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

1. Make sure it’s interesting

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

2. Give them programs that teach them how to win

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

3. Keep it fresh

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

4. Stay engaged

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

5. Provide positive feedback

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

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