, or kid’s activity program.
  • Have kids walk in grocery stores rather than ride in a cart.
  • Avoiding Unnecessary Calorie Intake
  • Limit the availability of “empty calorie” foods that are easily accessible (e.g., candy, sweetened drinks, chips) both at home and at camps.
  • Have a quota if high calorie snacks are available.
  • Make healthy foods available and promote consumption.
  • Limiting Screen Time
  • Limit screen time and encourage active computer games.

For additional ways to stay active as a family, check out SHAPE America’s “101 Tips for Family Fitness Fun Activities.”