Category Archives for Afterschool

Reasons Movement Teaches Kids to Think and Learn Differently

Reasons Movement Teaches Kids to Think and Learn Differently

Can science really confirm that physical activity affects the way we learn? Absolutely. Studies have proven that physical movement helps kids improve their memory, increase their motivation, and improve motor skills. But the connection to how the brain and physical activity work together goes much deeper. Movement and physical activity truly helps kids think and learn differently. 

Physiological Connections

A researcher at Columbia University, found direct connections between physical activity and brain health. Exercise was proven to: 

  • Increase the number of neurotransmitters in the brain.
  • Improve oxygen flow to the brain.
  • Increase the number of neurotransmitters, improving the child’s ability to handle stress, reduce anxiety, increase focus, concentrate, and learn new things. 
  • Alter the brain’s development. The number of neurotrophins–the proteins that signal neurons to develop, grow, and thrive–increases in the brain in areas like the cortex, cerebellum, and hippocampus that are critical for learning, memory, and higher thinking.

Physical activity can also create new brain cells. Decades ago, science believed that neurons were only generated at birth, but we now know that physical activity can create new neurons through neurogenesis as we exercise. Simply put, researchers confirmed exercise helps maintain the “ability of the nervous system to change its activity in response to intrinsic or extrinsic stimuli by reorganizing its structure, functions, or connections.”

Physical Benefits

If exercise can improve the brain’s ability to reorganize functions and connections, that leads to even more intellectual benefits, like increased ability to stay attentive, improved motor skills, improved hand-eye coordination, problem solving, and better decision making. 

Ironically, when kids are involved in physical activity, their vestibular system is engaged–that part of our senses that controls, balance, posture, motion, and position of the body itself–allowing kids to control their bodies better as they sit still throughout the rest of their day.

Physical Benefits

Psychological Advantages

We already know that cognitive skills like the ability to concentrate, and academic performance are impacted by physical activity. But when we incorporate group activities, other softer skills are enhanced as well that lead to psychological benefits. As kids are developing interpersonal skills, learning social inclusion, teamwork, and motivation, they can use these not just in the classroom, but at home, and later in their academic careers. These soft skills help them see classmates and situations through a different lens.

If kids can sit still, focus, increase brain activity, and creatively problem solve by incorporating simple physical activities in a portion of their day, why wouldn’t we give them that opportunity and set them up for a lifetime of success? If educators have a solution to improve their brain, body, and soul, transforming the way they think and learn in every other class… and make it fun, engaging, and encouraging? We should do everything in our power to set future generations up for success, especially when the solution is readily available.  

Psychological Advantages

How Skillastics® can help

The body invisibly increases these physio and psychological super powers without the need to check a box or flip a switch. It works quietly, in the background. Skillastics® works in the background too. Your kids won’t know their brains are growing, their neurons are thriving, their social skills are improving, or your after-school martial arts program helps them focus better in World History, but you will. For the past twenty years, our incredible activity kits have offered a simple, fun solution that’s engaging for every physical activity level, so even kids who aren’t that interested in team sports will love to participate. Our digital specialty programming, like Pilates, Folklorico, and Basketball can help kids achieve personal goals as they work to master new skills. 

Skillastics® has multiple solutions to fit your physical activity program needs. If you’re not sure what you need, let us know. We can sit down with you to fully customize a physical activity program just for you.

Get Started:

Skillastics Activity Kits

After School Packages

Digital Specialty Programming

P.S. Did you read where Skillastics® is celebrating our 20th Anniversary this year? We are so excited to have partnered with physical education leaders, bringing joy and fun back to movement for two decades! To express our gratitude, this year we’re giving away some amazing, highly coveted prizes every quarter. That’s 20 opportunities to win! To enter and see the full contest rules click here. 
Seven Key Ingredients For Improving Student Motivation

Seven Key Ingredients For Improving Student Motivation

Some educators use the words motivation and engagement interchangeably, but they’re very different. Motivation, from the Latin word motivus–meaning moving–is the force or thing that prompts you to act where engagement is a feeling of belonging, commitment, or purpose towards an organization or idea. To break it down even further, engagement is whether an individual feels like a contributing member of a team–that comes from the environment you create in your after school and club programs–where motivation drives the person to act on those feelings of belonging. 

Motivation comes in two forms, according to a study from the University of Rochester in American Psychologist. Intrinsic motivation, where people are passionate about something because they enjoy it or have satisfaction and pride in achieving a goal. Conversely, extrinsic motivation comes from external forces–sometimes good and sometimes bad–where the individual is working only to receive praise or rewards (good) or to avoid punishment (bad). 

So, what does that have to do with sports? Well, before you can look for ways to improve motivation, it’s important to see the difference between motivation and engagement, recognize how others are motivated, and determine what role we play in that as educators.

Extrinsic motivation like praise or rewards is great for team sports, however, you can’t realistically reward every kid every day with ribbons, plaques, and trophies. Not only is it outside of many organizational budgets, it also doesn’t mean as much if there’s a physical award every day. Instead, focus on intrinsic motivation, where kids are passionate about fitness as a result of enjoying an activity or reaching a goal using these seven key ingredients. 

Variety: It really is the spice of life.

A Colorado University study found that students believe they either are or are not good at something. For instance, they either think they are or are not good at math, and their own perception has a direct effect on their persistence at trying to master math problems. Likewise, if students think they are not good at a physical activity, it can have a direct effect on whether they try hard to achieve goals, where kids who think they ARE good at a sport or activity would try harder to achieve them. 

This is why it’s so critical to vary your sports, programs, and activities, so kids who feel they aren’t good at a particular sport or activity can easily transition to one that they like more! Offering variety gives each kid an opportunity to find something they’re good at. Skillastics® Activity Kits are designed with kids’ short attention spans and curiosity in mind. Each kit offers activities that sparks curiosity, allows engagement in a non-threatening atmosphere, and is a whole lot of fun.

Goals: Teach kids to set and reach them

Throughout the adolescent years, kids’ brains are constantly learning new things. One of the ways we can foster brain development is to encourage kids to set goals and reach them. When kids are striving for something new or making themselves better than a previous version of themselves, they become passionate about achieving that goal and jumping over the next hurdle. They can see their own progression both physically and mentally, and overcoming their obstacles helps carry that goal-setting mindset over to other areas of their lives.

Goals: Teach kids to set and reach them

Purpose: Help kids see why fitness matters

Kids like to know that what they’re doing makes a difference. When they learn how fitness affects their bodies both now and in the future, that can create motivation to exercise. Kids (and if we’re honest, adults too) like to know that their contribution matters. Make sure your program encourages kids to see how their personal contribution relates to the entire team as well as how it helps them meet their own body fitness goals. One way to consider this is to get their input! Asking why they think a skill matters or why fitness is important to them will help them find motivation through purpose. 

Recognition: Mix in that extrinsic motivation now and then

Remember, kids love to be recognized for both their hard work toward an achievement as well as reaching the final achievement itself. Mix in a little extrinsic motivation in your regime. This can be as simple as verbal recognition of their efforts to paper awards or completion certificates, like martial arts belt level certificates. You can sometimes inspire kids by showing them what other kids have achieved and motivating them to achieve the same goal too. When you create an atmosphere where kids feel like their involvement can be recognized it can motivate them to keep going.

Recognition: Mix in that extrinsic motivation now and then

Involvement: Get their input

Ask kids what they want to learn about, what they’re curious about, and what they’d like to practice. Getting their input—and better yet, including this as a reward—shows kids that their opinion matters. For instance, the most helpful child could be asked to demonstrate how to perform their favorite game technique as a reward for helping others. When they feel like their opinion matters, that encourages them to be engaged in the group as a community and prompts them to take action! When the rest of their day is structured around rubrics, assessments, standards, and objectives, simply asking kids for their input allows kids to have some control over their environment and activities. The more control kids have, the more engaged they will be, and the more motivation they’ll have.

Set clear expectations

Kids won’t always get it right the first time, especially if they’re working towards a goal. You want them to have easy, quick wins, but you also want to give them a heads up that it may take a few tries to achieve or perfect a skill. This helps keep them from feeling defeated when they don’t make it on the first try and encourages them to keep going while they work on it.

Don’t forget to add in FUN!

At the end of the day, kids are kids! Encouraging them to have fun, be silly (can you make a funny face while doing those push-ups?) and get involved in physical activity allows them to have passion just because it’s fun and they enjoy it, not because it’s a requirement.

No matter what age group you have, kids need a reason to get involved. These key ingredients will Work together, be vested. Incorporating these key ingredients in your fitness program will give your kids everything they need to stay motivated and build the foundation they need for a fit life.

Five Ways to Increase Student Movement and Engagement

Five Ways to Increase Student Movement and Engagement

Kids today are drawn to entertainment. Brought up with iPads, tablets, smart phones and video games that switch from video to video after 30 seconds, it can be hard to keep a child’s attention for 30-40 minutes, especially when technology isn’t involved. So how do you keep their attention? Better yet, how do you get them to find value and engage in a program that doesn’t have instant gratification? Don’t worry, it’s possible. Here are five easy ways to increase student engagement and movement in your students by 50%. 

1. Make sure it’s interesting

Even without technology, kids have short attention spans. Their brains are still developing. If your program takes 10 minutes to set up, kids may be on phones, started another play activity with other kids, or even subdivided into smaller groups. It can be hard to reign the chaos back in, get the kids to focus, and break free from their smaller groups especially if they think participation is optional. If you capture their attention right away with a creative, engaging activity you’ll keep their interest for the duration. If kids are interested, and activities look fun they’re guaranteed to join in.

2. Give them programs that teach them how to win

Kids have a lot of pressure on them at earlier ages than ever before. You want to offer a program that lets them succeed quickly, where an early victory can trigger a domino effect. Ian Robertson, author of “The Winning Effect” explains that "Winning increases testosterone, which in turn increases the chemical messenger dopamine, and that dopamine hits the reward network in the brain, which makes us feel better." (Don’t worry, all genders need testosterone.) This isn’t the same thing as getting a “participation trophy,” where kids get an award just for showing up. On the contrary, kids can master skills and techniques, set achievable goals right off the bat–and reach them–encouraging them to keep going. 

Give them programs that teach them how to win

3. Keep it fresh

Even the coolest activity can become stale for kids if you do it every single day. Keeping your activities fresh and on a rotation will ensure kids stay engaged, especially if they haven’t seen an activity in awhile. Don’t believe me? Ask a random adult what their favorite physical activity was in Physical Education, and you’ll probably hear something like “I loved it when they brought out the rainbow parachute,” or “I really loved sport stacking.” They didn’t do those favorites every day, but they remember how cool it was to bring those special activities out. It’s the same thing with your after-school program. Kids will engage more when your programs are fresh and exciting each day, and they’ll move more when the activities are fun and interesting.

4. Stay engaged

The greatest opportunity teachers and program leaders have is influence. Through influence, we can encourage kids to love physical activity, especially if it’s true in our own lives. We’re not talking about being a certain size or shape, but just being healthy and loving activity in general! To kids, it’s awesome when their teachers and directors are out there, jumping, hopping, clapping, and fist-pumping the kids to do their best. When adults join in the fun–even if they’re not perfect–kids are encouraged to bring their imperfect selves to the “Fitness”. party as well. There are some programs that do not allow instructors to participate in physical activity with the students.   You still can provide inspirational, motivational leadership by how enthusiastically you share the information and the constant positive feedback you provide.  

Stay engaged

5. Provide positive feedback

Get to know your kids, and provide feedback when they succeed. If Sal isn’t into basketball but really came out of his shell when the group played volleyball, just recognizing their interaction can help encourage them to stick with it. If Greta takes time to encourage a classmate to meet a goal, there’s an opportunity to provide positive encouraging feedback for both the student aiming for their goal, and Greta, for modeling great sportsmanship. The key is that in all aspects, kids like to feel “seen,” with their own talents and abilities. Every child is different, and recognizing their individual accomplishments can go a long way when it comes to their involvement. When kids feel seen, heard, and encouraged as an individual, they’re more likely to engage in the class and program.  

Increasing student engagement and movement might seem impossible, but when you combine these elements, you’ll have an amazing group of motivated, engaged children who grow to love physical activity. One of the best programs on the market for the past 20 years, Skillastics® offers programs that capture the heart of physical activity: fun, interesting, fresh, with achievable goals. Our ready-made activity kits make it super easy for you to spend less time planning curriculum, and more time engaging in activities and encouraging your kids. In no time at all, your program will become their favorite part of the day.

7 Keys to Make Your After School Fitness Program A Success

By the time your kids get to their after-school fitness program, they’re exhausted. They’ve gotten up early, likely had two full meals, a full day of learning, and still have hours to go before they’re home for the evening routine, only to go to bed and restart the same cycle the next day. They’re beat. Your PE Teachers, who’ve likely taught several hours of regular school and are ready to go home themselves are seeking out the very last bit of energy for the after-school program because they’re passionate about kids. And parents? Parents want a safe, healthy, and engaging after-school program where kids can stay until the demands of their own workday are complete. 

Is there a way to counter exhausted kids, worn yet passionate teachers, and weary parents with a positive, engaging solution? 

There is!

Skillastics® is not just A solution, it’s THE solution. We’ve helped solve these exact dilemmas for twenty years. With two decades of experience, we know a thing or two about after-school fitness programs. In fact, we believe there are seven keys to making your after-school program a success.

1. Make it reproducible

Teacher overwhelm is at an all-time high. We know high turnover rates happen. With the unpredictability of Covid and the potential for remote learning, we also know you’ll occasionally need a substitute. You need a program that’s seamless and worry-free. After all, what good is a program if it’s too difficult to implement, or you have just a few people who can run it? Skillastics® fills the void with our easy-to-use manuals and curriculum, and lesson plans that anyone can use, regardless of experience. When you spend less time training staff to figure out the system, they can spend more time in the physical activity setting with the kids. 

2.  Make it easy to plug-and-play

Have you ever found a game idea that looked fun on Pinterest, but took forever to set up? Have a system that only one instructor knows how to use? Or spent so much time at the start of your after-school program preparing for that day’s lesson, that you never got to finish the actual activity? Skillastics® is plug-and-play at your fingertips! Our innovative Skillastics® activities can take less than a minute to set up, allowing more children to engage and participate, ensuring higher fitness levels, and less opportunity for kids to get distracted or lose interest. When you spend less time setting up and preparing for the activity, you have happier, more engaged kids, and staff who are less frustrated with their available resources.

3. Make it inclusive

Unstructured PE or physical activity doesn’t always have the best outcome. When programs are lacking a lesson plan or curriculum, kids can split into natural cliques or groups, leaving some kids feeling lonely. Kids who aren’t naturally gifted in a sport, or who didn’t grow up playing on a travel ball team can feel embarrassed by their lack of skill. Kids can also feel left out if games don’t have enough spaces for players, or if only a few children can play. This can lead to a desire to skip sports or physical activity altogether! 

Down the road, adults who didn’t enjoy PE as kids because they felt left out or incapable can undervalue physical activity. A 2015 study, “Effects of Early-Onset Voluntary Exercise on Adult Physical Activity and Associated Phenotypes in Mice," found access to regular exercise in younger years significantly increased voluntary exercise as adults. early-life access to regular exercise significantly increased adult voluntary exercise. 

So how does Skillastics® help? Our short set-up times can help kids engage as soon as they come in. Our innovative activity kits are executed on an oversize mat and allow up to 100 children to play at the same time. Our products involve kids who may not consider signing up for an organized sport, helping them feel a sense of accomplishment as they master skills in a relaxed atmosphere. 

skillastics physical activity

Check out our activity kits here -

4. Make it add value

Skillastics® is the best large group resource available. We aren’t just an equipment resource. We know the increased demands that are funneling down from the administration. Requirements to incorporate academic learning in physical activity, and add in vocabulary, literacy, and even Math and STEM. Skillastics® can help you seamlessly integrate academics by connecting with classroom teachers through our Skillastics® Custom Question Card Templates for nutrition, STEM and math. Our activity kits are so much fun for kids they won’t even realize they’re learning as they play! 

5. Make it fun

Let’s be honest - not every kid likes sports, and not every kid likes physical activity. That’s why our Skillastics® activity kids and programs offer a variety of games and activities that aren’t catered to one particular sport. Instead, the kids engage in skill mastery through play and games. With easy-to-lead activities, your staff is free to bring their own stress-free, fun, kid-at-heart personality as they encourage kids to support each other and cheer each other on in group activities. Their only competition is the kid they were yesterday! 

6. Make it creative

No matter the age, we’ve learned that environments where kids can be themselves are monumental for fostering creativity and problem-solving areas of the brain. We’ve also learned that we can creatively integrate learning with fun, and that there is more than one way to do a task–especially given our need for flexible remote or PE-from-home options!

virtual activity from home

Our activity kits are fun, colorful, engaging, and use different methods and resources to encourage kids to get and stay active.  

7. Keep it fresh

Ten years ago, virtual physical education may have sounded like something out of a futuristic movie. Now, we have to consider ways to engage in outdoor and indoor group activities, as well as socially distanced activities, and even activities that can be completed from home. Skillastics® offers virtual programs that provide students with an amazing variety of physical activity experiences. Each experience offers 30 days of content lasting 30-40 minutes a day and are taught by Nationally recognized teachers.

Whether you’re just starting out, or looking to incorporate your tenth Skillastics® Activity Kit System, we have no doubt Skillastics® will exceed your expectations and check every box to help your after school program thrive. Our fresh, engaging curriculums are easy to use, easy to set up, and are inclusive for all kids at whatever level of physical activity they’re in. Visit to view all of our programs, activity kits, and systems today. 



Recently, NAA sat down with Sandy Slade, president of Skillastics, to talk about how the pandemic has affected how she serves her clients.

No stranger to the afterschool market, you may have seen Slade at a previous NAA Convention where she enthusiastically shares more about her passion: Helping programs engage with youth in a way that motivates them to be more physically active and benefit from lasting, positive impacts.

Talk about what Skillastics is and what the organization’s goals are!

Skillastics makes it easy to organize, motivate and engage large groups of kids to move and learn with our virtual and on-site physical activity programs. These programs absolutely transform attitudes about physical activity. Our goal is to continue to help afterschool programs globally with the physical activity portion of their program. We love being able to integrate learning moments with physical activity as well, like Character Education (SEL) and the Academic Integration of STEM.

How long have you been in business and serving the afterschool community?

Skillastics has been in business and serving the afterschool community since 2002 and continues to focus on afterschool programs every year. We always listen to the current challenges and concerns that our customers are facing in their programs, then take that information and make adaptations so we are always the most efficient and effective resource for afterschool physical activity programming.

Describe how the pandemic has affected your business.

The pandemic was a challenge for so many businesses. We immediately realized we had to quickly pivot to help schools and afterschool programs everywhere through this difficult time. Looking back, the pandemic has allowed us to be even more of a solution for programs, as we’ve now developed a completely different and unique line of resources to help afterschool programs. Between our on-site physical activity kits and our virtual physical activity programs, we are now the ultimate resource to tackle any needs for physical activity programming.

What were you hearing from your afterschool clients, and how did that prompt you to reconsider how your offerings could help?

During the pandemic, there was a high demand for virtual physical activity. Programs needed to get children moving with quality programming. The quick, initial YouTube searches that programs were doing just weren’t working, as the quality and need for a progression of lessons was not obtainable through YouTube. This is where our resources really made a difference. We were able to provide 30 Day Virtual Programs, led by expert instructors in their field. These programs grabbed children’s attention (and staff too!) as everyone wants to be a part of something special!

Your new offerings were extremely well-received. Tell us a little about them.

Our new Skillastics Virtual Programs helped afterschool programs nationwide during the pandemic and continue to thrive as students return to schools. These programs became a quick solution for virtual physical activity needs where students are led in a variety of programs by qualified experts in their field. As students start to return to schools, programs are finding these virtual programs as great resources to use for specialty clubs, mixing up the normal physical activity routine or even a solution for weather inclement days.

How do you think what you’ve created will influence your future offerings?

We will continue to build an extensive virtual library for afterschool programs. These virtual programs also couple very nicely with our on-site physical activity kits for a well-rounded delivery of physical activity programming for children. Our resources can be used indoors and/or outdoors for clubs, quick lessons, full lessons, family engagement and more!

What makes you proud to work within the field of afterschool?

We are so proud to know that we are giving children a positive experience being physically active. Skillastics is for all children, not just the athletes. Knowing that children are smiling, playing, learning and working together as a team—with our resources—is a great feeling. It also makes us proud to know that we’re helping coordinators and staff to easily implement physical activity in their programs. We know the struggles they face and to be the solution for them makes us proud.

What do you feel are the “silver linings” of this challenging time and what opportunities do you think it will offer for the future?

The “silver linings” during these challenging times have been the way we were able to “rise to the occasion” and grow tremendously as a company. Having the ability to help programs with physical activity across the nation (even during a pandemic) was amazing. Developing new physical activity resources and continuing to enhance our current physical activity programs speaks volumes of the impact we have, and will continue to have in the future, for afterschool programs. We have always been and always will be here to help get youth moving!

As we look forward to reopening and recovery, what is your best advice to NAA members and your favorite offerings to keep kids active and healthy?

Stay positive. The light at the end of the tunnel is near. We all stuck together and got through a pandemic. If we can get through that together, we can get through anything. As children return, there may be many who are not in the best physical condition. We need to stay positive with these children and encourage them to have fun and play! The kids will be very excited to get back to school again and to be able to finally play with their friends again. With our quality, structured physical activity programming (both on-site and virtual), we can give every child a positive experience being physically active!

If you are interested in learning more and want to chat, click here, or check out Skillastics.

Courtesy of Skillastics.

Photos courtesy of Skillastics.

6 Socially Distant Physical Activities to Perform When You’re Back On-Site

6 Socially Distant Physical Activities to Perform When You’re Back On-Site

As children return to school and classrooms find some sense of normalcy, it’s essential to continue with social distancing to keep everyone safe. Thankfully, physical activities can easily be performed while kids remain socially distant, especially in large spaces like a gym or outdoors. A few activities are better suited to safety, which we will explore in this article. Physical activity is an essential part of children’s daily routine, and they should be getting at least 60 minutes of exercise each day. Incorporating physical activities into their school or after school routine will ensure all children stay healthy and fit.

Importance of Physical Activity

According to the Center for Disease Control, kids are actually recommended to participate in 60 minutes of activity a day. Many kids don’t reach that marker, so naturally building it into their day is a great idea. Incorporating physical activities into the school day and afterschool programs can have significant benefits for children. Even if kids are distance learning, they can participate in physical activity classes online. Exercising has a wide variety of benefits for kids, including:

  • Enhancing physical well-being.
  • Strengthens muscles and bones.
  • Reduces the risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 Diabetes, and other diseases.
  • Improves endurance and flexibility.
  • Fosters positive mental health and well-being.
  • Enhances motor skills, hand-eye coordination, reaction time, and dexterity.
  • Creates consistency in routine.
  • Promotes healthy habits.
  • It helps children learn new skills and make friends through group activities.
  • Builds confidence.
  • Improves social and emotional skills.

Socially Distant Activities

Even though you’re back on site, you might not return to all the regular physical activities you used to facilitate for the kids. Since social distancing measures are in place to keep everyone safe, you’ll have to extend the same thoughtfulness to the activities you plan. Physical exercise can still be done while kids keep a distance from each other. There are many options that the kids will enjoy and that will give them all the same benefits they are used to from gym class.

1. Yoga

Yoga is no longer just for adults. It can be an excellent exercise for children and adolescents, helping them with strength, flexibility, and effective breathing exercises. Yoga is a great fitness idea for after school programs because it will help kids calm down after their busy school day and transition into homework or playtime in a relaxed manner. If you have space, try taking your yoga class outside. Otherwise, spread out the mats before the children arrive so that they are correctly socially distanced. Yoga can be done with facemasks on, and the only equipment you need is a mat. But if you don’t have mats, a soft floor is okay too.

2. Dancing

Even if dancing was not a part of your physical education as a child, it should be now. Dance is a great way to work up a sweat and get your heart pumping. It’s also fun and will keep children and teens entertained. You can let the kids do their own freestyle dancing while staying distanced or teach them a routine to learn. Dancing is a great physical activity that can be done in a safe way.

3. Workout Wheels

Kids will love workout wheels, and they can be done safely too. Create a virtual workout wheel that you can share with the children on a projected screen, then let them “spin” to see what activity they have to do. Make sure the kids are standing distanced from each other and choose only actions that the kids can do in their space. Here are a few good ideas of physical exercises the kids can do in place:

  • Push-ups
  • Sit-ups
  • Star jumps
  • Mountain climbers
  • Funny dances
  • Jumping jacks
  • Stretches
  • Crunches


4. Track and Field

If you have an outdoor space available to you, or even a large gym space, then some track and field activities are a great idea for social distancing. Kids can take turns running for set distances or times while maintaining enough space between them. Pair off students into groups with similar abilities and see how far they can run during set time periods. The kids in the group can take turns so that while one is running, the other can recover.

Some of the field sports might be an excellent option as well. Students can safely practice long jumping while keeping a safe distance. Another option might be to have the kids try their hand at shotput or one of the other throwing activities. If you engage in these activities, just make sure you’re properly sanitizing any equipment used between students.

5. Obstacle Course

If there is anything kids love, it’s a good obstacle course. Getting kids to run around and move is easy when there’s an obstacle course involved. Even better if you time everyone, so they can see who is completing it the fastest. If it can be done safely, have the kids help you set the course up. Or set it up before their arrival and then explain how it works when they come to class. If you have a larger group, try making a few different courses and dividing them into small groups. Obstacle courses are great because kids can take turns and stay properly distanced on the sidelines. They don’t have to involve any objects kids would touch, making it a safe and easy activity option.

6. Kickboxing

Much like yoga and dance, students can participate in kickboxing while staying in one position the whole time. Kids and teens will both enjoy the rigors of kickboxing. It’s a great cardio activity that will get their heart pumping and strengthen their muscles simultaneously. Kickboxing can be great for teens, especially because you can incorporate self-defense training with the lesson. Show the students different ways they can defend themselves with kickboxing maneuvers.

Keeping Kids Active

Kids need to stay active to stay healthy, just like adults do. But getting children to move or exercise can sometimes be challenging, especially when team sports might be dangerous. These activities will allow kids to stay socially distanced while still having fun and getting their daily exercise in. They will feel much better once they’ve done some physical activity after school or in gym class. Kids will be better suited to stay active and form healthy habits if they start young.

About the Author

Sandy Slade is the CEO & Founder of Skillastics®, the #1 large group physical activity resource. Skillastics® makes it easy to organize, motivate, and engage students to move, learn, and love it. Skillastics® is an innovative technique of play designed around an oversize mat where up to 100 children can play at one time. There are 13 different Skillastics® Activity Kit themes, ranging from general fitness, sport skill development, character enhancement, and academic integration, including STEM and nutrition. The newest layer of Skillastics® resources includes 30-Day Virtual Physical Activity programs, including Fitness, Martial Arts, and Yoga.

Skillastics® is enjoyed by over 10 million students in more than 25,000 Physical Education and After School settings nationwide.

For more information, email or check out

Making Fitness Fun in After-School Programs

Making Fitness Fun in After-School Programs

Exercise is an essential part of a healthy childhood and young adult life, and after-school programs are encouraging America’s youth to get moving and build healthy lifestyle habits. While working out and exercises are crucial for a child’s well-being, it can be challenging to find activities that kids actually enjoy. After school program directors have to work extra hard to create an exciting and unique curriculum for kids.

In this article, we dissect the reasons that exercise is so critical for healthy childhood development. We also discuss different methods to make exercise fun in After School programs. Follow along to learn more, find some tips and tricks, and reach your potential as an after-school program educator.

Exercise is Essential for Children

It’s no big secret that exercise plays a vital role in children’s and adults’ lives. Everyone can benefit from a healthy and active lifestyle. However, encouraging a love for fitness and movement while kids are still young ensures a lifelong relationship with healthy lifestyle choices.

Expanded Learning Programs are a great place to jumpstart this appreciation for activity and exercise. There are many valuable benefits to regular physical activity, so kids must have movement in their after-school programs.

Benefits of Exercise in Early Childhood and Young Adulthood

Recently in the United States, there has been a cultural shift towards healthier lifestyles and eating habits. Organizations like U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide recommendations on children’s regular physical activity. At the same time, programs like the NFL’s Play60 program and SHAPEAmerica aim to prioritize exercise and healthy lifestyle choices.

All of these pushes for access to physical education and activities for America’s youth are not in vain. Daily exercise can verifiably improve a child’s mental and physical well-being in many ways. We look at those benefits below:

  • Regular exercise improves flexibility, endurance, coordination, and agility.
  • Fitness helps students strengthen their hand-eye coordination, motor skills, and dexterity.
  • Exercise increases cognition and other learning abilities like problem-solving, communication, time management, and teamwork.
  • Fitness reduces the risks of childhood obesity, diabetes, asthma, and other chronic conditions or health issues.
  • Physical activity instills healthy eating and lifestyle habits in kids.
  • Exercise reduces stress and improves mental health issues like depression and anxiety, which are incredibly common among children and teens today.
  • After-school programs, sports teams, and other activities encourage kids to build strong relationships with their peers and promote healthy communication.

There are plenty of ways to provide ample exercise for children and teens. After-school programs, clubs, and organized sports all serve to help children lead healthier lives.

Types of After-School Activities

The United States is a hotbed for After School Programs that encourage healthy lifestyle choices. With over 18% of America’s youth participating in After School programs, there are plenty of opportunities to promote healthy activities that kids enjoy. Some popular programs around the country include:

1. AfterSchool Programs

The level of participation in after-school programs nationwide is staggering. Over 10 million children participate in these programs every year, accumulating valuable life skills throughout their time in the program.

Many after-school programs are school-sponsored and take place right on campus after classes end. On the other hand, there are also many private after-school programs often held at off-campus locations. Well-organized programs will promote healthy food options and plenty of exercise for program participants.

One great benefit of after-school programs is all the skills students learn as they take part in the program. With other students around, as well as program leaders, children gain the skills to communicate with both peers and adults, have time to work on schoolwork, and will improve on other cognitive abilities along the way.

2. The Boys and Girls Clubs of America

Another excellent option for after-school programs is the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. With nearly 5,000 clubs across every single continent globally, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America are widely available for any child.

Boys and Girls Clubs can provide a wealth of information for students and families about health, wellness, and personal development. Different Boys and Girls Club programs include:

  • Education
  • Sports and recreation
  • Health and wellness
  • The arts
  • Character and leadership
  • Workforce readiness
  • And more

Participation in any of these interesting Boys and Girls Club activities encourage kids to keep moving and maintain healthy lifestyle choices into adulthood.

3. The YMCA

Similar to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America is the YMCA. Lovingly referred to as “The Y,” the Young Men’s Christian Association is also an excellent after-school resource to promote physical activity in children and young adults. The Y has over 2,700 locations country-wide, encouraging America’s youths to stay active and live healthy lifestyles with fun fitness programs.

In Minnesota, local YMCA programs include general health and well-being classes, summer camps, swimming lessons, and so much more. Programs at the YMCA strive to incorporate fun and interactive activities that stimulate the body and mind, making America’s children healthier both physically and mentally.

4. Organized Sports

Many of America’s children also find enjoyment in organized sports. Whether they participate in team sports like lacrosse or soccer or opt for an individual sports program like tennis or swimming, students can gain immense benefits from organized sports.

Sustaining physical exertion throughout a sports game or practice helps improve endurance and overall fitness, build a strong musculoskeletal system, and promotes better communication and teamwork. Plus, organized sports participation also encourages a healthy, regular routine, which is crucial during childhood development.

Fun Fitness Ideas for After School Programs

It’s clear that kids need physical activity to lead a healthy life and make good choices in their futures. However, it’s up to parents and after-school program directors to encourage exercise in a fun way for children. Providing programs and activities that are actually enjoyable ensures that students maintain these newfound healthy habits long into adulthood.

In-Person Activities

For the most part, the majority of after-school programs and activities will take place in person. There are plenty of fun, exciting physical activities that promote valuable and healthy life skills to students while still being fun.

Incorporate any of the following activities into your after-school program so students can start to find joy in fitness and exercise:

  • Sports skills
  • Relay races
  • Capture the flag or tag
  • Dancing
  • Gymnastics
  • Rock climbing
  • And many more

After-school program directors can also utilize resources like these large group physical activities for after-school programs from Skillastics to turn physical fitness into playtime. These types of activities are excellent for after-school programs of all sizes and seamlessly integrate into online learning if necessary.

Virtual Activities Amidst the Coronavirus

Nowadays, educators and after-school programs are facing the challenges of online learning. With all the uncertainties surrounding public health and safety, some programs are moving to virtual classrooms just in case. Other schools and programs are offering a hybridized curriculum that switches from in-class learning to online.

Although getting used to online learning can be challenging for after-school programs, there are plenty of ways to keep kids engaged and motivated to move with online activities. From YouTube fitness videos and interactive workouts to virtual physical activity programs explicitly made for after-school programs, it’s easier than ever to access online resources that still manage to make exercise fun and exciting amidst Covid-19.

It’s crucial to find activities that cater to students’ unique interests and needs. That’s why after-school program resources like Skillastics offer virtual physical activities that encompass a wide variety of exercises and interests, including:

  • Yoga
  • Mindfulness
  • Martial arts
  • Basketball
  • Dancing
  • Kickboxing
  • Pilates
  • STEM academics

Now, more than ever, parents and after-school programs need to maintain children’s interests in physical activities and fitness. Without regular physical activity, kids and young adults are at risk of falling into depression or developing physical and mental health issues, so educators need to incorporate fun online after-school activities.

Keeping Kids Moving

The United States is facing an ever-growing epidemic of childhood obesity and other risks involved with this era of inactivity. In a time where technology rules and students spend more time with screens than ever before, it’s important to incorporate fun physical activities into after-school programs, ensuring that children have access to activities they enjoy is crucial to childhood development and the maintenance of healthy lifestyle habits. Whether you’re in class or online, make your after-school program fun to promote healthy choices for children.

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.

For more information, email or check out

Boys and Girls Clubs Across the Country Can Benefit From Skillastics

Boys and Girls Clubs Across the Country Can Benefit From Skillastics

Afterschool programs like the Boys and Girls Clubs of America are an integral part of keeping kids active. In an era where technology and screens and practically taking over, it’s essential to emphasize the importance of children’s physical activity.

It’s difficult for program directors to find fitness activities that actually interest the participants with all the distractions these days. Resources like Skillastics make learning and physical activity an effortless and enjoyable experience for kids.

What Is Skillastics?

Skillastics is a teaching resource for schools and programs to utilize that promotes learning through physical activity. Physical education classes, afterschool programs, and Clubs of all sizes can take advantage of Skillastics’ various virtual and in-person activities.

The mission of Skillastics is to make physical activity a positive experience for children of all ages and abilities. The program aims to establish a healthier and more educated generation using fitness activities. Activities can range anywhere from soccer and tennis to cup stacking and character-building, but they always represent our company’s core values.

Our core values include:

  • Integrity
  • Empowerment
  • Respect
  • Compassion
  • Punctuality
  • Passion
  • Accountability
  • Innovation
  • Learning
  • Positive Mental Attitude (PMA)
  • Finally, fun!

The fitness programs from Skillastics help get children moving physically while simultaneously incorporating critical social skills. Skillastics offers fun, energetic activities, making it easy for afterschool programs like the Boys and Girls Club to get children moving and honestly excited about fitness.

Skillastics Teaches Kids to Develop Healthy Habits

Skillastics programs are a tremendous asset to any club, afterschool program, or physical education course. The Skillastifcs products are perfect for rainy day activities, Friday fun, or a school-wide family game night. The great thing about Skillastics activities is that they function for both large and small groups.

Another positive aspect of Skillastics programs is the health benefits, both physically and mentally. Playing Skillastics games gives children the tools to function well with other students and people after school,  in the classroom, and beyond. Below, we take a closer look at how Skillastics uses physical fitness to form healthy habits in Boys and Girls Club participants.

Physical Benefits of Skillastics

Children need daily play and movement to meet health guidelines. Otherwise, they may suffer adverse health consequences such as diabetes, heart conditions, obesity, or depression. Skillastics is a fantastic tool for Boys and Girls Clubs to teach kids healthy habits surrounding fitness and nutrition.

Skillastics programs, both virtual and in-person, include activities that encourage several fitness skills in students. Programs span from basketball and martial arts to mindfulness and yoga, meaning there’s a program to suit every type of student. Skillastics helps improve and encourage:

  • Dexterity
  • Motor skills
  • Balance
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Flexibility
  • Endurance
  • Healthy eating habits and lifestyle skills

Exercise for kids is crucial to building a healthy and strong body. Utilizing Skillastics programs in your Boys and Girls Club curriculum is a great method to get kids moving.

Making Mental Improvements With Skillastics

Everyone knows that if your body feels good, your mind probably will too. In fact, regular physical activity in children is often linked to improved mental health into adulthood, as reported in the New York Times. Skillastics is an excellent tool to help improve mental health and expand upon cognition and skills.

Playing Skillastics games involves more than just movement from the body. Students have to participate in both mental and physical challenges to be successful. Some of the areas students can improve on include:

  • Teamwork or team building
  • Cooperation
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Cognition
  • Social skills
  • Mental health

Skillastics also allow students to explore different interests, such as STEM academics, in a safe and fun setting. Giving children the chance to try new things and find small successes can boost their self-confidence and encourage them in the classroom as well. Boys and Girls Clubs are the perfect setting for kids to learn and play with Skillastics. The psychological and social benefits of exercise are endless.

Hear It Firsthand: How Skillastics Can Help Your Boys and Girls Club

Around the country, you will find physical education programs in schools, afterschool programs, and Boys and Girls Clubs utilizing Skillastics. The versatile virtual programs and in-person games help children form a positive relationship with physical activity. Students of all abilities can enjoy Skillastics.

The experience of the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club in Burlington, North Carolina, is just one snapshot of how Skillastics is helping clubs across the country. Sherri Henderson, the executive director of the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club, attests to the success of Skillastics within their program.

Some of the key highlights of Mrs. Henderson’s praises surrounding Skillastics programs include:

  1. The ability to pay for Skillastics with grants. Learn more about grants in our FAQs.
  2. Skillastics is great for all age groups and abilities.
  3. You can play Skillastics with group sizes ranging from 6-100 students.
  4. Skillastics fits in both big gymnasiums and smaller spaces.
  5. It is an excellent resource for keeping program participants organized.
  6. Most importantly, it gets kids moving at the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club (and at other clubs around America).

Clearly, Skillastics programs are an asset to this Boys and Girls Club in North Carolina. But Skillastics doesn’t stop there; it is a top-rated resource for teachers, afterschool programs, camps, and other large group activities. There are training opportunities available to give educators the knowledge and information they need to run Skillastics smoothly in their programs.

If you’re still uncertain if Skillastics will be valuable in your club, it might help to hear about real people’s experiences. You can read Mrs. Henderson’s review, along with other testimonials here.

In Conclusion

There is no doubt that any Boys and Girls Club can benefit from Skillastics. The programs go way beyond simply teaching sports skills. Instead, Skillastics helps hone important physical, mental, emotional, and social skills that students will benefit from in everyday life.

Putting Skillastics activities into regular rotation at your Boys and Girls Club is a great way to get children excited about education, fitness, and healthy lifestyle habits.

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.

For more information, email or check out

skillastics physical activity

3 Smart Ways To Social Distance While Playing Skillastics®

We have all had to adjust to social distancing and learn to stay apart – as uncomfortable or odd as that may feel.  Sometimes, we forget that distance does not equate to isolation; we don’t need to be totally separate, just 6 feet. There is a big difference between social distance and social isolation. There is still much we can do from 6 feet apart!

Schools can still offer physical activity programs that get kids involved. With a few modifications, children can participate in many ways while still maintaining social distancing.

Here are just three ways that this can work:

1. Small Group Team Space

Children work well and learn best in groups. The ability for kids to share information and learn from one another is a powerful learning tool. When it comes to physical activities, it’s also much more fun. Since social distancing in large groups is difficult, small groups are optimal for maintaining distance while still participating in Skillastics activities. The large playing mat effortlessly defines the space and allows students to spread out around the board, keeping their distance from other kids.

2. Partners From 6 Feet Away

In partnerships, children can mirror one another to learn steps, help one another remember rules, and share their successes. The ability to partner gives kids more socialization and better opportunities to learn. As partners, kids can have fun while participating in physical activities and staying safe. Children in pairs can easily maintain their 6 feet. They can even work into their partnership a “watch-out” for their distancing to help each other stay apart.

3. Well-Defined Play Space

It can be hard to remember to keep distance, and some children may have difficulty remembering. The large play mat is an excellent visual reminder and placeholder to keep kids apart. Two students playing simultaneously have an easier time staying on opposite sides of the mat, and taking turns encourages children to stop and think about their spacing. The mat is also easy to clean after use with a simple sanitizing spray and wipe-down.

Finding A Way

We have come far learning about ways to stay safe, and it’s clear that masks, social distance, and handwashing keep us healthy. We can work within these new requirements to continue our lives, even if it’s not exactly the same or feels different. We can work with this! It’s a matter of staying aware, making smart choices, and putting safety first.

Skillastics Large Group Physical Activities has always offered kids a way to have fun while getting active, but it’s also become a safe alternative for keeping kids healthy, both physically and during COVID. The large play mat and a few modifications mean kids can still be active and stay safe.  

CLICK HERE for the Skillastics® COVID Safety Guidelines.

To learn more about social distancing while staying physically active, email or call us today at (888) 842-7746.  For more resources to manage remote physical activity programs, head to

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.

For more information, email or check out

Why After School Physical Activity Is a Must

Why After School Physical Activity Is a Must

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
  • Dexterity
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Flexibility
  • Endurance
  • 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.

Movement Matters

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:

  • Basketball
  • Martial arts
  • Kickboxing
  • Mindfulness
  • Dancing
  • Pilates
  • Yoga
  • 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.

For more information, email or check out

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