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Maximizing Opportunities for Play through Integration in Early Learning

We all know it’s not difficult to keep children moving, but making sure they are getting enough physical activity during the school day can be a challenge. In our four to five-year-old licensed preschool classroom, we have come up with several ways to make being active a fun and exciting experience.  

In the morning, the children have center time. After they are finished with a center and have cleaned up, we ask them to pick an animal that they want to imitate. This gets the children excited about moving to the next center and helps work their gross motor skills. Another way we engage the children is by giving them different exercises and stretches to do while they are waiting in line. The children may be waiting in line to go to the bathroom, waiting to go outside, or even waiting for another whole group classroom transition. Some of the exercises include lying on their backs and pretending they are riding a bicycle, or seeing how far they can stretch to reach their toes. This keeps children from just standing or sitting in a line. 

Each week the children have the opportunity to participate in a creative movement class, swimming lessons, as well as a music class. Each of these activities allows the children to explore coordination, muscle building and body control in new and creative ways. One of our other favorite ways to keep our children active is by taking brain breaks. A brain break is used when children have been working on an activity and need to get up and move around, so that they can stay motivated throughout the activity. Some examples of a brain break include choosing a piece of energetic music and making up different actions to the words, standing on one leg while writing the alphabet in the air and counting out loud while doing jumping jacks. 

Along with engaging our children in the classroom to be more active and healthy, we have also found some ways to engage families at home. For each month of the year we give a specific monthly challenge for families to participate in. This allows children and families to work together and become more aware of the fitness and food choices they are making at home. Here are the challenges we've chosen for each month this year:

  • January: Try to avoid eating fast food

  • February: Bring in a healthy recipe to share with the class 

  • March: Set a family bed time, so you can feel well rested for the next day

  • April: Try to eat a vegetable and a fruit at every dinner

  • May: Have a family field day. Do exercises and activities that keep you moving

  • June: Check out your local farmer's market

  • July: Cut out soda pop and sugary juices

  • August: Bring in a healthy dessert recipe to share

  • September: Eat family style with your family three times each week this month

  • October: Run/walk a 5K with your family

  • November: Engage in a new sport

  • December: Count your steps and record them

By implementing all of these things in our classroom, we find that our early learners are excited and more engaged in their education. They are also more enthusiastic about finding opportunities for physical development. Our children are always asking to do a physical challenge or a brain break whenever they get the chance!