Physical Activity at Home
By: Alex X. Martinez
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that children and adolescents ages 6 through 17 years complete 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily. Regular physical activity in children and adolescents promotes health and fitness and helps to reduce obesity and the risk of developing chronic conditions. To achieve this recommendation, child and youth must participate in a quality physical education program and physical activity throughout the day in addition to recreational or competitive sports.
Due to current health events and the quarantine efforts to eliminate COVID-19, students are engaging in physical activity at home. During this time, teachers, parents, and students are creating opportunities for physical activity through virtual platforms. The virtual learning approach creates challenges for everyone involved including parents that are working from home and already have a busy schedule, students that enjoy participating in physical activity in a group setting, and teachers trying to build creative ideas to replicate virtually activities that happen in the classroom. Other challenges are lack of equipment, limited space, lack of motivation, not feeling knowledgeable enough to provide assistance or support for the students during lessons. Remember that teachers are skillful professionals in their field. The task for parents during this time is to be facilitators of movement and not teachers of movements; however, parents play a vital role to ensure that students are successful in participating in physical activity from home. Parents can make a great contribution by creating a FUN environment. Fun or enjoyment is one of the main reasons that students decide to participate in a program or activity. Even adults choose a career path based on levels of enjoyment.
Considerations for Parents
Check-in: Begin each session by asking the student about his or her emotional state. Ask questions such as: How are you feeling today? What is on your mind? What are you looking forward to today? Checking in helps to establish a positive attitude towards the activities of the day.
Establish a routine: Students perform better when there is a structure and a routine in place. Use a large calendar to mark your activities. Utilize a message board to provide positive feedback and to track everything that has been accomplished. Utilize an alarm as a reminder to when physical activity should take place. Allow the student to pick a time of the day that works better for them.
Prioritize fun!: Make an effort to have a positive attitude for the activity that is being conducted. Show positivity and acceptance of the task in hands through your actions. Laughing, cheering, and participating provide encouragement and positive feedback. Create a fun environment by utilizing decorations, allowing students to dress up, or playing music during the activity.
Promote virtual social interaction: Let your student connect with a physical activity buddy via video conference during the physical activity time. If you don’t have internet service, allow the student to text or call their physical activity buddy during the lesson.
Get in on the action: Participate if you have the time. Students feel inclined to complete the lessons if family members are also participating. A parent goes a long way in fostering movement and a love for health and fitness if they model it outside of the assignment. Take note that actions speak louder than words in the student’s desire to be involved in healthy lifestyles. Make physical activity part of your regular family routine.
Make space: Ensure that the student has enough space to move and perform physical activity. Consider students utilizing mobility devices and blind students as they might need a larger space free of obstacles. This is a perfect time to declutter and make that workout space that you and your family have always talked about. Allow the students to design and create a workout space by also selecting music and decorations in the new area. Consider utilizing outdoor spaces.
It is important: Acknowledge how important physical activity is for health and wellness. Participation in physical activity provides health, wellness, social, and brain function benefits. It is also known that students behave better and perform better during testing and other school subjects after participating in physical activity.
Some students would require adaptations to the activity to complete the task. Hopefully, the teacher providing the activities would include the adaptations based on the student’s needs. If the adaptations are not provided by the teacher, ask the student how he or she would perform that task or skill at school. For example, a student that uses a wheelchair can do arm marching movements instead of marching in place. When creating adaptations at home, it is important to consider the space, the equipment, instructions, and the skill or activity in hand. Below are some considerations when making adaptations.
• Always ensure all spaces are open, clear of mobility impediments, and that pathways and other routes are unbroken, seamless, slip-resistant, and feature occasional seating and balance options (e.g., chairs, couches, handrails).
• Modify play areas by making them smaller or larger. For example, a student that uses a mobility device such as crutches may need a smaller area to avoid fatigue while a student that uses a wheelchair might need a larger area to be able to move efficiently.
• Provide a hard surface that is relatively flat for students to be able to move efficiently while using a wheelchair.
• If appropriate, allow siblings or other family members to help with the activities as peer mentors.
• Use pads/floor markers for students to locate their designated spots.
• Pay attention to the amount of sensory input in a small space (noise, lighting, amount of people moving at once, etc.).
• Provide padding such as a non-abrasive rug or rubber tile when transitioning during floor activities.
• Adapting target sizes and locations (e.g., lower a basketball goal, move a throwing target to the ground if a participant is only able to roll an item at the target).
• Provide additional or modified equipment (e.g., for a throwing activity, multiple kinds of projectiles (baseball, bean bag, balloon, etc.).
• Use various types of balls (e.g., different sizes, colors, textures, weights).
• Use lighter, softer, or larger balls that are easier to catch.
• Provide ground targets for students who may only be able to accurately roll objects.
• Provide grip devices (e.g., athletic tape, Ace bandage, Velcro cuff) for students who do not have the grip strength to hold a striking device such as a bat or tennis racquet.
• Provide simple instructions and basic instructions. Ensure that the student comprehends the instructions given by asking for understanding. Ask the students to repeat the instructions to you instead of asking them: “Do you understand?”
• The parent can demonstrate the movement, task, or skill to pride a visual learning opportunity.
• Make sure all tasks have been demonstrated previously by visual cards, demonstrations, or verbal instructions.
• Allow participants to perform the dance or other types of movement in a seated position.
• Allow extra time to complete a skill such as completing a pass or hitting a ball with a bat.
• Choose music with a slower tempo when performing rhythm or choreographed routines.
• Allow students to clap hands or tap feet instead of jumping.
• Practice slower or less complex rhythms/movements before moving to more complex rhythms/movements.
Physical activity at home is a great opportunity to take an active approach in your child’s learning experience. He or she will value you being a part of their learning process. Give yourself a pat on the back and remember that what you are doing to ensure that your child is engaging in physical activity is very remarkable and a great opportunity to bond and spend more time together. Remember to always have fun. For more resources, please visit www.nchpad.org and www.lakeshore.org.