Category Archives for Afterschool

Virtual After School Programs: Keeping Kids Active, Even Online

“I wish things could just go back to normal.”

There’s no doubt that you’ve heard this phrase often muttered in the last few months; perhaps even from your own mouth, your partner’s, or your child’s.

It’s true that Americans have had to adapt to a “new normal” during the Coronavirus pandemic. Businesses, workplaces, and schools are implementing stringent safety protocols and virtual tools so people can continue to work and learn during this challenging time.

Just like other entities, after school programs are innovating creative alternatives for after school enrichment. Kids are likely to be negatively affected by the loss of in-person interaction with peers and teachers or after school program leaders. Now, more than ever, educators have to plan ahead to seamlessly integrate virtual resources into afterschool programming to keep kids active and healthy, both physically and mentally.

Why Are After School Programs So Important?

Families in communities across the country rely on the afterschool industry as an essential resource for childcare and education. After school programs help keep kids safe, active, and involved with both physical and mental benefits.

Benefits of After School Programs

Children who participate in After School programs receive innumerable benefits, both physically and mentally. After school activities are an excellent way for kids to learn about teamwork, friendship, and the importance of physical fitness.

Physical Health

Many Out-of-School programs incorporate physical fitness into their daily curriculum. Whether it’s free time outdoors or a specially designed activity or game for kids, there is a vast array of improvements made on enhancing children’s health and wellness through daily physical exercise. This includes:

  • Improved endurance and flexibility
  • Improved motor skills
  • Improved hand-eye coordination and reaction time
  • Improved dexterity
  • Reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, childhood obesity, and other life-threatening illnesses

Mental Health

On top of the improvements to their physical well-being, children also gain an impressive amount of mental health benefits from exercise in after school programs. Exercise-oriented After School programs improve children’s mental health by:

  • Promoting healthy habits
  • Increasing communication and teamwork skills
  • Creating a consistent routine
  • Building confidence
  • Improving social and emotional skills

These days, especially being stuck at home for extended periods of time, children and teens are at incredibly high risk for mental health issues like depression and anxiety. After School programs that emphasize physical activity help reduce the prevalence of physical and mental illnesses in kids.

Incorporating Virtual Learning Into Your After School Program

With the pandemic impacting how schools and programs operate, a lot of curriculum is moving online. While the quick adoption of new technology is impressive, there’s a greater risk for kids to lose out on the benefits of physical activity during virtual learning.

It can be challenging to envision how kids can actually incorporate exercise into virtual learning environments, but there are many ways to encourage at-home physical fitness for children in After School programs.

1. Take Regular Movement Breaks

One of the most significant losses for After School Instructors is the absence of wide open spaces for children to move in. Unfortunately, kids probably have limited mobility within the confines of their home, so it’s essential to incorporate regular movement breaks into programs.

Jumping jacks, running in place, push ups, or other exercises that only involve a limited amount of space are easy to implement between other online games and activities. Plus, having kids get up and away from the computer for a little bit can reduce the negative health impacts of too much screen time.

2. Implement New Activities

It’s troubling to think about all of the things kids are losing out on without in-person programs. Children and teens rely on these programs to see friends, receive mentorship, and have structured time for exercise.

With many programs quickly going virtual, After School Programmers might think they have to cut out regular After School activities. However, there are many engaging After School programs and lessons available to incorporate into the online classroom.

Virtual physical activity programs are an easy way for After School Instructors to implement fitness into an online setting. The virtual activity should seamlessly translate between instructor and student and provide a variety of fun, holistic physical activity lessons. When looking for a new activity or game for your program, look for an online program that is:

  • Easy to install (“Click N’ Play” model)
  • Easy to understand and explain
  • Instructor-led with opportunities for student-centered learning
  • Easily incorporated into every day curriculum
  • Allows for continuous learning even after the online session has ended

3. Encourage Individual Outdoor Play

The CDC’s guidelines recommend that children ages 6 to 17 incorporate at least one hour of physical activity into their daily schedule, but that’s difficult to achieve when kids are stuck in quarantine.

It’s vital that instructors and parents work together to encourage individual outdoor activities for students, while still following social distancing recommendations. When kids lose out on opportunities for physical fitness, they are at a higher risk for serious and debilitating diseases later on in life like diabetes and heart issues.

Students might be tempted to stay inside and play video games or go on social media all day. These behaviors lead to childhood obesity, depression, and other health issues. Parents have a responsibility to ensure that children receive adequate daily exercise when after school programs are virtual.

Challenges of Virtual After School Programs

Teachers can attest, it is not easy to keep a large group of children under control. Now, more parents are experiencing the difficulties of childhood education within their own homes. Implementings virtual learning into an after school program is not going to go without its own set of challenges for educators and parents.

Coordinating any number of young kids is difficult. Add a little technology into the mix and there is sure to be an adjustment period for instructors and students. Some challenges instructors might experience include:

  • Technical difficulties
  • Slow loading times or connectivity
  • Students lacking adequate technology
  • Unruly students
  • Interruptions in their house or a students
  • A lack of engagement or attention from students

Before starting a new virtual after school program, familiarize yourself with the technology and brainstorm activities to keep kids engaged and moving. Children will be much more likely to participate in a program that runs smoothly because that’s way more fun than watching a teacher struggle for ten minutes before even starting an activity.Encouraging children to get out and exercise during the Covid-19 pandemic can be a challenge. Instructors of after school programs are implementing online activities into their virtual learning curriculum. There are tons of opportunities to get creative with your online offerings for after school activity participants. Use virtual learning tools to keep kids engaged and active until we can eventually go back to “normal.”

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

10 Reasons Why Kids Need Exercise in Their After School Program

Exercise and fitness are crucial to the physical well-being of kids and adults alike. However, when a child does not have adequate physical activity incorporated into their daily routine, there can be dire short and long-term consequences. Ensuring that students remain active throughout their childhood can help create long lasting healthy habits that continue well into adulthood.
After school programs are a fantastic way for a child to make friends, learn, and spend time engaged in physical activity. After school programs that provide daily exercise can foster immense growth for the children that attend.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition states that children between the ages of 6 and 17 should participate in 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA)  a day. However, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates that only 1 in every 3 children in America participates in physical activity every day. With childhood obesity on the rise, after school programs play a critical role in providing children with the time and safe space to exercise and practice healthy habits.

10 Benefits of Incorporating Exercise Into After School Programs

Improves Physical Well-Being

  • First and foremost, participation in physical activity will always enhance the physical well-being of a child. Daily exercise improves physical well-being because it:
  • Strengthens muscles and bones
  • Reduces the risk of Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other life-threatening diseases
  • Improves endurance and flexibility
  • Improves motor skills, hand-eye-coordination, dexterity, and reaction time

Improves Mental Health and Well-Being

Besides physical well-being, after school exercise will also boost mental well-being in children. Recent studies have shown a strong correlation between depression in kids and adolescents and lack of physical activity. When we exercise, our brains let out powerful endorphins that release the positive energy that keeps us feeling good. Regular physical activity keeps kids’ bodies and minds from becoming sluggish and unproductive.

Creates Consistency in Routine

After school programs are a fantastic way to promote time management skills and consistent routines in children. If exercise is incorporated into the program’s curriculum every single day after school, children will recognize that physical activity needs to happen every day, too, just like brushing your teeth, eating, or catching the bus.

Promotes New and Healthy Habits

The benefit of exercise at an after school program is the wide variety of games, sports, and other physical activities available to experience. There are many resources available for after school programs to use to promote healthy habits in children. These programs also give kids the chance to try new sports and games, which could lead to further interest in team activities and healthy habits.

Fosters Connection With Other Children

When children attend after school programs that emphasize regular physical activity, it provides the opportunity for them to connect with peers over shared interests. For example, it takes three people to participate in a round of double dutch jumping, enticing the children to connect over that activity which they prefer.

Children Learn New Skills

After school programs allow children to learn new skills through physical activity. Programs are often full of diverse groups of students; some may not have any siblings; some live in apartments and don’t have access to certain recreational activities. Perhaps a little girl without any brothers has never played basketball before. After school programs can utilize sport-specific resources  and activities to promote that interest.

Builds Confidence

Participation in a group setting will undoubtedly boost the confidence of younger children. By promoting activities in after school programs where children can play in teams and use problem-solving skills to communicate with others, children become more self-assured and self-reliant.

Influences Homework and Test Scores

Research at Stanford University has proven that too much home and schoolwork can be detrimental to the overall development of a child. Incorporating after school activities into the daily routine of children can provide a much-needed rest for their growing brains. Unstructured playtime especially can foster creativity and free thinking in a child.

Improves Social and Emotional Skills

While participating in physically challenging activities, kids must work as a team, communicate, and play fair. Repeatedly using these interpersonal skills during after school programs will encourage children to incorporate those social and emotional skills into everyday life at school and home.

Encourages Other Healthy Lifestyle Habits

Building physical activity into the daily routine of a child can foster healthier lifestyle habits down the road. Children who participate in sports and other afterschool activities are more likely to continue to incorporate healthy lifestyle choices into their adult lives. They may avoid junk food, drugs, and alcohol because they understand the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. They may also continue to have a lifelong enjoyment of participating in physical activity and instill that sense of happiness unto their children someday.

The Long-Term Pay Off

Children can suffer both physically and mentally when adults in their life fail to provide opportunities for exercise. However, with the proper training, the staff at an after school program can improve any child’s quality of life. An hour of physical activity each day not only improves children’s physical and mental wellbeing but can improve upon several useful life skills. By promoting a positive physical fitness experience to children in developing stages of their lives, they can begin honing practical social skills. Physical activity in an after school program setting can encourage confidence, communication, teamwork, learning, and improve interpersonal skills. These are lifelong skills that will benefit children long into the future.

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

Skillastics Virtual Physical Activity Program: Making it Easier for You to Get Kids to Move More

We have had to sacrifice much of our normal lives in the face of this pandemic, and it’s hard. We are all struggling and feeling the difficulty of the changes in our lives, but none more than educators working from home to keep kids learning.

The easier we can make programs for After School Instructors to implement at home, the more kids will benefit and the more we can support your program through this difficult time. At Skillastics, we took action to pivot and retool our proven methods into a Virtual Learning Physical Activity Program.

Why It Works. We designed the Virtual Learning Physical Activity Program to be simple to explain to learners. It is  balanced to include instructor-led portions while still maintaining student-centered practices, and scaffolded to allow students to continue learning even when the computer turns off.

How It Works. The program is presented to students via ZOOM or Google Classroom/Google Meets.  The daily lessons provide structure to the day, include a variety of holistic skills, and focus on fun choices to keep the kids engaged. There are even options for the children to include their family members, further strengthening their understanding and retention of the skills. Instructors receive easy-to-follow instructions so they can get started with little prep and free online training.  In-depth training is also available for those who want more support.

The key to successful eLearning is an instructor who can focus attention on the children, not the technology. We created a complete package with easy to digest talking points that guide the lesson delivery so After School & PE Instructors can naturally connect with their students without distractions from figuring out lesson pacing. With our virtual program, you can successfully deliver physical activity lessons through a computer screen.

Most importantly, our Virtual Learning Physical Activity Program will continue to instill a love for movement and an enjoyment for physical activity. When you purchase the program, you will have all the right tools to continue improving children’s health through regular physical activity.

For more information email:

Ready to buy, CLICK HERE

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.

How a Mid-Year Progress Report Enhances Your Efforts

Congratulations on reaching the half-way mark of the school year! Not only is January a new year, but it’s mid-year through the academic calendar. This mile-marker is a good spot to assess progress so that you can celebrate the accomplishments or make adjustments to reach your goals by the end of the year.

Why Conduct Assessments
Any long-term goal requires a series of steps to achieve, and it’s important to measure progress along the way. How well did you complete the last step? Are you ready for the next step? Just as the academic classroom includes assessments to determine students’ grasp of the units, so should you assess your program.

The results of an assessment offer insights into the success of your program so that you can make better decisions about where to focus your efforts. For example, should you keep focusing on a particular skill, or do you need to step back and develop more foundational skills first? Are you on track to move through the units, or should you add more or remove some?

The Goal of Assessment
Metrics are important indicators for determining progress, and data driven decisions have become the norm. Within this world of measurements and datapoints is a term worth learning called Delta, and it stands for the amount of change that occurs. In other words, this metric pinpoints the before and after effects of your program.

When the merit of a program stands on its transformative success, you want to capture the before-and-after changes that occur. You need to know how far you’ve come and where your students are in their transformation.

But you don’t have to be a data analyst to do this!

Easy to Use Reporting
Instead of struggling to design your own Skillastics® progress report, allow us to help you. We have created two easy to use tools to help you assess your program and or your staff. The Skillastics Physical Activity Instructor Evaluations assesses your staff and the Skillastics Pre-Post Test helps assess your student’s attitudes. You’ll gain immediate insights about your work so far with easy to read results so that you don’t need to be an expert in statistics to understand the outcome.

The results of our free Progress Report will help you plan for the next half of the school year and make the most of your time. In the end, your students will benefit most from a program evaluation that stays on track and meets its goals.

How to Deal with Reluctant Students and Refusal to Participate

Fear in children isn’t always expressed with wide-eyes and tears, particularly with older teens. In school, fear of failure at an activity or standing out in a bad way can manifest as refusals to participate.

When faced with a child or teenager’s refusal to participate, it can be tough, but these are children feeling fear. It’s up to you to role model bravery and provide safety.

Source of Fears
Not every child in a PE or After School Program is an expert in sports, so some may struggle to learn. For them, aiming at the net in basketball but throwing an air ball in front of everyone may feel humiliating.

From dribbling the ball right to remembering the rules, these children see nothing but opportunities to fail when playing basketball. So, they avoid it all together; they refuse to participate.

What Can You Do?
When someone is feeling fear, it’s like they are backed into a corner. Pushing them will only cause them to feel further penned in with no choice other than digging in deeper. It’s time to be creative and show them a way out of the corner.

1.Don’t Fight Them. They will seem angry and obstinate, but remember, they are scared. Don’t fuel the fires of their anger. Show them bravery by staying calm in the face of their adversity.

2.Acknowledge Their Choice. Give permission to skip the game. Tell them you understand they don’t want to play, so let’s do something else that’s less threatening and helps build self-esteem instead of tear it down.

3.Redirect the Energy. Introduce fun games and activities that focus on skill development, like Basketball Skillastics®. Pull from these to give them small challenges that they can win. Focus on the skill, not the game

Making it Fun for All
When you push someone out of their comfort zone, it helps to provide a bridge. That’s where skill development come into the picture. Not everyone will be able to play a game of basketball, but skill development is accessible to everyone.

One of the reasons Basketball Skillastics® works well with a diverse group is because its inclusive and allows a whole class to practice their skills in a fun way all at the same time. Also, you can float the room once everyone is occupied. Now, you can assess everyone’s skill level, provide more support for reluctant students, and allow skilled students to showcase their abilities.
Bridging the Gulf

Develop resources to bridge the gulf to reach and draw out fearful students; you have a real chance to help change their attitudes. We can get you started with Basketball Skillastics®, a resource designed so that all children can have fun learning basketball instead of missing out. Throughout November when you use the code bb2019, you’ll receive 10% off so that you can begin to use this resource right away. Purchase online or via Purchase Order to FAX (951) 279-3957 or email to Suzanne Blair at

5 Tips for Creating Basketball Lesson that Kids Love

It’s that time of year again! Gyms echo with the squeaks of sneakers as we kick off Basketball Season. During PE and after school this time of year, it’s all about basketball. It’s also the number one choice of recess activity; more basketballs are requested this time of year, and for good reason!

Everyone can play with a ball. But not everyone can or wants to play a sport.

Basketball for All
So, it’s tough to create lessons to teach basketball; how do you include students who are good at basketball and want to be challenged as well as students who have very little interest in the sport?

The solution is to focus on skill development. All students, no matter their ability, can have fun developing their skills in a non-threatening, non-competitive atmosphere.
Creating the Right Environment

By following the 5 tips below, you can make it easier to teach basketball fundamentals to diverse groups:

1.A Ball for Each. Get each student a ball, any ball. If it bounces and fits through a net, it’s great to use to teach basketball fundamentals. If you must share, follow a ratio of two students per ball.

2.Control the Bouncing. Kids love to bounce the ball! They can’t seem to help themselves, despite requests to stop, and it gets disruptive. So, remove temptation. Create a signal word or phrase like “stall the ball!” at which they put the ball between their feet when they hear it.

3.Delegate to Motivate and Engage. If you’re not comfortable demonstrating a fundamental, allow skilled students to take this role. They will love it!

4.Keep Them Moving! Downtime breeds distractions or misbehaving. Keep them actively engaged. Waiting in line? Practice dribbling or ball-handling. Waiting for a ball? Mirror the activity to learn the motions.

5.Play the Game Last. At the end of the lesson, avoid playing a game of basketball. Modify the game to highlight the skill learned in the session.

Resource for Skill Building
To modify the game or learn other skill development ideas so all children enjoy the sport, consult resources like Basketball Skillastics®. Motivated by the desire to create an all-inclusive and whole class learning environment, Basketball Skillastics was designed to practice skills in a fun way together.

For this month, let’s make the most of the sport by getting the most children involved through skill development. Celebrate the start of basketball season with a 10% discount on Basketball Skillastics® throughout November for After School and Physical Education Instructors with code bb2019. Online, or Purchase Order.

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.”

Virtual Physical Activity - 5 steps on implementing an all-star program

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