This post is brought to you by Unity Point Health — Meriter.
Parents are wearing multiple hats this year — the role of teacher potentially being the most difficult. With all of the extra responsibilities, adding one more thing to your already-full plate may seem overwhelming. However, making sure your child is getting enough physical activity throughout the day can positively impact other areas of their life, including increasing their attention span and regulating their bodies. Here are some simple ways to encourage movement and keep your child active.
- In the morning, when transitioning “to school,” consider doing animal walks or making the route into an obstacle course consisting of bunny hops, frog jumps, log rolls, crawling and matrix-style stunts to avoid objects in the way. Added fun/ bonus: Blanket rides or box rides to their school area!
- Kids should be taking breaks from the screen for about five minutes every 25 minutes. If this isn’t realistic, consider 10 minutes for 50 minutes of class time. The best break will be taken outdoors. Go for a quick walk, sit and read a book outside, play with toys outside or play in the snow. While it’s ideal to have 30 minutes of outdoor time when taking a break from screens, but do what you can with the schedule you and your family have.
- Small ways to add movement into the day can include chores as well! Kneading bread dough, rolling out cookie dough, stirring batter/mixtures, washing windows, shoveling, raking leaves, moving firewood, taking laundry to the laundry room and sweeping are all great opportunities to move and use those muscles.
- Consider activities such as yoga, tag, swimming, wrestling (on a soft surface and supervised) and minute-to-win-it games. Or for more creative ideas, consider placing tape around the house for a “path” and having kids move cars or toys along this path or use boxes to make a tunnel and use this during play. Kids should get movement daily. It helps them develop muscle strength, coordination, regulation skills and is extremely beneficial for sleep.
- If you are strapped for time because of work or demands of life, try making the movement time your quality/positive interaction time with your child. Don’t do extensive movement within one hour of bed, but you can get a two-for-one with your quality time by doing something active with your child. For example, take a family walk, do a family scavenger hunt around the house or build something together. If this is still a challenge to incorporate, use your transitional times. For example, a bear walk to the bathroom, a slithering snake crawl to the kitchen for dinner or a log roll to the living room to watch a movie together.
These movement breaks will not only help get us through the next few challenging months but may also be fun ways to get through bad weather days as well!
—Brenna Patterson, pediatric occupational therapist, UnityPoint Health – Meriter