With many children at the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten level only in school for about 2.5 hrs/day, fitting in the recommended minimum of 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity can be tricky. This physical activity can certainly be done outside of school, but the benefits for everyone are great if some of it can be incorporated into the school day:

  • Children are able to sit still and focus better after some energy burning activity, thereby increasing their ability to absorb academic material being presented.
  • Movement stimulates the learning center of the brain; movement and learning are housed in the same area of the brain making their relationship undeniable and not independent of one another.
  • Being able to sit still for a longer period of time aids in overall classroom management for the teacher. 
  • Parents who work long days and don’t always have time to build in physical activity before or after the school day can appreciate the fact that their child is in an environment that cultivates health as well as learning; ultimately the two benefit each other anyway.

This in mind, we have some ideas for adding some vigorous physical activity to an already time-starved classroom concerned with fitting in the necessary academics. While 30 minutes is a big chunk to take out of a short school day; we suggest adding some of that time to the curriculum and encouraging parents to fill in the gaps (parents might appreciate only having to worry about 15 minutes of healthy, active time knowing that the school has provided for the other half of the suggested minimum). Combine aerobic ideas like the ones listed here with stretching or other movement (finger-plays…) curricula throughout the day.

In the School:

1. Once students deposit their coats, backpacks, etc. have them escorted (by parents, teaching aide…) to a large group area where they can expend some energy while they wait for the entire group to finish arriving. Once everyone is there (or by tardy bell time), have kids do three quick laps around the perimeter of the room. Mix it up by doing laps on Mondays, jumping jacks on Tuesdays (while saying the ABC’s), running in place on Wednesdays (while counting by 10s) and so on. Once complete go back to classroom for the remainder of the morning routine. Almost zero academic time lost. If no large group room is available, be creative; can some of this be done in the classroom, the hallway or outdoors?

2. With a teacher aide, send kids in groups of three or four at an appropriate time into the hall to do a quick, silent sprint. Be sure to clearly mark and discuss starting and finish lines at least 3 ft away from a wall (so kids don’t crash into wall). Rotate all kids through sprint.

3. Stand next to seat for two or three minutes of running in place, jumping jacks, air-punches, etc. Do each while reciting an important academic objective (i.e. rhyming words, skip counting, counting backwards, pattern, days of the week…) or while singing an appropriate song.

4. Measure a distance in jumps. Measure in jumps that are giant, tiny, regular. Compare amount of jumps needed with different kids. Label each jump worth 2 points (or 5); how many points accumulated once distance has been completed? Keep a tally of jumps; add all jumps together.

5. Add your own ideas. Incorporate academic curriculum. Share with other teachers.

Encouraging Parents to Participate and Appreciate:

1. Let parents know during your open house how important physical activity is for cognitive development as well as for overall health. Distribute information to that effect. Let them know that your program incorporates as much movement as possible in order to facilitate the learning process.

2. Give parents some ideas for how they can accomplish the same goal by creating chunks of meaningful physical activity time without altering their already busy schedule by much. They might:

  • walk to school (or walk part way by driving to a determined point and walking the rest of the way)
  • park in a parking spot far from the school door and walk briskly to classroom (be sure to walk in with child) 
  • have kids do aerobic warm-ups before leaving for school (running up and down the stairs a couple of times; racing against the clock to pick all the toys/clothes up off the floor; running the dog around the backyard…) 
  • after school: take a walk; ride your bikes; put on dancing music so kids can dance while you prepare lunch or dinner; race your kids in the yard; time them running, skipping, hopping a distance; keep a chart visible that tracks activity (number of jumping jacks per week, running times, standing jump distances, etc.) 
  • use rewards like permission to choose a new book from a local book or discount store; art supplies; a CD for dancing 
  • if you have more than one child, be sure that nothing is set up that might create a competitive environment

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