Most people would recognize the famous movie line, “Life is like a box of chocolates… you never know what you’re going to get.” The same line could easily represent the average day as a physical activity director! Some weeks might have adequately-staffed classes or groups perfectly aligned by age, and other weeks may have mixed age groups, or facing staffing shortages or staff with limited physical activity/fitness training. Directing mixed age groups alone isn’t for the faint of heart. Throw in a few staff shortages and it could seem to be an even greater challenge. In reality, mixed age groups occur naturally in neighborhoods, social settings, and families, so when it occurs in your program, it’s nothing to stress over! At Skillastics®, we have solutions that can help no matter what your staffing scenario looks like, and no matter how many age groups you have in one room!

There are a few key things directors should consider when choosing physical activity programs–especially when mixed age groups are a concern. Of course, the best programs are engaging, keep kids moving, and they’re something kids look forward to. But we also know just how important it is for programs to incorporate the HEPA 2.0 & National Physical Education standards, offer flexibility in age group leadership, and offer programs that really develop a child’s character as well as their body. These key criteria will ensure you’re equipped with resources you need no matter what your mix of students and staff looks like.

Make sure your program is a full curriculum

Look beyond open gym free time that exercises just the body, by using a curriculum and make sure it incorporates the HEPA 2.0 and or National PE standards. Interpersonal skills and skill-building, leadership, social interaction, and group dynamics are all critical for helping kids learn to work cooperatively towards common goals, decision-making, and teamwork. All of our Skillastics® Activity Kits include a ready-to-use curriculum that fully integrates activity with these Standards.

What does a workable, flexible curriculum look like? From Skillastics®, it’s not just a half-baked scribble on a napkin of how many push ups, sit ups, and planks you should do.

  • Our After School Package includes a 36-week lesson plan outline (full-year) that is pulled from all the lesson plans manual and online resources, helping your staff easily navigate through all the activities.
  • EVERY staff member has a personalized dashboard that includes training and additional resources to help them use the Skillastics® Activity Kits. Whether your staff are seasoned veterans, or you’re working with a stand-in that just started today, they have an easy-to-use tool guiding them in this physical activity space.
  • The dashboard is also where they can access all of the Digital Specialty Programming. Digital Specialty Programming works for in-person, virtual/remote, or hybrid learning, and eliminates the need to hire specialists to run your program.

Having a structured, organized curriculum ensures that your kids are using their physical activity time for a purpose, and that all kids are included in play.

Look for programs that provide flexible tools, so kids of all age groups can play together

One key criteria for an amazing program is flexibility. You’ll want to make sure your program offers options, based on age, fine motor skills, or agility, and doesn’t require you to keep multiple sets of the same program depending on age. One of the things our customers love about  Skillastics® Activity Kits solves this very problem, offering multiple options  within the same Activity Kit, customizable right on the spot! Beginning, intermediate, or advanced repetitions are highlighted to give you the choice of how to assign repetitions, based on the students abilities you have in front of you today. That same Activity Kit allows you to switch it up if necessary, to make your activity more or less challenging.

Look for programs that deprioritize “winning”

Look for programs that spotlight inclusion, attitude, and effort, as well as personal improvement in lieu of programs that emphasize winning. In general, older kids are more agile, with more advanced skills, and a focus on winning can leave the younger kids in the dust. However, programs that are focused on personal improvement or effort can include kids from each age group, and ensure that everyone “wins.” Offering programs that prioritize team work and personal effort as opposed to “wins” helps develop a child’s whole self.  HOWEVER, it’s nice to have the competitive option in your back pocket, just in case…

Look for programs that offer opportunities for all kids to lead

For those times you do have mixed age groups, make sure you’re not always relying on the same core group of students to act as leaders for the younger children. Mix it up! Younger kids naturally model your older students, and older kids can display and develop those core leadership skills. If the same kids are leading each time, leadership can become a chore, as they’re spending less time developing their own skills and abilities in lieu of guiding the younger kids. If younger kids never get to participate or lead because the focus is on the older age group, they’re much more likely to lose interest, disengage, and reduce overall involvement in the activities. Look for programs that allow you to randomly select leaders, or “leaders for the moment” to both encourage the leader, and develop teamwork in the rest of your group.

Of course, the best programs are FUN, first! But when choosing a program, don’t forget to also look for programs that align with the HEPA 2.0 and PE national standards, an easy-for-anyone-to-follow curriculum, with flexibility in mixed age use, and opportunities for all kids to not only be included, but lead.

Related Skillastics® Resources:

After School Packages

Skillastics Activity Kits

Check out our vimeo video: Easy, quick ways to split groups of any age into teams

P.S. You’re almost out of time to enter our quarterly giveaway! We’re celebrating our 20th Anniversary ALL YEAR LONG, but the end of the year is fast approaching, and when the calendar flips to the new year, our giveaway will disappear. To enter and see the full contest rules, click here.