Anyone who has watched healthy children acting naturally has probably noticed how active they are. They wiggle, fidget, roll around, jump up and down, charge, tumble, wave their arms, and generally just move with the verve and enthusiasm of youth.
Montessori classrooms allow students more physical freedom than traditional classrooms; but with the sedentary trend in leisure activities, it is especially positive for teachers and parents to encourage both children’s spontaneous physicality (at appropriate times) and more-organized physical activities
Below you will find both ideas for specific activities and information about the benefits of an active and healthy lifestyle.
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Games and Physical Education
Younger kids often enjoy specific games, and these can be lots of fun for the whole family (or neighbors and/or friends) to play together. Perhaps you remember some from your childhood, and you can share those. If you don’t (or if you cannot remember all the rules), check out this fun site, Games Kids Play. http://www.gameskidsplay.net/
For some general P.E. ideas for home or homeschool, these articles have some great suggestions.
Simple Homeschool’s “Physical Education for Homeschooled Teens” has ideas for the whole family.
Brain Pop, Jr.’s Exercise page
These are some specific physical education exercises. http://teachers.net/lessonplans/subjects/physical_education
NAMC gives instructions for a full day of fun and games, during a Harvest Festival. http://montessoritraining.blogspot.ca/2008/10/montessori-harvest-festival.html#.Ufe2Dm3wb1A
Health and Nutrition
Here you will find some health, exercise and nutrition lesson plans.
Kids.gov’s “Exercise, Fitness, and Nutrition” lesson plans http://kids.usa.gov/grown-ups/lesson-plans/exercise-fitness-and-nutrition/index.shtml
Gari Stein offers many different CDs, classes and more. Visit http://www.little-folks-music.com/background.htm and look to the left of the page to see the complete list of music, dance and other fun activities and services available from the Little Folks Music website.
The American Heart Association’s “Elementary Lesson Plans”
NAMC’s “Nutrition is Part of the Prepared Classroom”. http://montessoritraining.blogspot.com/2013/06/nutrition-part-of-montessori-prepared-environment.html#.UfeysW3wb1A
Kimbo Educational has a whole series of “Sing-A-Song & Dance Along” products to get little kids moving and learning at the same time.
Kimbo also offers the brand NEW Preschool Gym CD. See http://kimboed.com/search.aspx?find=Preschool+Gym+CD
Older students may be familiar with the terms “aerobic” and “cardio” used in reference to exercise, but do they really know what they mean? Check out these pages about aerobic (cardiovascular) and anaerobic exercise for definitions, examples, and explanations of the health benefits of each type.
Georgia State University’s “Exercise and Physical Fitness Page”
SparkPeople’s “Reference Guide to Aneaerobic Exercise”
To explore this subject in more depth, check out the Human Cardiovascular System Unit Study. http://www.amonco.org/montessori_heart_unitstudy.html
Autumn can be a very appealing season for outdoor activities. Most areas in the northern hemisphere have a mix of cooler and warmer days, with lots of brisk breezes to keep you invigorated. In the fall – or during any temperate weather– hiking is great exercise for all ages, an inexpensive activity, and a wonderful opportunity to chat, observe nature, and learn together as a family or group. If they are introduced to hiking in a gentle and enjoyable manner at a young age, many children grow enjoy this healthy pastime more and more as they grow.
The Washington Trails Association shares some helpful hints for hiking with children in these two articles. http://www.wta.org/hiking-info/children/resources-for-families/how-to/tips-for-hiking-with-kids and http://www.wta.org/hiking-info/children/how-to/keep-kids-adults-entertained-on-trail
It’s also important, especially with young children who are new to hiking, to remember Maria Montessori’s words. “But the child does not want to get anywhere; he just wants to walk, and to help him truly the adult must follow the child, and not expect him to keep up.” The activity, the movement, the sights and sounds are likely to be the main draw for young children. Goals, destinations and pace can come as an added interest later, if the child learns to enjoy very informal and spontaneous outings first.
Besides just the joy, new horizons and adventure provided by hiking, scientists are beginning to study the actual physical health benefits of this activity. Some of their findings are really fascinating! http://www.psmag.com/health/for-good-health-take-a-hike-3862
Whether you choose to grow ornamentals, vegetables or fruit, gardening provides not only interesting agricultural and botanical lessons, but also provides a gentle, enjoyable and healthy source of exercise and fresh air.
This article lists some of the major health benefits of gardening. http://www.bordbia.ie/aboutgardening/itsgardentime/pages/healthbenefits.aspx
Rae from The Creative Process provides some interesting ideas about gardens for schools. http://www.amonco.org/creative01/montessori_fall1.pdf
This lengthy PDF expands on the subject of planning and sustaining a school garden. http://www.ecoliteracy.org/sites/default/files/uploads/getting-started-2009.pdf
The broader benefits of exercise
Most of us feel good when we participate in healthy activities we enjoy, but scientists and health experts can give us reasons why, as well as listing benefits which extend far beyond the playground, trail or garden.
“How Physical Activity Benefits A Child’s Mental Development”
Dr. Mercola explains how exercise benefits children’s brain function.
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So, maybe we should all take a page from the natural inclinations of childhood, and both encourage and participate in some sort of joyful, healthy movement every day, staring this autumn!