As we endure more time in lockdown and homeschooling, movement becomes more important. Our Osteopath Tanja shares how you can encourage your children to exercise throughout the day.
Homeschooling. Love it or hate it, Victorian parents are likely to have a whole term of it. Homeschooling can be challenging and stressful for a lot of parents as they may be juggling working from home themselves or may have recently lost work and are dealing with additional stress. Exercise is a fantastic tool for physical and mental health which plays a key role in stress reduction. As well as keeping your body strong and healthy, exercise helps use up excess cortisol (the stress hormone).
Your kids’ education is important but we shouldn’t neglect movement to help facilitate their learning. As an Osteopath and mother of two kids aged 8 and 11, I would love to share some tips to try to get kids doing as much exercise and movement in their day as possible.
Setting an example
Since being in lockdown I have been able to exercise daily and I feel the benefits and the difference in the way I feel when I don’t exercise is noticeable. By showing my kids the importance of exercise I am setting an example that making it a part of my day is important.
Try exercising with your kids a few days a week. On other days when you need your own space, don’t feel guilty about going on a big long walk. Whilst group sports and training and gyms are no longer in the picture for us now, there are still plenty of options. Find something you enjoy. For me, I love a nice bike ride or walk along the Barwon River or waterfront.
Start your day with gentle movement
One thing I have loved about this lockdown is the quietness in the streets and as a family, we have loved taking walks or bike rides around our neighbourhood. As my kids would normally walk part-way to school, we decided that they would start their morning routine with a walk or ride around 1 or 2 blocks of the neighbourhood so they could get a fresh burst of air into their lungs and some rays of sun before they start their homeschool day.
Break up your home learning into blocks
For my kids’ homeschooling, I have tried to break down their learning tasks into 30-minute blocks. I am fortunate that the school where my girls attend have a mixture of worksheets and some online content to be done on a computer or laptop. The laptops and computer are located in our home office which means they need to move around the house a bit if they need to use the computer.
It is recommended that children should take a break from computer work every 30 minutes. These breaks should be physically active and not sedentary. I encourage my kids to stand up and give their bodies a bit of a shake or give them simple physical challenges such as sit-ups, push-ups or planking, 10 star jumps or running on the spot for 40 seconds. These spontaneous bursts of exercise are helpful in burning off excess stress as well as getting the blood flowing through the muscles and stopping their joints from stiffening up.
Many kids move around intuitively and since they are at home they would feel comfortable to do this, so try not to constrain your kids to the desk and chair as they may want to have a little wander around the house or lay down on the floor for a bit. I usually prepare fruit/veggie snacks for them mid-morning but purposefully leave them on the kitchen table so they need to walk to the kitchen to eat them rather than having them whilst they are doing their school work.
You can also break up sitting times with having skipping ropes and hula hoops available and balloons to play balloon volleyball or hot potato with. Balls to help learn to juggle are great too.
Get outside into nature
My kids typically finish their schoolwork by 1pm. We then will have lunch before heading outside. We are lucky enough to live close to an oval where the kids love to have a kick of the soccer and footy or hit of tennis on the big brick wall. This is our chance to get in touch with nature with the beautiful trees and birdlife and re-connect.
Nature is important. At the current stage 3 level restrictions, we are able to exercise outside with our family household as long as we maintain the social distancing. According to Maggie Dent, parenting author and educator and host of the ABC podcast “Parental as Anything”, kids need at least 40-60 minutes of outside activity. Activities that will make them puff such as a vigorous bike ride, sprinting races around the oval or shooting hoops can help them burn off excess stress.
Utilise online resources
Another way of keeping your kids active is by looking at streaming some online resources into your lounge room. My girls love to dance and we came across a great ABC ME show called “Move It Mob Style”. If your child is into hip hop this Australian dance-based youth health and fitness TV show showcases young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s culture through music and dance. The show goes through some great dance routines and will easily get you dancing in the lounge room.
Karen Feldman’s Dance Studio is also a Geelong run business offering online streaming of dance classes from toddler to 18 years. If your child is not the dancer type but loves Ninja Warrior type stuff then Geelong Boxing and Obstacle Training have set up a Youtube channel you can access free content on and will be posting workouts on most days. They offer a great family-kids Bodyweight training where you won’t need anything but yourselves. GoNoodle is another great free online resource for parents offering free movement, yoga and mindfulness activities.
Combine movement with play
Our backyard and driveway have definitely had some great use over the past few weeks. It’s been great watching the kids use their scooter or rollerblades or bikes in between learning or in the afternoon.
We have used chalk to set up hopscotch and four square and it reminds me a bit of when I was young and the games we used to play. Do you remember the sequence for hopscotch? My kids also still love to be chased around in the backyard and playing tiggy is a great way of getting your heart rate up! Combining exercise and movement with play is essential for kids.
Remember to hug your kids and play with them. Every kid is different and it’s good to find out what activity your child loves doing. This time will pass. Encouraging movement and making opportunities for exercise we will lead to much better mechanisms in coping with this crisis.
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