Establishing a fitness plan for young children

Helping children develop active lifestyles can be very rewarding for teachers, parents, and caregivers alike. In order to establish a fitness plan that works for children, you will likely end up considering how to balance out fun and exercise.

Since many children (especially between the ages of 3 – 7) tend to get bored easily, plan to create exercise activities that break down into about 8 minutes each for the following:

  1. Warm-up activities
  2. Healthy discussion
  3. Fitness routine
  4. Cool-down
  • Warm-up Examples: Tag and chase games make excellent warm-ups. Below are two unique warm-up games you can play with children ages 3-7.
  • Cat and Mouse
    • Equipment needed – Cut 8.5 inch x 11 inch colored construction paper into long strips (which will make mouse tails that can be pinned on the back of pants with a paper clip).
    • This can be played anywhere but a large space is better.
    • Instructions – Choose 3 or 4 students from the class to be the catchers or the ‘cats’ and send them to the end of the hall/ playground to ‘sleep’. Give each of the remaining students the colored construction paper strip to tuck into the back of their shorts (to be their mouse tails). Shout ‘wake up cats’. They then chase the mice and try to catch their tails. The cats have to catch as many tails as they can until they are all gone. When a mouse loses their tail they have to sit down.
  • Hula Hoop Game
    • Equipment needed – 4 different colored hua hoops. 
    • This can be played indoors or outdoors.
    • Instructions – Spread 4 different colored hoops around the floor/ground space. Children move around the space (run, skip, etc.) until teacher shouts “hoop”. The adult covers their eyes and counts slowly to 3. Children have this time to run to a hoop. Then, the adult says the color of one hoop. Everyone in this hoop is out. Repeat until you have a winner. Children who are out can close their eyes and select the hoop color.
  • Healthy Discussion Topic Examples:
    • How to check your pulse
    • What is fitness?
    • What is a bruise?
    • Smoking and its effects
  • Fitness Activity Examples:

    • Fruit Basket Fun:  
      • Instruction – Divide the class into 4 groups and have them move into each corner of the play area. Give each of the groups a fruit name such as apples, oranges, bananas and watermelons.Call two of the fruit names and those groups have to run and change places. They maintain the same name throughout the game. When you call “Fruit Basket” all of the children run and sit in the center of the play area.
      • Caution: With the little ones, this can cause collisions!
    • Human Bumper Cars (with hula hoops): 
      • Equipment needed – hula hoops [one for each child participating]
      • Goal – Help children gain spacial awareness through traveling in a variety of ways like running, walking, and leaping as they respond to signals like stop or go.
      • Instructions –  Explain what personal space is and how you use it.
        • Give each student a hula hoop and have them hold it at waist level. Explain that this is there personal space car and they should not touch any other student’s car. Give them word directions like stop, go, stand-up or sit-down.
        • Have the students run from one end of the room to the other (or set specific boundaries if you are outside). After, give them some directions while they are running, let them run freely around the area. You can also make it an elimination game by making the last one to stop or sit down has to sit out until there is only one. You can use different movements with the hula hoop like skipping or jumping and spinning.
  • Cool Down Examples:

    • Side Arm Circles
      • While marching on the spot, raise arms out from the sides of the body to shoulder height. Now slowly circle arms forward 8 –10 times and backward 8 – 10 times.
    • Circles in the Sky
      • While marching on the spot, children raise arms overhead.
      • Children pretend they are drawing circles in the sky. Children keep arms overhead and draw a variety of shapes.
    • Climb the Ladder
      • Children stand with feet slightly apart.
      • Move arms and legs up and down as if climbing a ladder to the sky.
      • Climb a ladder for 20 – 30 steps.
    • On-the-Spot Follow the Leader
      • Choose a leader to lead some slow, cool-down movements:
        • Walk on the spot, moving arms in a gentle swinging motion.
        • Touch shoulders with hands, then reach up over head. Repeat five times.
        • Skip slowly on the spot.
        • Skip side to side.
        • Jump or hop on the spot.
    • Slow March
      • March slowly on the spot, keeping knees low and gently swinging the arms for 15 counts.
    • Deep Breaths and Hug
      • Slowly take a deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. Repeat three times.
      • Wrap arms around shoulders and give self a big hug and a pat on the back.

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