5 Grade Boosting Activities that Have Nothing to Do With Books!
Ask yourself the question: What do YOU do for fun?
It’s not always that easy to answer.
For kids, it can be particularly challenging, as they often feel powerless within the demands and momentum of daily life. (Unless of course they have a car. Then you have another set of problems on your hands.)
You’re more likely to be successful if you offer your child something they think will be fun to do.
Routine exercise is easy enough to say, and much harder to get kids to do (especially sedentary children). Exercise routines can be particularly important for home-schooled children, who may not have mandatory physical education classes, or a playground full of Jungle Jims to goof off on during recess.
So let’s explore the benefits of movement, and seven specific ways to motivate your little Couch Potatoes into brain-popping action.
First and most important, it has to be fun for your children!
1. Feed the Ducks
Find something unique and whimsical that will truly engage your child’s mind and body at the same time. Find a park in your area and bring that loaf of stale bread that nobody wants to eat. If you feed them, the ducks will come!
Other ideas for engaging mind/body activities include scavenger hunts and – for the more technologically inclined – geo-caching. Another spin on the treasure hunt is to take your kids to a yard sale once in awhile. A few dollars go a very long way. Kids learn to interact with the sellers, maybe bargain a bit, and come away with a treasure that they found for themselves, and that wasn’t store-bought.
2. Go Outside
Studies in the new field of epigenetics show that people who get outdoors and into the woods reduce their stress level by 17%. This number goes up when they physically touch the ground in what’s called ‘earthing’ or ‘grounding.’ Read more from “Get Outside” about how the outdoors can improve your child’s concentration, reduce stress, boost creativity & critical thinking, improve vision and more.
Urban parks can be found in every city in America. Pack a knapsack with some apples and cheese, a bottle of water and a camera, and get out into the great outdoors. Give your child the camera and a challenge to take pictures of interesting shapes, or unique colors, or ten different kinds of leaves. Or just walk and talk. The possibilities are endless.
3. Turn Your Backyard into a Playground
You’ll find plenty of opportunities for moving around in your own backyard. (No chores allowed this time.) The easiest thing to do to change things up is to gather up a blanket, plates, knives, forks and spoons and head out the door for a family picnic. Do it up right, with lemonade, burgers, watermelon and all the fixins. (Don’t do all the preparations for them; your kids must help with this.)
Here’s another idea: plant a vegetable garden. It’s great fun to watch carrots and tomatoes grow, and the kids can harvest them for salads. If you don’t have a backyard, or the funds, to go “all out” on this, create an Italian herb garden in a big pot with basil, thyme, and oregano. When it comes time to make spaghetti sauce, the kids get to help by picking herbs from their very own garden.
Another, more ambitious, thing to do right out your backdoor: create an obstacle course with your kids, for them, yourselves or the family dog. This can be great fun. Materials will range in price, but some things you might find laying around the garage, such as old tires, big boxes, and rope.
4. Parks & Recreation
Municipalities all have park & recreation departments and you will want to familiarize yourself with this fantastic local resource. Not only do they manage area parks, most also host team sports, group hikes, and classes. This is a great way to get your kids involved in basketball, volleyball, snow sports, jogging, any any number of physical activities.
Quick fix: your local school or high school has tetherball, basketball and tennis courts just sitting there waiting to be used. Your child doesn’t need to be a super athlete. Sometimes they just want somebody to watch them play. Maybe you can’t tag along on every excursion to the playground, but whatever you can do to support their physical activities will encourage them as they start to change their sedentary lifestyle – particularly in the beginning. You’re aiming for good habits, new routines, and a lifelong commitment to movement.
5. Martial Arts
Kids can get their kicks in a healthy way by practicing a martial art, such as taekwondo, kung fu, karate, judo, and aikido. Rather than promoting violence, martial arts develop discipline in children, as well as respect for themselves and others, self-control, socialization skills and mental focus.
In fact, Parenting Magazine reports that, “many parents whose children have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) report great success with these programs because self-control and concentration are exactly the skills underdeveloped in ADHD kids.” Further, “… it’s the respect kids learn, whether from bowing or standing still and waiting for the next command, that can be the most important benefit: It often carries over into school, helping to improve behavior and even grades, according to recent research.”
• The National Institutes of Health website offers advice, news, and other resources
• Find your local Park & Recreation Association
• “How Phys Ed Changed One School,” Mercola.com
• “Karate Kids: The Benefits of Martial Arts,” Parenting Magazine
Stay tuned for Part 4 of “The New Roadmap for Smarter, Happier, Healthier Kids,” where we’ll discuss the power of reading and its effects on children’s understanding of themselves and the world.