Written by Rozanne Dioso-Lopez of Tomfoolery and Shenanigans.
The dining room table begins to shake.
Someone keeps re-adjusting themselves in their seat.
Then it’s the finger-tapping.
My coffee, previously still, begins to sway in its cup.
Shortly after the table movement, the accusations begin, “Who took my eraser?”
The bickering follows.
And I grab my coffee before it spills and say, “Everybody UP! Time to MOVE!”
A morning of lessons needs to be broken up with time to move their bodies.
Sitting still is an advanced skill and I can always tell when some of my kids have had enough. The restlessness creeps in and they become fidgety and lose focus.
The younger they are, the less they can sit still, which is perfectly normal.
In the past, I have relied on bouts of free play throughout the day to satisfy the need to move around.
Free play is natural when you homeschool. Sometimes they wander outside to the porch to whittle sticks or explore our tiny backyard.
We are city-dwellers. We don’t have acres for them to run. No country lanes to bike for miles. No massive forest trees to climb freely. No logs or rocks to hop across traversing creeks.
Those are field trips that need to be organized in advanced.
My conundrum: how do I keep the spirit of free play but boost their physical activity?
How can I incorporate physical activity into our daily lives?
The following are some suggestions:
Some of these activities may take only 15-20 minutes and can be introduced sporadically throughout the day.
Yoga: We have fun yoga cards that all the kids can do. Sometimes we make up stories with a combination of yoga poses.
Obstacle Courses/Circuits: Sometimes all you need is rope for jumping, masking tape to mark out lines and ladders or even hopscotch on your kitchen floor, chairs for a tunnel and rocks for pylons. I have set these up with the kids when I have wanted to do my own workout!
Balloon volleyball: We clear our dining room and stretch a streamer across the room for a net.
Circle time: A daily circle full of ring games and songs with actions is a great way to signal the start of the day.
Dance: In the mornings, I play a happy playlist of songs to wake up my house. Sometimes a tough morning of lessons requires an afternoon dance party.
Walks: On our walks, we play games like “I Spy” or “Follow the Leader” — where one child or parent is the leader and you have to follow how they move and walk for a few blocks.
On “Penny Walks” we flip a coin at each corner to see whether to turn left or right.
A “Neighbourhood Scavenger Hunt” can include a list of floral and fauna you hope to see.
The ages of your children dictate the length of your walk and the complexity of the activity – Red Light/Green Light, Mother-May-I, and What Time is it Mr. Wolf? are all great games to get littles walking a longer distance.
Activity Jar: Some of my children need to get out of their seat and shake the sillies out. Fill a jar with folded up bits of paper with physical movements on them:
- Crawl like a Cat for 2 minutes
- Stretch as high as a tall tree and get low as a small rock 10 times
- Skip rope while you sing the alphabet twice
- Sword fight with Mama for 5 minutes
- Crawl backwards as quietly as you can for 3 minutes
- Move to your choice of music for 5 minutes
- Imagine you are a gentle breeze moving for 2 minutes (now transform into a ferocious gust for 1 minute)
- Act out the life cycle of a butterfly (and then act it in reverse)
- Find a partner and play leapfrog for the length of the house.
The balance of free play and physical activity can also be achieved when you let the kids run the show.
I used an obstacle course to help re-tell the popular fable, “The Hare and the Tortoise.” Although I laid the groundwork for the plan, the older kids set up the obstacle course for their younger siblings and they found creative ways to go through the course — backwards, blindfolded, crawling like the tortoise, etc.
These can be full-day or afternoon activities that can be done with other families or on your own.
Hikes: THE best activity that combines free play and physical activity. We hike with other families and then find a spot where the kids can go off and wander while the parents hang out and chat.
The kids have played games like Capture the Flag and a variety of spy games with their friends in the woods.
Outdoor games: My family loves to play sports so we normally spend some time out at the basketball courts, the soccer fields or just playing a good old-fashioned game of Tag.
If you are low in numbers, arrange a “Sports Day” or “Games Day” with other families.
As my children grow older, physical activity and movement have become a part of their free play and their daily routines.
The key is to be creative and open.
Do it slowly.
Move a little more throughout the day.
Introduce physical activity using what you have.
I use the confines of our small home and local outdoor spaces with the hopes that in the future, the kids will engage in these types of activities independently without reminders and encouragement but because it has always been a part of their lives.
What are some ways you have found to incorporate PE into your homeschool even if you don’t have a big yard?