Keeping them active: Teachers weigh in on tips for keeping children engaged during break

Published 12:28 am Sunday, December 17, 2017

Christmas is just more than a week away, which means children are soon to be out of school for a holiday break.

So what are the best ways to keep young students active while they aren’t in school?

“I would encourage them to go outside if they can and play basketball or other things,” Cathedral School physical education teacher Chuck Darbonne said. “I do know that finding something they can do indoors can be tough sometimes when it’s cold.”

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One way Vidalia Upper Elementary physical education teacher Ginger Moffett has discovered to stabilize activity during a break is through simple repetitive exercises.

Moffett said fourth and fifth grade students received a calendar with a holiday related word on each day. The students are advised to spell the word and complete the exercises based on the correlation to each letter.

For example, the letter A requires 10 jumping jacks, and B asks for 10 sit-ups.

The idea came from a Thanksgiving related calendar the students completed during November, appropriately named “Stuffed with Fitness.”

“I thought it would be fun to give to the kids to keep them active during Thanksgiving and they were overwhelmingly receptive,” Moffett said. “They turned it in at the end of the month and got a certificate and a treat. They loved it, and so I made my own for December.”

Leading up to the winter break, Moffett said her students have participated in the assignment each of the three days they are in PE during the week — spelling words such as gingerbread and Rudolph.

“It’s a way for them to keep moving and gives them a target or goal to shoot for,” Moffett’s co-teacher Kathy Graning said. “They really enjoy doing it.”

The best thing about the assignment, Moffett said, is the informal nature.

“It’s just a piece of paper,” she said. “They can bring it with them on vacation or wherever they go. It’s so easy and you have everything there that you need.”

While the exercises seem simple, they can go a long way.

Darbonne, who teaches first through sixth grade, a seventh and eight grade class and well as a 10th grade class, has experienced the effects inactivity can have on children for the past two years.

“We keep them active here, so you have to be pretty assertive when they come back from break,” he said. “I don’t have kids so it’s sort of tough to me to think about what they do when they aren’t in school. I’ve never had to deal with it except for my job.

“I know when they come back from having their own schedule, they will be a little bit defiant.”

Though extra efforts can help, Darbonne said luckily most of his students stay pretty active to his knowledge.

“Some do a good job of staying in the same schedule even though they are not in school,” he said. “They like to tell me what they do like hunting and other things. I never really get them telling me that they don’t want to do anything.”