Category Archives for Fitness

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.

The Benefits of Student-Led Activities

The Benefits of Student-Led Activities

It may come as a surprise to learn that leadership doesn’t begin at the high school level. In fact, educators are creating opportunities for young leaders at the primary age as children are introduced to leadership concepts long before kindergarten. Penn State’s Pre-K early learning social-emotional standards include: “Know and state independent thoughts and feelings” (25.1.1 Self Awareness) and “Participate in new experiences with confidence and independence” (25.1.3 Competence). Here are some benefits and methods to incorporate leadership as you allow your students to lead.

Leadership builds decision-making skills

There’s a good reason leadership skills are being taught at a young age. Studies show that leadership opportunities instill confidence, and help children develop collaborative skills, problem solving skills, and teamwork. For some children, it also provides a sense of responsibility they may not have elsewhere. This builds a good foundation for leadership in high school and in the workforce. If we wait to provide leadership opportunities until children reach high school, they’ll join the workforce unprepared for critical decision-making. 

Leadership and decision making

Leadership can be fun

There’s an even better reason we should let kids lead: because it’s fun. 

Think about it. Kids are told what to do all day long. From the time they get up, eat breakfast, put on school clothes or uniforms, head to classes, and learn specific lesson plans, just about everything is pre-determined. But if you could give kids an opportunity to choose aspects of their day and activities, you could easily become not only the most fun part of their week, but the most important.

Leadership as a reward

Oftentimes, rewards can be complicated, as adults think that kids want physical certificates, money, gifts, or trophies. But rewards don’t have to be complicated to make a lasting impact. You can choose to reward kids in your program for simple observations, such as the child who gave the most effort last week, or the student who showed the most kindness and encouragement for a classmate. You can even assign rewards for introverted kids who step out of their shell to get involved in a new game. Rewards can be as simple as you like! For example,you could choose an assistant-for-the-day, a team captain, OR designate a day of the week where children to choose between programs like Skillastics® Basketball or STEM Skillastics®, an innovative blend of physical activity and cognitive learning as the group activity of the day. You can even introduce the democratic process by allowing kids to vote, and designate a leader to tally up the results. 

All-inclusive Leadership

In organized sports, the captain or leader is often the child with the most skill in that particular sport. But with Skillastics®, children aren’t required to be athletically inclined. That means all children can be leaders, because Skillastics® games and activities level the playing field. Skillastics Activity Kits offer programs for different age groups, all skill levels, and even bilingual programs. The colorful activity cards are identifiable by shape, allowing kids with dyslexia, dsygraphia, dyscalculia, or other learning disabilities the opportunity to not only engage in the programs, but lead. Kids can help decide the “shape of the day” and instruct other children on which identifiable shape and color to look for.

All-inclusive Leadership

Leadership as a point of connection

You know and care about the children in your program. You most likely know when they’re having an “off” day or a tough week. With Skillastics®, you can allow children to choose options such as the number of repetitions they do as a group, or the Skillastics® activity of the day. Being selected as a leader with the option to choose may give that child a sense of control in an overwhelming or tough week. Identifying a child that could flourish with just a little bit of encouragement can return their confidence, and help them realize tough times are only temporary.

By selecting different leaders for different reasons, all kids learn some critical growth and development skills, such as the value of diversity, acceptance of others’ choices that  may lead them to try new things, and even how to negotiate and compromise. Taking turns in leadership also develops that understanding that a good leader and a good team member are equally important. With Skillastics®, adding in opportunities for student-led activities merges fun, educator ease-of-use, and brain development all into one! 

Surprising Consequences of Physical Inactivity

Surprising Consequences of Physical Inactivity

You don’t need a degree in sports medicine to know that some consequences of physical inactivity are as plain as the nose on your face. Obesity–both as a child and later as an adult–is one of the primary risks of a sedentary lifestyle. But we now know that there are more long-term reactions the body has to a lack of movement that are lurking just beneath the surface. These consequences are having more far-reaching effects than we realized for our mental and physical well-being. 

Mental Health

A Brazilian study showed that people who were not engaged in regular physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic had higher levels of anxiety, stress, and depression than people who maintained regular PE. More recent studies from the World Health Organization confirm that more than 80% of the world’s adolescent population lacks sufficient physical fitness. This means a significant portion of our young people are heading for a mental health crisis, as long-term effects of poor mental health can contribute to:

  • Family conflicts
  • Unemployment 
  • Lower income than peers
  • Absenteeism at school or work
  • Increased health-risk behavior
  • Legal or financial problems
mental health

Physical Health

Much like a car, the body runs well when we take care of it. Regular oil changes and maintenance checkups help ensure that your fluid systems are clean and circulating through the vehicle properly. If we don’t perform regular maintenance those fluids will start to clog and your car’s performance will start to suffer until the vehicle eventually breaks down. When we don’t take care of our bodies with regular exercise, the body starts to degrade and break down the same way. Bodily degradation looks like this:

  • A decrease in skeletal muscle mass, as the muscles aren’t being used they send signals to the brain that the muscle isn’t needed, resulting in weakness and atrophy
  • Poor blood circulation, increasing the risk of blood clots and leg cramps
  • A weakened immune system, as exercise changes antibodies and white blood cell counts
  • Increased risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cardiac disease as insulin, which regulates the amount of sugar in the bloodstream, is influenced by exercise

It’s Never Too Late

The great news is that our bodies are truly amazing because we can reverse the short and long-term effects of physical inactivity by simply adding physical activity. Even if children who were previously inactive engage in activity now, they can reverse these consequences, and the earlier we can start, the less time it takes. When we create environments that children love, we build a foundation and a positive mindset around an activity that helps ensure children stay active as adults.  Creating that environment doesn’t come without its own challenges, however.  

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us we have to be flexible when it comes to implementing physical activity. The risks of inactivity are clear, proving that now more than ever, we have to prioritize activity as we evolve with the times.  From remote classroom settings that forced us to look at how educators offer physical activity online and how we engage with students remotely, to the newest challenges of the “great resignation” as employees leave their positions in search of something new, your physical activity programs should be flexible and offer solutions, without another headache or problem. Skillastics® Specialty Digital Programs were there with you as we partnered together in the remote learning world. They are now offered on-site as clubs and or to help with staff shortages.  In addition, as  we continue to see staffing shortages as employees and educators shift their roles, Skillastics® Activity Kits offer resources and curriculum - everything you need to provide students a “kick start” of a life-long love of physical activity. Skillastics® makes it simple to plug and play, with innovative activities that can take less than a minute to set up and easy-to-use manuals and curriculum that anyone can use, regardless of experience. Our quick set-up and all-included kit systems ensure even the newest temporary staffer on your team can jump right in, get engaged in high-quality activity faster, and help you start reversing that cycle of inactivity, one exercise at a time.

Ways to recognize children to encourage more physical activity

Ways to Recognize Children to Encourage More Physical Activity

There’s a constant battle in the mind of a child these days. The pull of electronic devices seems to be stronger than any force on the planet. When iPads, iPhones, and the latest gadgets threaten to keep kids sedentary, how can physical activity win? And what can you do to not just encourage activity, but foster an environment where physical activity THRIVES? 

The answer lies in YOU. 

If you think about back to when you were in elementary and middle school, who were your favorite teachers? The Spanish teacher who sang and danced in a sombrero? The chemistry teacher who “accidentally” combined two fluids until their beaker overflowed? The ones who were always smiling, and could laugh at their kids’ antics, as well as their own mistakes? It is often the most passionate educators, influencing their students to learn something new or hone a new skill who earn the title of “favorite teacher” year after year. Don’t worry, you don’t have to rent a clown suit to get your students’ attention. You just have to borrow some “best practices” from the Teacher of the Year.

Environment is key

Joy is contagious, and if you love physical activity, that spills over into your classroom or gym space. A Stanford University study showed that having a positive environment increased students’ memories and enhanced their problem-solving capabilities. When students enter a classroom space led by a positive, encouraging educator, that environment can have a direct impact on not just their physical activity time, but increases their IQ and improves function of the hippocampus, the portion of the brain that relies on memory. 

But having a positive environment isn’t about adding encouraging posters to your wall. Start by recognizing effort, and make it personal. Acknowledging students’ efforts starts with paying attention to the students as they are working towards their fitness goals. As students improve, verbally acknowledge with words of affirmation, such as “Great Job, Maia,” “excellent effort, Kim” “you’ve improved so much, Tyler” or “I’m really proud of how you worked to perfect that skill.” Work on learning the names of all your kids, not just the star athletes. You might find that those who aren’t often recognized for their physical activity achievements really shine when their efforts are applauded. 

skillastics soccer activity set

Jump In

Just like the chemistry teacher overflowing their beaker, kids love it when you jump in. If you’re allowed to demonstrate as an instructor, do it! Show them your wicked jump rope skills or how you can hula hoop with your eyes closed. Don’t be afraid the kids will laugh at you, and if you make a mistake, laugh with them. Kids are more likely to try new things if they aren’t afraid of failure. When you step up to the plate and show them that it’s ok to try new things even if you don’t get it right the first time, it encourages them to keep trying. Skillastics Activity Kits provide the perfect opportunity to be silly and “jump in” with your kids, as our oversized mats show 26 different physical activities, any of which would be a fun demonstration for the children in your program. 

Make achievable goals

Don’t worry, we aren’t talking about participation trophies here. Instead, provide physical activities that ALL kids can have an interest in, where they can succeed quickly. If they can learn a new game or skill quickly, and all kids can play, they can make achievable goals to perfect that new skill, improve their time, increase their speed, or improve their form. Skillastics® offers activity kits, as well as specialty programming such as sport stacking, where kids work to beat their best time, martial arts, where children can improve form, and basketball, where kids can learn and perfect their skills. No matter which sport you choose to introduce to your kids, remember to encourage them each step of the way.

Don’t forget awards 

Some of the best ways to reward kids–especially those who haven’t been as involved in physical activity in the past–is to show that you notice. Offering positive praise is one way, but also offering rewards is another. These don’t have to be printed certificates (although those are great too). There are many ways to reward outstanding effort, such as:

  • Most improved gets to choose the activity next week
  • Most positive attitude gets to be the line leader
  • Best form gets to demonstrate to the class

Kids who excel can also be called on to buddy with struggling students. This helps provide instruction to the child who needs more help, and provides leadership opportunities at a young age for kids who have worked hard to improve their skills. 

Encouraging your kids in your physical activity space, providing a positive environment, diving all-in to the activities, and providing rewards and verbal recognition offers a winning combination that will ensure physical education time becomes their favorite part of the day. No beakers required.  

speed stacks

Skillastics® Speed Stacking: The Physical Activity Your Program is Missing

Over twenty years ago, Speed Stacks® founder Bob Fox watched Sport Stacking for the first time on a late night tv show. An elementary school teacher by trade, he quickly became a sport stacking enthusiast, and began sharing the sport with others. Within a few years, he was asked to present a demonstration in Texas, and after an overwhelming response, Speed Stacks® was born. His small home business was designed to promote sport stacking and become a resource for physical education teachers.  As an educator, Bob was able to speak to PE teachers on a peer level. His program has grown exponentially, and has become part of over 54,000 school and club programs in 54 countries. 

But is Speed Stacking a sport?

By definition, “sports” are “activities involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” Speed stacking—an AAU Junior Olympics sport—is by no means a passive activity. Speed Stacks® players compete and are judged as individuals or teams. Each player’s hand and upper body move to independently and cooperatively build up and break down a series of predetermined pyramid configurations in the least amount of time possible. Children can compete in two ways: as an individual, building their own self esteem as they improve their personal time, and as a team, working to improve their own contributing score as they help lower their team’s overall score. Speed stacking is also naturally inclusive, bringing together kids of all types of athletic ability and talent.

Speed Stacking - The Physical Activity Your Program is Missing

Are there other benefits?

Speed stacking also develops bilateral proficiency, which offers both physical and mental benefits. According to Speed Stacks®, the company that manufactures all of the official equipment required for competition, “By increasing bilateral proficiency, a student develops a greater percentage of the right side of the brain, which houses awareness, focus, creativity and rhythm.” In turn, training the brain to use both hands simultaneously improves other areas of learning where both hands are needed, such as computer typing or coding, cooking, or laboratory sciences, while pattern sequencing can improve math and reading.

Why is Skillastics® better?

Skillastics® partnered with Speed Stacks® to help increase movement while simultaneously developing Cup Stacking Skills. In speed stacking competitions, the cardio aspect is minimal, as the World Sport Stacking Association competitions incorporates only the task of timed stacking, with no additional exercises. By incorporating increased movements and aerobic exercises, Speed Stacks® Skillastics® integrates the missing aerobic activity piece.

As a physical activity program leader, we know you’re looking for that combination of speed and hand-eye coordination training, along with a true cardio-enhanced program. Our Ultimate Speed Stacks Skillastics®  package is the perfect solution. This team-based package includes:

  • The Official Speed Stacks® stacking cups with timer and mat, as used for official competition (30-set pack)
  • A Speed Stacks® Jumbo-Sized Cups (3 sets)
  • Speed Stacks® Skillastics® that includes step-by-step lesson plans and access to tips and instructions housed in Skillastics University. 
  • 30-Day Digital Speciality Programming - leave it to the experts! Let a Speed Stacks® expert lead your students through everything you need to know about cup stacking.

Where traditional cup stacking programs teach the skill, our program engages the student’s full body from head to toe, incorporating moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) from our super fun activities, with right brain development. Our system is designed for the student, with the Instructor in mind and includes step-by-step instructional manuals and assessments, aligned with the National PE and After School HEPA 2.0 National Standards. 

We offer two options: 

  • Speed Stack Skillastics: Includes the Skillastics® Activity Kit System, but does not include the cups or mats, as programs that may already have a Speed Stack cup stacking system want to raise the bar by incorporating our Activity Kit System.
  • Ultimate Speed Stack Skillastics: Includes everything in the Speed Stack Skillastics kit, plus the 30-Set Sport Pack, a Jumbo 3 Pack, and unlimited use of the 30-day Speed Stacks Specialty Program. 

Like all of our Activity Kit Systems, Skillastics® Speed Stacking provides a seamless, worry-free program that even a brand new user can implement with ease. Our Skillastics® Activity Kits are durable, take less than a minute to set up, integrate academics, and can allow up to 100 children to participate at one time. 

Five Before School Fitness Ideas That Work

Five Before School Fitness Ideas That Work

Enter your text here...There’s no doubt that kids who engage in physical activity before school have a leg up on kids who don’t engage in physical activity. Studies have shown that exercise before school improves concentration as well as grades and test scores, but the benefits reach far beyond academia. You know that incorporating exercise at least three times per week has proven to provide mental health benefits, such as deeper social connections and maintaining a positive life outlook.

Other improvements the studies observed include:

  • Motor skill development
  • Reduced stress
  • Higher self-esteem 
  • Improved perception of having a healthy lifestyle
  • Reduced healthcare costs

The positives far outweigh any negatives, but it’s still important to consider programs that are both feasible and sustainable, yet flexible enough to accommodate differing numbers of children as they arrive at school or their before-school program. Full schedules after school for kids who have external art lessons, music lessons, or other commitments make before-school opportunities even more valuable. 

Consider these five before-school fitness ideas that work. 

Create a Specialty Club

Skillastics® offers Digital Specialty Programming via our 30-day specialty content programming with UNLIMITED use. Want to start a Kickboxing Club? Folklorico Club? Pilates or Yoga? All you have to do is share your screen–remotely, or via on-site projections on a big screen, gym wall, or classroom whiteboard. The best part about this programming is that kids can excel at their own pace. Your club can have kids who are in the program for the first time, partnering alongside seasoned veterans who’ve used it before. That gives you a great opportunity to involve those who’ve used it before, and give them a chance to display their natural leadership abilities as they demonstrate what they’ve already learned to other club members. And as kids excel together in their activity of choice, they’ll enjoy that camaraderie from other students in the club.  

Focus on Whole Health

Childhood anxiety is at an all-time high, but we know mental health contributes to the overall fitness of a child. What if you could focus on the whole student, helping them to create a relaxed mind, starting their day stress-free?  Skillastics® offers an amazing new program that educates children on internal topics like gratitude, meditation, personal awareness, self-discipline, and accountability through journaling, movement, and meditation. Older kids can benefit as well, with additional topics on anxiety management and SEL. When kids can start their day calmly, that peacefulness can sustain them all day long.  

Build a Team

You can easily use the Skillastics® Afterschool Package in your before-school lesson plans. Each cooperative activity incorporates an associated teamwork or leadership activity that is tied to a character trait such as compassion, sportsmanship, or respect. The lesson plan manual helps your staff associate the activities to SEL behaviors, and helps kids with real-life application. Kids form teams of all ages and skill levels, because our programs level the playing field and allow all kids to have a chance to participate, not just the most athletic. 

Make It Flexible

While some school districts are fully in-house, others are remote, and yet others are hybrid or quarantine kids on a case-by-case basis. But whether a child is in person at school or remote at home, they still have physical education needs, and if able, should still have access to those same crucial PE programs. Understanding that physical activity affects many other aspects of the child’s academic and social development is a great motivator to help parents keep those physical activity plans on their family schedule. With Digital Specialty Programming, kids can join in remotely via Zoom or Google Meets, or Microsoft Teams. 

Have a scalable system

Skillastics® offers activity kits that provide everything you need to organize, engage, and motivate children in the physical activity setting. Because these kits include set up instructions, materials and equipment for each of the activities, you can easily pull out just what you need to plan for one day, or 100.  Skillastics® kits offer a huge return on investment as they are reusable, scalable, and customizable for the experienced user or the first-day PE substitute. Educators can choose one activity or several smaller ones via as Fitness Skillastics for younger kids, or Fitness Extreme Skillastics for Middle & High School Students. 

Whether your before-school fitness needs involve clubs, mindfulness and self-care, flexible remote options, teams of all athletic abilities, or scalable systems, the key is just pick one and get started!  The lasting benefits of carving this block of time out first thing sets every child up for success not just for today, but for their long-term future. 


Virtual Physical Education? Yes, it’s possible! Creating a Program that Kids Love

We hear so much about COVID limiting Physical Education options as students are quarantined, classrooms are virtual, and district policies change by the minute. The truth is, Physical Education started evolving virtually even before COVID began forcing education experts to rethink how learning is delivered.  In the late 1990’s, Physical Education took a backseat as students began to take additional courses, advanced placement classes, and multiple electives to round out their college applications. Statistics now show that a reduction in physical activity has a direct correlation to increased childhood obesity, depression, and anxiety

There are several ways to ensuring kids stay consistently involved in physical activity instead of the video games, tablets, or cell phones that call their names. The first is to make physical activity something they love. An early love for physical activity will carry through as students begin their college prep years on into adulthood. But how do you do that in a virtual world? 

Be Creative. 

Incorporate games like Bingo, where kids can mark off activities as they go through the week or a Scavenger Hunt to find items in their home or yard. Another great way to foster creativity is to ask kids what exercise or sports they’ve always wanted to learn. You may find that a desire to learn a new sport or activity is shared by several other students. That can become a springboard to teach it virtually, or to incorporate a specialized activity taught by skilled outside educators. 

Make it Accessible.

In the gymnasium, kids have a huge area to play and a cornucopia of resources to pick from.  But at home, kids are limited by available space, space for the activity itself, or even basic resources like jump ropes and hula hoops. What’s a Physical Education teacher to do? 

  • Offer modifications. If they don’t have a jump rope, what do they have?  If they need a balloon and don’t have one, what can you suggest they use that’s similar?
  • Consider accommodations. Are there students with special needs, or physical limitations? Kids who aren’t as physically fit as other students?  Kids have fun when they feel included. How can you include them in your activity so that every kid belongs?
  • Use what you’ve got. What does every kid have? A body! No matter what online connection type a kid is using, or what type of video chat they’re using, every kid has a body. If you can get that body going through videos, flash cards, emailed activities or other resources you can work around any other limitations.

Flexibility—switch it up.

Research shows that learning something new helps build new brain cells and makes the connection between existing cells stronger. Learning new activities strengthens the brain, improves concentration, problem solving, and memory. Skillastics ® offers a unique digital virtual learning program that offers specialty activities like Folklorico, Yoga, Martial Arts, or Sport Stacking. When kids master one type of program, they can try something new. Because each program is a self-run program led by experts in their field, the individual physical education instructor doesn’t have to be the expert in that activity!

Change the Scenery.

Move it outdoors! The CDC’s Physical Activity Guidelines for Kids recommends that kids from ages 6 to 17 have at least an hour of physical activity per day. When kids are in a virtual setting that hour can be difficult to find. In fact, only 24% of kids in this age group are actually achieving that hour of activity. One solution is to move physical activity outdoors and consider Geocaching. Geocaching can be socially distanced, and with parents, family members, or older siblings. Participants use a GPS or Global Positioning System on their phone app to hide and seek containers that are left at outdoor locations with the specified coordinates. It’s free, there’s no age limit, and you can find multiple apps, podcasts, and program.


Don’t Forget Connection.

When kids are virtually connected to school, they can miss out on the human connection with their peers and instructors. Passionate teachers who stay connected with their students create an environment of love through the relationships they build. When students know you still care even through the screen, it can fill the void of human interaction from in-person classes. In turn, a simple physical education class can become their favorite hour of the day. 

About the Author

Sandy Slade is the CEO & Founder of Skillastics®, the all-in-one solution for After School and PE instructors that make physical activity simple.  

Skillastics® is enjoyed by over 10 million students in more than 25,000 educational settings nationwide.


10 Unique Individual Sports Your Students Will Love

There are a wide variety of unique individual sports that students will love to try. Team sports are great because they teach kids how to get along and relate well to others, but individual sports have many benefits too. They can breed independence and confidence in children and adolescents, among other qualities. Individual sports allow the athlete to progress at their own pace and set personal goals that won’t affect teammates. They can compete against themselves without worrying about disappointing anyone, which can be a great relief for students. The importance of physical activity to children’s health is important to note, too. This article will explore the following ten individual sports, some of which might be fun to try in your next physical education class:

  • Martial arts
  • Kickboxing
  • Fencing
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Wrestling
  • Running
  • Skiing or Snowboarding
  • Cycling
  • Golf

1. Martial Arts

It’s easy to see why many kids are picking up martial arts and sticking with it. The sport is all about codified systems and traditions of combat practice, with various levels (signified by the different colored belts in karate, for example). Martial arts has mental and spiritual components and physical aspects, making it popular for kids who are looking for something different than the average sport. They also offer lessons on self-defense, which every student should know. Students would be excited to learn some martial arts moves in their next gym class.

2. Kickboxing

Kickboxing is an outstanding individual sport that you can introduce your students to during physical education classes. It’s a great option because you don’t need any materials or equipment to participate in kickboxing, and it will get your students’ heart rates up. Kickboxing, like martial arts, is also an opportunity for students to learn some self-defense techniques. Moves like jabbing and uppercutting will give them physical strength while clearing any thoughts that might be distracting them.

3. Fencing

Fencing is a lesser-known individual sport, but chances are your students will love trying it. Fencing requires more equipment than the other individual sports mentioned so far because you’ll need to make sure your students have padding and helmets to wear since swords are involved. There are various strategies and techniques associated with fencing that will stimulate students mentally, and they will be eager to learn more about the sport. Fencing is fun because it’s a competitive sport, too, though you’re only competing against one other individual.

4. Swimming

Swimming is a classic option in the world of individual sports. There are chances, of course, to make swimming more of a team effort with relay races. But for the most part, swimming is for individuals to compete against each other and their best times. Getting a personal record, or PR, is always something fun to strive for because you’re competing against yourself. Swimming is also a great life skill for students to learn because they will be safe whenever they are near water. Knowing how to do basic strokes, tread water, and float could come in handy if they ever find themselves in a body of water in an emergency.

5. Tennis

Another excellent individual sport is tennis. Of course, you will need a court to play an actual tennis game, but you can start by teaching your students the techniques in any gym or large outdoor space. Like many of the other individual sports mentioned, tennis is a lifetime sport. Starting students young is a great idea because they can continue to play it for the rest of their lives. Tennis can be played in pairs, but it is considered an individual sport for the most part. Teach your students how to score correctly, what the different lines on the court mean, and the various racquet techniques, and they’ll be well on their way to becoming tennis pros.

6. Wrestling

Wrestling might not be for everyone, seeing as it’s most popular with boys and young men at the moment. But that could change if women are introduced to the sport at a younger age. Wrestling is typically done in a room with special mat floors to cushion any injuries that could occur due to the physical nature of the sport. If you’re trying wrestling with students, make sure they have a handle on the rules, etiquette, and techniques before you start. Pair students by size to make sure there aren’t any uneven match-ups, otherwise, it won’t be fun for all the students.

7. Running

Whether it’s cross country or track, running is another excellent individual sport to introduce to your students. It’s so simple and easy, too, because most students are natural at it. Training only requires a good pair of tennis shoes and a track. If your school doesn’t have a track available, try using the gym or playground and set up a course for the students. You can start by having them run a certain distance or for an allotted amount of time. Running is another sport that will age well because it’s a great stress reliever, so it can help students’ mental health. Getting your students’ heartbeats up will help them physically and mentally.

8. Skiing or Snowboarding

Skiing and snowboarding are individual sports that can be done in the wintertime if you live in the right climate. Though not the most inexpensive sport, it’s a great option for individuals who would rather compete against themselves than their teammates. Skiing and snowboarding require different skills and techniques, but they both provide great physical exercise and a mental reprieve from everyday life stresses. Students might enjoy trying cross country skiing first because it’s a less expensive activity that can be done at a nearby park or golf course.

9. Cycling

Cycling is an individual sport that you might not think of initially. Students can compete in cycling competitions or even triathlons, combining the skills they’ve learned in swimming, running, and cycling. It’s a great individual sport, mainly because students can enjoy leisurely bicycling or do it for sport. The workout will accelerate their heart rate and work their muscles.

10. Golf

Like tennis and swimming, golf is an individual sport that many people recognize as a lifelong activity. Not many people get into it at a young age, but it’s a sport that requires a lot of concentrated practice to improve. Try introducing golf to your students and see if it interests them. You can teach them the basics of swinging a golf club, the variety of clubs and when it’s appropriate to use them, and the etiquette that goes along with the sport.

Benefits of Individual Sports

Helping your students discover new and exciting individual sports could be a great benefit to them. They will learn how to be competitive and challenge themselves to do better at each match, race, or meet. There are so many unique individual sports to try, and your students will have fun trying them out to see what they like!

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

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