Category Archives for Park and Recreation

Tips And Tricks To Make Exercise Fun For Kids

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

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

Make it fun.

If You Build It, They Will Come

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

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

Make it fun, and kids will come.

Making Exercise Fun

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


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

Encourage Yourself, Too

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

Remember, the real key is to keep trying.

Tennis Skillastics®: Fun and Skills All in One!

(Common Core, Physical Literacy and Standards Based Physical Fitness)

My favorite Skillastics® kit is Tennis Skillastics®. It is no surprise that I have a true passion for Tennis. I am a 28-year veteran High School Tennis Coach and played Tennis myself since I was 8. We as teachers may give our students the opportunity to learn and play tennis. Like anything else, the more skilled students become the more they will enjoy the sport. It is an activity, which may be played throughout their lives. It may be played at any level, gender or age. Teaching Tennis in school has never been a question for me, with or without a court. I have seen the bonds made between families and friends, which has such an amazing impact on their lives. Tennis stimulates the mind, body and emotions. It involves cooperative engagement as well as skill development. Tennis decreases the risk of chronic illness, increases social skills, improves mental focus, and discipline. Participating in tennis activities is an excellent way to relieve stress.

Skillastics® works on skills while increasing MVPA in a game situation. It works well for a warm-up/fitness lesson in a Sport Education Season or as a full lesson.
My favorite way to use Tennis Skillastics® is to divide students into teams as in a Sport Education Unit. Students must first learn the terminology, skill and fitness task for the game. This may be done within their teams covering a few skills/terms each day. When using the Sport Education model teams will be awarded points for fair play, fitness, warm-up, completion and order of finish. This is a great activity due to the fact that students are responsible for their own learning and what a great way to include the standards. Using stations may add a common core component and make students responsible for their own learning. Students work together to improve skills and knowledge needed to live a healthy lifestyle.

Secondary Stations for Tennis Skillastics®

1. Teams begin with their home base station grid.
2. Read the task card and perform the skill together. This could be considered a common core/physical literacy activity. Students are responsible for their own learning.
3. Perform each station for a time limit. (Example: 3 miinutes each station) When the music stops (using Tabata Pro) move to the next station.
4. Continue until all stations have been completed.

After completing the stations, students will remain with their teams for a fun Skillastics® game. Teams send a player to the mat to roll the die and get the number of the activity to be performed. Students are given the level to participate for the game activity. The game may be played for a time limit or when one team gets around the mat once or twice.

If you would like more information on ways to incorporate Tennis Skillastics® into your curriculum feel free to contact me at or view my website at

Bottom line. “Love what you do and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Become An Offensive Threat

Happy New Year! What a wonderful time to recommit yourself to becoming the basketball player you know you can become! And it’s really so simple, something you, and only you can do…that’s practice. The key is not how much time you spend practicing, it’s how you spend that time. So many times I’ve seen young athletes practicing with good intentions; however, the way they practice is completely wrong. And what they end up doing is developing bad habits (which are so hard to break). Why not practice all the basketball fundamentals the RIGHT way, so you won’t have to spend so much time later correcting them?

So, with this idea in mind, I want to talk a little bit about becoming an Offensive Threat. And the way you become an Offensive Threat is to develop into a fundamentally solid player. One of the unique and exciting features of basketball is that all players handle the ball. No matter what position you play, you must dribble, pass, shoot, and rebound.

The best way to prepare you to gain your first offensive advantage once you have the ball is to start in the triple threat position. You can use this position to become an offensive threat in three ways — passing, shooting, or driving to the basket. The option you choose depends on the defense and how your opponents are playing you. And the key is reading your defense and being able to react immediately in one of three ways.

Putting the Triple Threat to Work

Once you make a decision to pass, shoot, or drive, you must execute your option.

  • Jab and Shoot – Step or jab violently at the defense with your front foot (Jab step about 1 foot in front of you), while keeping the pivot foot stationary. If the defense reacts and takes the fake by backing off, explode up for a jump shot. Repeat this 10 times at 5 different spots around the basket.
  • Jab Step and Go – With the jab and go, your pivot foot must remain on the floor until the dribble starts. Make your first step explosive, because you want to get around the defense. Remember, if you jab step and go to your right, dribble the ball with your right hand. Repeat this 10 times at 5 different spots around the basket.
  • Jab Step and Crossover – This move is good to use when the defense is close. With the ball, jab step to the side of the defense. Then, step across and by the defense with your front foot. If you are right-handed, jab with the right foot. Left-handed, jab with the left foot (it’s good to learn how to go both ways however). Now, you can cross over in the opposite direction. You must protect the ball, taking it from the outside hand farthest from the defender. Quickly switch the ball low from right to left using your right arm and body to protect the ball. The dribble begins before you pick up your pivot foot. The key is to stay low. Repeat this 10 times at 5 different spots around the basket. Go 10 times to the right, two dribbles and shoot and then 10 times to the left, two dribbles and shoot.

How do you teach the Triple Threat Position?  Help others by sharing your comments below.

Basketball Skillastics® Review

Product Review:  Basketball Skillastics®
Courtesy: 5 Star Hoops
Reviewed by:  Jim Waite


This Is a Game Worth Playing

Sandy “Spin” Slade sent a product for review to the Highway and it comes as no surprise to us that the offering, Basketball Skillastics® like Sandy herself is well organized, and entertaining. Sandy, as many of you know is world renowned for her expertise in handling a basketball and as a motivational speaker, appearing before audiences in excess of 200 times per year during her career. She has performed and spoken at levels ranging from elementary school all the way to N.B.A. venues and is well respected throughout the basketball community.  After retiring as a performer in 2008, Sandy has taken on a new focus, that being physical fitness for children. Citing the fact that in today’s society 16% of children between the ages of 6 and 19 are overweight, Sandy has begun creating games geared towards ending this cycle.
 Basketball Skillastics® is aimed at children in grades 1-8 and provides fun and fitness in a board game for physical education classes, parks and recreation centers, child care programs, etc. Children participate in 26 physical activities that are “challenging, yet non- competitive”.  This non-competitive angle takes on great importance when you consider that many children, because of a lack of coordination skills, shy away from getting involved in physically demanding activities in an attempt to avoid embarrassment in front of their peers. Sandy’s game takes this element out of the equation giving even less coordinated kids an opportunity to participate with fellow students in a sports oriented endeavor. Let’s take a look at how the game is played.

Physical Fitness Can Be Fun

Our game arrived to us in a neatly contained pouch that included everything one needs to get started. This nylon carrying case also serves as a great storage bag for the entire game when finished playing meaning that misplaced pieces of the game will be kept to a minimum as opposed to tossing the contents into a box or volleyball bag. The game set included 1-  5×7 synthetic leather mat (latex free), 6 assorted and colored 3- inch foam dice, 6 assorted and colored 2.5 inch miniature beanbags, 6 miniature game boards for each team involved which are exact replicas of the 5×7 version, and detailed instructions on how to set up and play the game. Fitness instructors, insuring the safety of the children, reportedly approve all drills and 1-100 children can play at any given time. The only equipment needed to get started are enough balls for each child who participates and this can include either basketballs or playground balls such as rubber balls, volleyballs, etc.

Putting The Game To Into A Real Classroom Test
 Though Sandy Slade has a great reputation, like any product reviewer worth his salt, I wanted to put this product to the test. Readers of the Highway certainly deserve quality reviews and Sandy deserves a quality critique of her product consequently I had to go no further than down the hallway of my own home to my wife who is a second grade teacher. My agreement with my wife was this. On her first rain day in which she could not get her kids out of the classroom and onto the playground, I wanted her to try this product and give me some quality feedback. My wife took the product to her school and as agreed upon waited for inclement weather. On her classes first day of rain and unable to get outside to the playground, my wife brought out Basketball Skillastics® and put it to the test with her 2nd grade class. She had her children move their desk back to the walls thereby opening up the center of her room for placement of the 5×7 mat. She divided her 24 kids into 6 groups and assigned each a colored die and tennis ball. The game then began and my wife stated she found out something almost instantly about her 2nd grade class. She observed almost immediately that many of her kids were woefully out of shape! Imagine 2nd graders being out of shape. She stated the kids appeared to have a great time with this game and then she gave me a tidbit testifying to the strength of this offering. She stated that once the game ended, and classroom instruction began again, she found many in her class to be more attentive and alert and not as “wiggly” in their chairs.  Being a runner herself, she could only surmise that the heightened cardio work for each of her kids had helped to relax them and take them to an increased state of awareness. When I questioned her as to why this did not always seem to happen when outdoor recess ended she could only guess that it was because so many kids go outside during the break but never get involved in any kind of physical exertion, instead simply spending time idly talking on the playground or riding the merry-go-round. As a testament to the program, my wife claims that though the next recess day was sunny and clear, her kids asked repeatedly if they could play the “inside” game again.

It Teaches, It Works

 Not to end there, I decided on one more test of Basketball Skillastics® and I took the product to a local after school program and dropped it off. Sandy claims that this game is perfect for after school programs, right? Boy was she correct. In speaking with the 2 program directors, here is what I found.  Having 40 after school participants can be a trying time for even the most skilled of teachers. Kids are full of energy and many are anxious to get home according to the directors. As such, many of these same children can find themselves looking for “things to get into”, even in an enclosed environment such as a gymnasium. Older kids sometimes pick on younger students and keeping up with children who “need to go to the restroom” born out of sheer boredom can become a teachers nightmare. But after letting the directors use the product for just 2 days, they became sold on its benefits.  As the directors told me, because they were able to place the kids in teams, oversight of the students became a non-issue as all wanted to participate and the activity was not only fun but also beneficial from a safety standpoint. Some children I am told, while in the midst of a game, made their parents wait until the game was completed before leaving for home. That’s a pretty solid testamonial if you ask me.


Folks,  Sandy Slade has made a career out of bringing smiles to the faces of people. Her hands on skills with a basketball are legendary and widely respected. Now she has taken her talents to a new and different level with the invention of Basketball Skillastics®. Not only will this product keep kids entertained, but it will enhance physical fitness with flexibility drills, cardio improvements and an increased self-image. I put this game to the real test with the everyday “foot soldier”, also known by the term “teacher”. If a teacher says a product is good, you can bet that it is and I can assure you that the teachers I spoke with loved this offering.  I rate this product 5 + and would recommend it highly.


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