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Published on September 17, 2020

Get your kids active between virtual classes

Get your kids active between virtual classes

By Jeff Reiland, MS, child and family therapist, Gundersen Health System

School is in session! This may look different to every parent, depending on what school district their child attends. Many families are experiencing online learning at home. In this model, kids log in to listen to and see their teacher and classmates for a block of time. Then, there is a short break of five to 15 minutes and then another class period starts.

What does your child want to do on those breaks? There are so many possibilities. Now is a great time for that snack and drink of water. But, for many children, what they yearn for is the chance to fire up their devices for some recreational screen time. Wait! Did you just read that correctly? Children who are on a screen for more than half of a day want more screen time. Well…yes. There is a big difference between recreational screen time (e.g., video games, movies, texting, social media) and participating in an online educational learning experience.

However, both involve looking at screens and sitting or standing in one place.

Why kids need physical activity during the school day

Getting active is one of the best things to do between online learning experiences. We have long known that there is a link between physical activity and social-emotional health. Physical activity helps reduce stress and risks of anxiety and depression. Physical activity helps increase children’s academic achievement and cognitive outcomes. When kids are physically active, their brains are more likely to focus and attend to what they are learning. Physical activity should not be reserved for physical education class or at the end of the school day. In fact, many experts recommend that physical activity be distributed in small doses, five to 15 minutes, throughout the day.

Between "classes" for your school-age child, plan to get them moving and engaged in some physical activity.

What can you have your child do?

  • Play outside with the family pet or walk the dog.
  • Collect empty plastic milk jugs for indoor or outdoor bowling or target rolling games.
  • Get your child’s favorite music ready for a multi-song dance party.
  • Take a walk outside to collect autumn leaves.
  • Use sidewalk chalk to create a hopping challenge or create spots of different colors to try to cross the "hot lava" flow.
  • Make up family Olympic events with challenges, such as carrying cotton balls, one at a time with a spoon, to fill up a cup across the room. Use water outside when the weather permits.
  • On cold or rainy days, use the Internet as a library to help you find apps for kid-friendly yoga, stretching, exercise and physical activity.
  • Make the activity a game. Get your children involved in making lists of short five- to 15-minute activities. Use the roll of a dice to determine which activity to do.
  • Get involved with your child in physical activity. Modeling is huge…and fun! Your child will be more likely to be active if you can join them when you are able.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends physical activity guidelines for all ages.

With a little creativity (and the resources you may already have at home), you can help your child get much-needed physical activity and help their developing brains be ready to learn throughout the day.

Looking for more ways to keep your family healthy and active? Visit our Health & Wellness section.

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