Among the many challenges teachers face as children return to class during a pandemic is the question of how to get kids active at school.
Public health recommendations may vary from province to province, but there’s no doubt that kids need to move!
Along with the many health benefits, physical activity also benefits mental health. At this time, it’s more important than ever to provide opportunities for active play in children’s daily lives.
Doing this while maintaining physical distance between students and limiting the use of shared equipment is challenging, but doable!
Here are a few ways educators can include physical activity in special activities and daily routines, while limiting close contact between students:
1. Card shark challenge
Ask children to bring their own deck of cards to school. Head outside, or to a larger indoor area to play this game. Instructions are easy:
- Call out a challenge, like “do jumping jacks” or “stand on one leg”
- Students draw a card
- They perform the action as many times as their card requires, or hold the pose for the same number of seconds.
If you have the space, have students place the decks on the ground and stand several metres away. When you call out the challenge, players must sprint to their decks to draw their cards.
2. Poster problems
Write out math problems on posters and place them on the gym wall or on the exterior of the school. The answer to the math problem can link to a movement challenge. For example, if the answer is 10, do 10 single-leg hops before moving to the next poster. If the answer is 20, do a 20-second plank.
Where appropriate, use the distance between posters to work on motor skills by walking a straight line one foot in front of the other, hopping along, leaping, or frog-jumping to get from poster to poster.
3. Story walk
Post the pages from a story to the gym wall or the exterior of the school walls and have the students move from one poster to the next to read the story. Use tape to indicate one-way pathways to follow. As in the activity above, you can add movement challenges as kids move between pages of the story.
Variation: mix up the story pages and have the students put them back in order. If copyright is a factor, use stories written by the students. Posters could also be used for writing prompts or questions.
4. Student-led DPA
Challenge your kids to come up with creative ways to be active! Allow students to plan and deliver 15- to 20-minute DPA (daily physical activity) sessions. You can have them work alone or in small teams to do this. Remember to provide guidance on requirements and safety rules. You can direct your students to our activities section if they need some inspiration.
5. Explore your 2.4
This initiative, developed by Ever Active Schools, encourages participants to explore and map their neighbourhoods within a 2.4-kilometre radius, which is the distance of many school walking zones. It aims to promote active transportation (walking or wheeling) with your school or home as the starting point. For more information on this program, check out this story.
6. Bingo cards
Bingo cards are an easy way to get kids engaged. Use a blank bingo card and fill in the squares with things to find. If you want, mix up the symbols on the cards so that each one is different. Ask the participants to get any two lines, one line, an X, an H, or even a full card.
Things you could add on your card are: a fire hydrant, a school bus, the letter Y, a swing, a ball, something pink, a flower, a bike. If cameras are available, ask the participants to take selfies with the items to prove that they found them.
7. Schoolyard treasure hunt
Hide four or five items such as gnomes or fairy garden lawn ornaments around the schoolyard. Keep it interesting for the students by changing their location daily or weekly. To work it into the curriculum, have students explain where they found them or incorporate their location in stories.
Alternatively, send kids on a treasure hunt. You can write a list, use written clues, or draw pictures for younger kids who haven’t mastered reading yet. You could also provide letters to unscramble for a secret message at each find.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to get kids moving indoors, tap into this online resources to infuse some activity into the day. GoNoodle has a large library of short videos on YouTube and more resources on its website to get kids moving. The catchy tunes and jingles are often a crowd-pleaser! Ever Active Schools is another great online resource for activity ideas.
Related read: 5 favourite (kid-tested) YouTube channels
9. Get kids outside
Go back to basics and get kids outside. Most of the time, you’ll find that kids are just happy to use their imagination and free play. If you can, get out of the schoolyard now and then and take a walk to a neighbourhood park or on local pathways.
Related read: Why free play outside should be a part of every PE program
This is a simple solution but one that’s fun and exciting for kids. Allow them to choose a song and play one daily so that kids can dance within their space. This a fun and easy way to increase heart rates and get kids to be expressive and creative with movement.