First, let’s talk supplies.
This is something that can be accomplished without breaking the bank. Many toys that inspire movement you may already have on hand, and others are relatively inexpensive. It’s not important that you have any and every thing on this list, of course. This is just a sample of tools that will promote physical activity in your children — often with very little involvement on your part. This is certainly not an all-inclusive list, either, so please leave a comment to let us know if you have an idea that isn’t included here.
What’s Inside our PE Box?
In our home, in addition to bikes, skateboards and scooters, the following is a list of our go-to tools in the activity department:
- Shovels (for digging, of course — my boys love to “mine” and to work on construction projects)
- Balls of all sorts and sizes. We currently have basketballs, footballs and soccer balls on hand.
- Jump ropes
- Thick rope for tug of war (we’ve learned from experience that jump ropes adapted for this purpose don’t cut the mustard, as the handles quickly get pulled off)
- Ankle Skipper
- Bucket Steppers
- Foam noodles
- Bean bags
- Sidewalk Chalk
- Foam pogo jumper
When we had more space we also kept the following accessible in our back yards:
- 6-8 foot length of 4×4 Wooden Fence post — this creates an instant balance beam
- Old tires — excellent for rolling or for flipping from one end of the lawn to the other to encourage squatting for lower body strength and lifting and pushing for upper body strength in addition to loads of fun!
- Wooden ladder for climbing and crawling — sometimes at an incline, sometimes flat, etc.
Other wonderful additions if you have the time and/or space include:
That’s great, Dawn. I have my tools collected. Now what?
When you’re ready for your children to participate in physical education, make your bin of tools visible. We keep a milk crate filled with most of our tools just outside our door so that the boys can grab them anytime they want; however, it may be beneficial to bring out your toys only during specified PE time. This might keep the interest in the tools elevated and keep your children looking forward to their next session of PE. You may be able to provide your children with the bin of goodies and let them have fun. Other children may require more parental involvement and guidance to help them learn how to use the tools provided. Experiment to determine what works best in your home.
Here are a few ideas to try utilizing the tools I’ve listed:
:: Grab some foam pool noodles. Cut them in half and give one to each child. Blow up a balloon. The opportunities with these simple tools alone are endless and we have enjoyed them on many a day when we couldn’t get outdoors due to weather, although it would also be a fun game to play outdoors. You could create “goals” and play hockey, or use a piece of string to mimic a net and play badminton. Our favorite game, though, is to see how long we can keep the balloon afloat without ever touching the ground. Make it even more of a challenge and ask your child to use the noodle in their non-dominant hand, or while standing on one foot. But beware – if your children are anything like mine then they will inevitably turn their noodles into weapons, at which point it’s time to move on to something new.
:: Set up an obstacle course. Better yet – have your child create the course and you agree to complete it after they’ve made it! Create hurdles that the child must bear crawl under or jump over, hop over sticks or lengths of string placed on the ground, toss a ball into a bucket while standing on only one foot, pull a sled or a wagon filled with toys/books/balls/rocks, etc. from one end of the course to the other without spilling any of the contents. Use your imagination and – and have your children use theirs! – using what you have on hand to create physical challenges that will be fun and rewarding to complete. If you feel challenged in the imagination department simply conduct a google search to come up with some fun ideas.
:: Remember that box of chalk I suggested for the PE Box? Use it to create a hopscotch or FourSquare board. Spend the next twenty minutes developing coordination, speed, strength and balance while your children play these classic games of childhood. If they start to get bored then mix things up a little bit: have them throw with their non-dominant hand, jump sideways or backwards instead of forwards, stand on one leg while playing FourSquare, etc. Another fun idea is to have your children draw a meandering stream on the sidewalk – one that has some narrow areas to “cross the stream” and others that are quite wide. Their challenge is to jump across the “stream” without landing in it, which will develop their core, lower body strength and coordination in the process. Again, you can mix things up by asking them to hop across on one foot, or take a running leap vs a standing jump, or to jump sideways on both feet, backwards from both feet, etc. The opportunities for adapting these fun games are endless and without a doubt classify as PE or “conditioning” in your homeschool records.
:: Tug of war! This is where that thicker rope comes in handy. Make it even more of a challenge between only two children by having each of them stand on top of a milk crate as they pull, or have them play while walking on the balance beam you created in your yard from a 2×4 placed across two milk crates or 5-gallon buckets or that 4 x 4 wooden fence post you placed on the ground. Whoever hits the ground first loses the war.
:: Create goals in your backyard and play soccer. Hang a bucket to mimic a basketball net and shoot hoops. Make bases and play kickball.
More ideas Outside the Box — the PE Box, that is!
:: Remember playing Twister as a child? It’s a hilariously fun game that is excellent in terms of developing strength and flexibility! If you don’t already have it on hand then gift it to one of your children for their next birthday and just try to play it without laughing. I’ve even seen the suggestion to make an outdoor version of the game by creating a Twister board on your lawn using cans of water-based marking paint, which won’t kill the grass.
:: Host a Game Day for physical education once a week. While large families may have enough children to participate in the games solo, families with two or fewer children would benefit from joining a larger group for this purpose. Are there other homeschool families in your community that you want to connect with? Invite them for a time of outdoor games in your back yard or at a local park. Games such as Simon Says; Duck, Duck Goose; Red Light, Green Light; What Time is it, Mr Fox? or Freeze Tag require minimal instruction and supervision. Wheelbarrow races are an excellent way to develop upper body strength and induce loads of laughter. Other fun games to try include:
- Capture the Flag
- Mother, May I (variation of Red Light, Green Light)
- Blind Man’s Bluff
- Bulldog or Sharks and Minnows
:: Provide your children with a Movement Jar much like some mothers implementing a Charlotte Mason philosophy of education implement a Narration Jar. Type up several movements into a word document and print on paper (or card stock). Cut out the movements and place in a jar or container. Have your child reach in and draw a card. They now have to perform the activity displayed on the card for 30-60 seconds. Repeat for as many activities as you’d like. For a more independent activity give your child a timer and tell him (or her) to draw 10 cards and perform each movement listed for one minute. Just make sure that they are performing the activities safely before letting them loose to do so, of course. An even better approach to encourage movement happening throughout your homeschool day would be to draw a card every time you transition from one subject to the next to stimulate breaking up the typically sedentary work of your school day into a more active one. I’ve prepared a document of some movements to include in your Movement Jar to get you started. Print off a few copies and stock your Movement Jar today!
I hope you have found some ideas in this post to begin incorporating physical education more consistently in your homeschool this week. Please be sure to leave additional ideas for PE at Home in the comments as well as questions you’d like me to address in future posts in this series.
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