It’s a fact. Kids need physical activity.
Frequent physical activity has been linked to a variety of positive developmental outcomes for kids, including improved health, cognition, and even behavior. As “fitness mentors” it’s important we provide kids ample opportunities to be active throughout the day.
While this sounds good in theory, the time, space, and equipment we have available to inspire kids to be active may be limited. Not to mention, we can quickly run out of ideas as little bodies and brains are always looking for a new challenge.
Working with kids in the classroom, sports fields, and fitness studios, I faced these struggles daily. Different programs had different constraints for time, developmental levels, and other resources. To address these issues, I created an “Instant Activity” framework I could use anywhere that combines essential developmental physical skills in a fun and engaging program. These programs can be designed “on the fly” with no equipment, very little space, and any level of physical ability.
I had a tremendous amount of success, as did the educators, coaches, and other fitness mentors that started using this simple activity blueprint on a daily basis to get kids moving in classrooms, gymnasiums, and other venues.
Below I share how to create this on-going physical activity generator to continually provide children with a fun and engaging movement challenge.
Step 1: List Fundamental Movement Skills
Fundamental Movement Skills create a foundation for the ability to be competent and confident with physical activity for life. These include the skills of locomotion, stationary movement control, and object manipulation.
While object manipulation is an essential physical skill, due to limitations for equipment and time, we did not include these in our instant activity framework. However, in a broader physical activity program, these are prioritized.
Begin by creating a list of both stationary movement control and locomotion activities. These range from various callisthenic and balance activities for stationary movement control to the various ways to move the body from point “A” to point “B” for locomotion skills. Examples of both are below.
Stationary Movement Control Locomotion
Forward/backward bends Roll
Side bend Crawl
Single leg balance Run
Alternating Lunge March
Push up Bound
Crab hip hold Gallop
Plank Lateral shuffle
Jumping Jack Hop
While there are various skills listed in academic literature, it’s important to list skills with which you are familiar with and comfortable demonstrating.
Step 2: List “Movement Variables”
Movement Variables are ways by which to slightly modify aspects of a movement such as effort, space, and the position of the body in relation to itself and other objects or people in the environment. These provide unique demands when combined with fundamental movement skills. Additionally, they aid in improving coordination, helping children explore the possibilities for the many ways in which the body can move.
While there are nearly infinite ways by which to modify a movement, a basic framework for effort, space, and relationships helps simplify program design. Below are some ideas for Movement Variables that fit these categories.
- Force (hard, soft, etc.)
- Speed (fast, slow, accelerating, decelerating)
- Flow (continuous, stop and go)
- Levels (high, low, medium)
- Directions and Pathways (straight, diagonal, curved, lateral, circular, vertical)
- Range (large range of motion, small range of motion)
- Location (in place, moving)
- Objects (over, under, around, on-to, off-of, in front of, behind, between)
- Body parts (narrow, wide, curved, twisted, symmetrical, asymmetrical)
- People (solo, partner, matching, mirroring, leading, following)
Begin by taking one of the fundamental movement skills from the list and add a Movement Variable for either effort, space, or relationships.
- Skip (Locomotion) In a Zig-Zag pattern (Movement Variable for Space) for 10 seconds
- After the short period of time (5-20 seconds) progress to one or a combination of the following:
- Change the movement variable (Example: Skip in a circle)
- Add an additional movement variable (Example: Skip in a circle with arms high)
- Change the fundamental movement skill (Example: Squat with fast speed)
The simplest design, to begin with, is one Fundamental movement skill and one movement variable. Change the movement variable every 10 seconds for a total of 60 seconds. Change to another Fundamental Movement Skill and repeat. Do this for five different fundamental movement skills and you have a fun and dynamic 5-minute activity circuit that engages the body and the brain. Additionally, it aids children in developing a “movement context,” making learning physical skills easier and more relevant. A more advanced version is to combine multiple Movement Variables with one Fundamental Movement Skill.
For extremely limited space, nearly every combination can be done in place. To occupy more or less time, add additional Fundamental Movements or Movement Variables. We have found 5 minutes to be an adequate amount of time for these activities, but we have used much shorter and longer variations as well. We have used variations of this framework for kids starting at 5 years old on up to adults. Taking the time to write these down in a basic framework provides a quick and easy-to-use tool anytime you wish to get kids up and moving.
We have created a foldable pocket guide that can be used to create programs ahead of time or on the fly. You can download it here.
To see this click here!
Enjoy this simple way to inspire kids to be more active!
For breakfast, I had 5 eggs, 2 pieces of peanut butter toast, and sautéed kale. (I’m a breakfast person!)