Alyssa Pearce, Occupational Therapist
Snowstorms, hybrid models, COVID exposures, full time remote learning options…There are so many instances that result in our children participating in online learning for the duration of their school day. Although this advancement in technology can be seen as beneficial in that children can still get access to their education from home, we need to keep in mind the lack of movement their body may be getting.
I think back to an average school day pre-COVID: One child was in charge of passing out the papers to the entire classroom, one child was the line leader and proudly walked their class to the special for that day. They had to walk down the long hallway of classrooms to get to the bathroom. Children were running around playing tag during recess or climbing on the playground equipment. They were in charge of carrying the bucket of balls outside to recess. These are all just small instances of movement and input that our children are not receiving when participating in remote learning. Now again, I am so happy that we are able to provide safe options for our children to still get their education during this pandemic. However, there are two sides to every coin, and there have been positive and negative effects seen and felt as a consequence of remote learning. I feel that it’s important for us to consider the importance of, and begin to implement, “movement breaks” for our children regularly throughout their day.
Movement breaks can be anywhere from 30 seconds to 10+ minutes. I’ve suggested to my client’s parents to try and set a timer and have an organized activity to spend during those short time frames. Here are some quick, fun movement breaks I’ve been using during my teletherapy sessions and even for myself to move around.
Around the House Scavenger Hunt:
Have your child roll a die and pick something for them to find if they have a few minutes between remote classes.
Another activity that can be used as a quick movement between classes! A few rounds can be completed if your child is given a “break” time in their remote learning schedule.
DIY Gross Motor Board Games:
Make your own board game and add fun movement activities. Not sure what to add? Here is an example of a board game I made with a client over our teletherapy session.
Spelling Fitness Activity:
Using the chart shown, have your child spell out their name, spell out the name of the class they have next, etc. by doing the movement that correlates to each letter of the word. This is a fun way to work on spelling and get full-body movement quickly!
This activity provides proprioceptive input using a yoga ball or pillows while the child lays on their belly/back on the floor. If you only have a short amount of time and want to provide deep pressure to the entire body, this is a good, quick option! This can also be used as a transition after a movement activity and before returning back to the screen.
And I know that some of you reading this may be thinking, “I’m already struggling having my kid log onto their remote learning classes, why am I trying to add another task to their schedule?!” The reason it is so important for our children to continue moving throughout the day is because it’s beneficial for their physical, mental, social, and cognitive health. According to Texas A&M (2020), physical activity increases concentration and attention. That is why it is important to keep them moving throughout the school day and not waiting until the end of the day.
Heather Gillin, a Texas A&M health and kinesiology professor, explains why it is especially important to get physical movement during a time of crisis. She states:
“Physical activity is strongly linked to psychological health. Physical activity releases endorphins, which are natural chemicals produced by the body, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein important in the regulation of stress. Therefore, physical activity plays a therapeutic role in the treatment of depression and anxiety”.
With all the uncertainty going on today due to COVID-19, our children’s emotional health is so important to keep in mind especially during their remote learning day.
Creative Ways to Carry Over Learning
If you find that your child is struggling with this remote learning style, you can incorporate some of their learning into fun games. Let’s use the example of practicing sight words:
- Candy Land: Every other turn you have to review a sight word. You can also designate colors to sight words (red/blue = sight words, green/yellow = movement activity i.e., bear walk) to get some movement in too
- Jenga: Taping “sight word” or “movement” on each Jenga piece. Rip up some paper into two piles, write sight words on one pile and movement on the half. When your child picks a “sight word” Jenga piece, you pick up a piece of paper from the sight word pile and have them practice identifying it.
- Pop the Pig: Depending on the number on the bottom of the cookie, they have to do that many sight words. To switch it up and keep it exciting, you can delegate two colors to sight words and two colors to movement activities.
- Bingo: Write sight words on a bingo board and have your kids search for each word you call out. The board game Zingo has a similar premise.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding additional strategies for remote learning, please contact your Occupational, Physical, or Speech Therapist. Send us an email at email@example.com or use the “Ask the therapist” option on our website.
Keep an eye out for Ms. Ally’s blog on flexible seating options for additional remote learning strategies!
References: Gillian, H. (2020, July 02). Integrating physical activity into distance education. Retrieved from: https://today.tamu.edu/2020/04/08/integrating-physical-activity-into-distance-education/
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