Active kids are healthy kids! From basketball to baseball, cheerleading to horseback riding, check out all of the sport camps and classes for kids that we have listed in your area! https://www.activityhero.com/classes-camps/sports
Flexible spending accounts (FSA) can be a great way to reduce your taxes while you spend on child care. You can use money from your FSA to pay for summer camps and after-school activities. Certain after-school activities and care expenses are covered as well. If your company doesn’t offer an FSA, you can also cover some of the costs of camp and child care with the child care tax credit.
There are a few stipulations to consider, one being that only kids under 13 years old are covered. Only day camps are covered, not overnight camps, and both parents must be working or attending school full-time. Also, the same expenses cannot be covered by FSA and the child care tax credit. The child care tax credit covers only a percentage of child care costs and varies between 20-35% depending on your household income. If your adjusted gross income is over $43,000, your child care tax credit is limited to 20%.
Other key points you should know about the tax credit:
Expenses are deductible only if the main purpose is the “person’s well-being and protection.” Summer school, private school tuition, tutoring and overnight camps don’t qualify.
Day care centers or after-school care qualifies if only if the center complies with all state and local regulations.
There is a maximum yearly dollar amount of $3000 for one child, or $6000 for two or more children.
Are online classes and camps eligible for FSA or tax credit?
In 2020 and 2021, many more families enrolled their kids in an online course or virtual camp. Unfortunately, some FSA’s are not approving online courses as an eligible dependent care expense because the parents were at home during the course and thus providing child care.
IRS publication 503 says “Expenses are for the care of a qualifying person only if their main purpose is the person’s well-being and protection.” One FSA administrator states in a recent notice that an online platform with audio and visual functions satisfies the requirement. But some FSA plans state that if the parents are at home, then the parents are providing care for the child.
If I paid for a camp in 2020, but we attended in 2021, what year is my expense tax deductible?
If you paid for camp in one year, but your kids did not attend until the next year, you would count expenses in the year your kids attended.
How can I get the EIN number for the camp or class provider?
When you register on ActivityHero.com, your registration confirmation email will include the EIN and other information you need to claim your tax credit or use your FSA funds.
Please keep in mind that we know a fair bit about summer camps and kids activities, but we are NOT tax experts. There are additional restrictions to this tax credit, so read IRS publication 503 carefully or consult your tax advisor before claiming the tax dependent care credit.
After a year of school shutdowns, schedule disruptions, and social isolation, many families may be looking forward to a fresh start. Here are some ideas for kids to take on 2021 the right way with health, education, and mindfulness.
2020 was a challenge for many families, and for many kids that can come with increased stress and anxiousness. Helping children manage physical and mental health is especially important this year. Look for ways to make 2021 their best year yet!
2021 Goals for Kids and Teens
Here are 5 steps towards a year full of growth and joy.
1) Physical Exercise
Exercising every day can help kids manage their sleep schedule, improve their mood, and decrease stress. This can be a healthy habit for the whole family in 2021 – hiking, biking, going for walks, or other recreational activities are all great ideas to enjoy together.
Other exercise and fitness classes for your child include:
Dance: Kids of any age can participate in a dance class or have a dance party in a fun, safe environment. Many classes are for beginners and explore many different styles of dance, like hip hop, ballet, and jazz.
Martial Arts: Martial arts classes help build confidence, leadership skills, and resilience while providing a fun space to stay active.
Yoga: Online yoga and exercise classes are a relaxing activity for all ages. In yoga classes for kids as young as 4, students learn basic yoga movements and body awareness.
Nutrition and healthy eating is important for all ages. Establishing a good relationship with food is knowledge that kids can use for their whole life.
Getting started with cooking at a young age is a great way for kids to start learning about nutrition. Being in the kitchen can also help with independence, help picky eaters, and spark creativity.
Cooking Classes: Instructional classes with expert teachers bring kids through recipes while teaching kitchen safety, cleanliness, and art.
DIY Recipes: Have fun with recipes on your own time, with video tutorials to help you out!
3) Schedule Relaxing Activities
Along with exercise and nutrition, making time for enjoyable and relaxing hobbies has many benefits as well. A new year is the perfect time to explore something new, whether it be art, music, writing, or gaming.
Art Classes for Kids: Art can be a constructive outlet for children of all abilities to express emotions and relieve anxiety. Drawing, painting, clay modeling, and crafts are all great activities.
Music Classes for Kids: Music is a great activity that anyone can pick up for fun, whether it’s learning an instrument, singing, or dancing.
In addition, any relaxing hobby your child enjoys can help them socialize and unwind. Cooking, theatre & drama, music, LEGO or even making slime could be good options!
Look forward to a year of emotional health and reduced stress. Yoga, exercises to reduce stress, and meditation can all help to prepare for the ups and downs of 2021. Even five minutes of breathing or mindful exercises a day can help to develop healthy emotions and resilience.
Many kids had to learn to navigate technology this year to attend school and socialize with friends. Live online classes or calls are a great time for kids to safely interact with each other and work together on fun activities. After feeling isolated this year, it is important to make time to keep connections this year.
Stress and anxiety is common for both children and adults. Butterflies before a piano recital or feeling nervous about a big test is a normal reaction to a stressful situation or event. As parents, we can’t eliminate stress in our children’s lives – only teach them how to manage it.
Triggers that can cause stress in children include major life changes such as moving or divorce, family financial problems, peer pressure or bullying, body changes, and worrying about schoolwork. Helping our children form coping strategies at a young age will set them up for long-term success as they encounter education, career, social, and financial decisions.
During 2020, the number of children expressing stress increased with schedule disruptions, school shutdowns, social isolation, virtual learning, and health concerns. According to a parent survey on ActivityHero in September 2020, 86% of children reported feeling anxious during the prior 6 months.
Without healthy stress management, chronic anxiety could lead to behavioral and physical symptoms in children: (medlineplus.gov)
Decreased appetite or other sudden changes in eating habits
Nightmares or Sleep disturbances
Upset stomach or vague stomach pain
Sudden changes in behavior that are out of character
New or recurring fears (fear of the dark, fear of being alone, fear of strangers)
Clinging, unwilling to let you out of sight (separation anxiety)
Not able to control emotions; Aggressive or stubborn behavior
Unwilling to participate in family or school activities
Stress management for Kids and Teens
Here are 5 ways to help your child manage every day anxiety and take healthy habits into adulthood:
At least 60 minutes of exercise a day can have many health benefits for children, including relieving stress. This is a healthy habit for the whole family – hiking, biking, surfing, or other recreational activities are all great ideas to enjoy together.
Other fun, non-competitive exercise and fitness classes for your child to manage stress (and burn off extra energy), include:
Yoga: Online stretching and yoga classes are a relaxing activity for all ages. In yoga classes for kids as young as 4, students learn basic yoga movements and body awareness.
Dance Party: Toddlers to teens can enjoy a fun dance party, connecting in a safe environment led by an engaging instructor. Many dance and movement classes have fun themes and do not require any previous dance experience.
Karate:Introductions to martial arts classes online do not require previous experience, and can be a confidence builder for children.
We’re here to help your child become even more engaged, strong and optimistic during this unique time. We know that grit, resilience and laughter have never been more important than right now.
In addition to exercising your body, scheduling relaxing activities can also relieve mental stress. Art, music, journaling, and other relaxing hobbies all have therapeutic benefits. The most important reminder is to make sure there is zero pressure – these should be purely for fun!
Art Classes for Kids: Art can be a constructive outlet for children of all abilities to express emotions and relieve anxiety. Drawing, painting, clay modeling, and crafts are all great activities.
In addition, any relaxing hobby your child enjoys can help them socialize and unwind. Cooking, theatre & drama, music, LEGO or even making slime could be good options!
If your child is starting to feel overwhelmed, teaching them breathing exercises can help them work through their feelings. Taking deep breaths, visualizing themselves in a calming place, and listening to relaxing sounds are all strategies to help them refocus.
“We started using online classes on Activity Hero after schools closed and I was furloughed. My son especially enjoys Vibras Meditation (now LoveHero). Positive messages and empowerment are so good for kids right now (and always I guess.) The instructor is great and we will continue even after things move to the new normal.”
As parents and adults, modeling self-care and positive thinking is probably the hardest habit to implement. However, our children observe and absorb more of our adult stress than we realize. Some strategies include:
Talk with your children about how you have dealt with stressful situations and encourage dialogue about how they are feeling. Tip: Conversations can be more natural if you engage when your child doesn’t have to look directly at you – riding in a car, walking the dog, or sitting on the beach.
Be mindful of your reactions; take a deep breath before responding to stressful situations.
Avoid negative thinking; Model behaviors of self-care instead of self-doubt for your children.
Be Aware: Children are spending more time online and it’s important to understand (and teach) the dangers of cyberbullying, social media addiction, and predators.
If at any time you feel your child may have chronic anxiety or depression, please consult your healthcare provider. Some of the signs and symptoms of anxiety or depression in children could be caused by other conditions, such as trauma. If you need help finding treatment, visit MentalHealth.gov
Whether you love a leisurely ride or a real off-road adventure, find a type of biking that appeals to your family. Here are 6 practical tips to get kids started with family-friendly biking.
By the ActivityHero Team with Guest Amanda Wilks
Kids are often tempted to spend hours of their unstructured play time glued to electronic devices. Instead, why not encourage them to go out for a ride? With many benefits for the body and mind, biking is a healthy outdoor activity that can be done at almost any age. Looking to try it out? Here’s expert advice on sizing, types, gear, classes, and specialized activities like mountain biking.
1. Get Fitted
The most important step is to measure your child’s Inseam. A bicycle inseam (or leg length) is not the same as a clothing inseam.
To measure, grab a book and a tape measurer. The child should stand with her back against a wall, spreading her feet about 6 inches apart, either barefoot or in socks. Place a book between her legs, close to the crotch to mimic the bike seat.
Measure from the top of the book (that is, the spine) down to the floor. Choosing a slightly larger bike is fine in order to leave a little room to grow into. Avoid choosing a size which is too far off the mark for your child, which would impede his ability to learn correct riding habits and even expose him to greater danger.
2. Choose the Right Bike
Depending on your interests, there are three main styles of bike: road, mountain, and “hybrid” (a blend between the two), depending on your interests.
If you’re interested in mountain biking, according to MountainBikeReviewed, you can easily find and buy sturdy bikes for less than $300, like the Mongoose Statis Comp, the Villano Blackjack 2.0 or the Schwinn High Timber. Other great mountain bike brands which are geared towards kids are Spawn, Cleary, Early Rider, Pello and Stampede. Many mountain bikes are, contrary to opinion, quite cost-effective.
For road bikes, your local bike shop should have recommendations. Online retailers like Amazon will often have many customer reviews posted. There are also online outfits like BikeExchange if you prefer doing research online.
No matter what style you go with, when the child stands over the bike, there should be a 1-2 “ space between the crotch and the top bar of the bike. Also, “a beginner should be able to plant both feet flat on the ground when getting off the bike, which ensures safety and helps with confidence,” recommends Nick Pavlakis of Pedalheads, a learn-to-ride bike camp based in Seattle, Portland, Denver and Chicago.
Ideally, the right bike choice should be made based on the wheel size, not the frame size. Use the chart below:
Wheel Size 12″ —> Age 2 -3 —> Height 2’10 – 3’4
Wheel Size 14″ —> Age 3 -4 —> Height 3’1 – 3’7
Wheel Size 16″ —> Age 4-5 —> Height 3’7 – 4’0
Wheel Size 20’ —> Age 5-8 —> Height 4’0 – 4’5
Wheel Size 24′ —> Age 8-11 —> Height 4’5 – 4’9
Wheel Size 26′ —> Age 11+ —> Height 4’9
These are rough approximations and, since every child is unique, you should use these numbers only as a guide.
3. Get Essential Gear
A good helmet which protects the brain is the single most important safety feature you must have. Make sure it fits, covers the entirety of the forehead and is properly ventilated. According to Pavlakis of Pedalheads, “research shows that up to 90% of fatal bicycle crashes result from head trauma,” so using a properly fitted and certified helmet will protect the head and brain from damage, which might save your child’s life. Note that helmets are mandatory for children under the age of 16 in most areas. “Check that there is no more than a two-finger gap between your eyebrows and the front part of the helmet,” advises Pavlakis.
Layer up with season-appropriate clothing. In summer, light clothing with good arm and leg coverage will protect from sun, and in cooler temperatures, don’t forget gloves, warm socks, and a wind-proof shell.
For urban and suburban biking, invest in a solid bicycle lock.
If you want to take the whole family along but have younger children who aren’t yet able to pedal on their own steam, the most common options are: Trailers (a wheeled carriage which attaches in back of a bicycle), Pedal-less Bikes (also called Balance Bikes, where kids push off the ground to move forward), and Trail-a-Bikes (a seat plus single-wheel that attaches to a bicycle, allowing pedaling without steering capabilities).
4. Find Classes or Camps
Classes and camps will generally cover the four basic rules of bike riding:
Riding in a straight line without deviating from it;
Looking back without losing balance or swerving;
Stopping the bike using the brakes, taking into account the surroundings;
Good speed control and adapting it in accordance with the terrain.
After mastering these basics, group classes are a great way for kids to learn important skills like giving hand signals, negotiating hilly terrain, understanding road signs and dangers, following traffic flow, and practicing proper spacing between riders.
As a side note, older kids will benefit from learning some everyday maintenance routines, like checking the bike tire’s air pressure, putting the chain back together, and testing the brakes, often covered in more advanced classes or camps.
More inclined to teach on your own? Here’s a helpful guide. Remember to read up on safety do’s and don’ts. If you get to the stage where a child is nearly ready to remove the training wheels, Pavlakis advises parents to take their time: “Don’t rush the process. Taking the training wheels off too early can become a negative experience for the child and may lead to resistance in learning.”
5. Mountain Biking
Mountain biking is a sport that is growing rapidly in popularity by offering excitement, challenge, and unique outdoor settings. To get kids started with mountain biking, you should remember that at the outset, your child might not have the physical endurance or the attention span needed to finish a certain route. Try increasing trip difficulty and length gradually to make the learning process smoother.
First, make sure your child is very capable and comfortable traversing flat, easy terrain. Then transition to doubletrack dirt trails with varying degrees of difficulty and topography. Plan ahead to reduce the chance of accidents. Initially choose short, fun routes that you know well and that you feel your kid can completewith relative ease. Have fun increasing the level of difficulty over time!
6. Find Focus, Stay Safe
Pavlakis recommends that beginning bikers “maintain focus and awareness at all times,” of the conditions on their road or trail to reinforce safe habits. Biking is a perfect way to leave behind the distractedness of everyday life and be more fully engaged in the present. Have fun!
On a roll? Check updated schedules and reviews of popular biking camps and classes in your area on ActivityHero.
About the author
Amanda Wilks is a writer, veteran MTB rider and sports advocate. Her passion for mountain biking dates back to her childhood, when she would join her dad every weekend for a quick ride uphill. She is now addicted to the sport and she never misses a trail. Learn more about Amanda on Twitter.
Sure, chess is a great brain-booster for type-A kids, but did you know it’s also perfect for children who struggle to focus in school or organize their homework? Here, a seasoned chess coach explains why every child can enjoy many brain-boosting, skill-enhancing benefits when learning this “Game of Kings.”
By Rachel Stamper
Chess camps, chess clubs and chess classes are the perfect way to introduce your child to the “Game of Kings.” While experts disagree on the optimal age to begin chess — some say as early as kindergarten, while others recommend starting at second grade — all concur that chess offers incredible benefits to boost the developing brains of children of all ages.
My son, now nearly 13 and in 7th grade, participated in after-school chess club throughout elementary school, and the skills he learned in chess continue to benefit him both socially and academically. “I don’t like sports, but do like competition,” he says. A variation called “bughouse chess” was his favorite, because it’s a team chess game. “Plus I’ve got a shelf full of chess trophies!”
I chatted with Coach Brett Ramirez of The Chess Club about these and other benefits of enrolling a child in a chess program. He offers the following insight, gained from his more than 20 years’ experience coaching chess for elementary through high school kids.
#1 Chess Encourages Focus
Learning and playing chess teaches children the benefits of careful observation and concentration If the student doesn’t watch what’s happening, they can’t respond to it, no matter how smart they are.
#2 Chess Teaches Visualization
We prompt children to imagine a sequence of actions before it happens. This strengthens their ability to visualize by training them to shift the pieces in their mind several moves ahead to predict outcomes.
#3 Chess Trains Thoughtfulness
Children are taught to think, then act. We teach them to ask, “If I do this, what might happen as a result and how can I respond?” Over time, chess helps kids develop patience and learn to think ahead.
#4 Chess Inspires Critical Thinking
We teach students that they don’t have to do the first thing that pops into their mind. They learn to identify and weigh options and consider the pros and cons of various alternatives before they act.
#5 Chess Instills Analysis and Logic
Children learn to evaluate results of a series of actions and outcomes. They ask themselves, “Does this sequence help me or hurt me?” This way, they see that better decisions come from logic, rather than impulse.
#6 Chess Guides Abstract Thinking
We teach kids how to step back from details periodically and consider the bigger picture. They also learn to transfer patterns used in one context and apply them to different, but related situations.
#7 Chess Supports Planning
Children are shown how to develop longer-range goals and take steps towards accomplishing these goals. They are also taught how to reevaluate their plans on the fly as new developments change the scenario.
#8 Chess Inspires Multiple Lines of Thought
We encourage students not to become overly absorbed in any one consideration, but to try to weigh various factors all at once. Simultaneous juggling of multiple considerations is a skill that can be learned early.
#9 Chess Spurs Socialization
In schools, chess serves as a bridge, bringing together children of different ages, races and genders. Chess helps build individual friendships, camaraderie, healthy competition and sportsmanship.
Coach Brett adds, “The beauty of chess as a teaching tool is that it stimulates children’s minds and helps them to build these skills while enjoying themselves. As a result, children become more critical thinkers, better problem solvers and more independent decision makers.”
This summer camp guide will help you find camps that fit your kids interests and provide some tips on how to make it easier to plan your summer with the greatest ease.
Bay Area kids benefit from a large variety of summer camps — sports, art, coding, outdoor and specialty camps! Many parents describe the camp planning process as a jigsaw puzzle as they try to fit together multiple kids, friends, and camp schedules.
At ActivityHero, our mission is to make finding and booking summer camps easier for parents. We’ve put together this summer camp guide to provide an overview of all the top camp categories.
Sports camps are popular with kids of all ages. Summer is a great time for kids to further explore a sport that they love or try something new. Besides keeping kids active, sports camps help kids learn teamwork and perseverance. Sports camps also tend to be less expensive than other camps.
Boys and girls love soccer camps, and even in the summer, it’s not too hot in the Bay Area to be on the soccer field. The youngest campers have fun playing games and running off all that extra summer energy. Experienced players benefit from extra instruction during the off season.
Family favorites: Coach Ken Soccer Camps: “Great staff and great experience for my son and daughter! This was our first year and my daughter who is 6 was interested in playing sports like her 8 year old brother. They both had a great time, learned a lot, and it was a great learning environment for the kids. Can’t wait to go back!”
Basketball camps are great for coordination, exercise and team-building. Campers learn the fundamentals of basketball through games and fun drills. Coaches group children by age and skill level, making it a suitable choice for beginner or advanced basketball players.
Family favorites: Legarza Sports “My son loved his week at Basketball camp. Good instructors who care about the kids. Drop off and pick up were very easy. He’s excited to return next year.
Dance camps are a great way for artistic children to explore their creativity through a variety of different dance disciplines such as modern, jazz, ballet, hip hop, salsa or even aerial dance.
Family favorites: Grrrl Brigade “A terrific empowering experience that exposes and teaches your child a wide range of dances, music, positive approaches to thinking and expressing themselves. The “show” at the end of the week is very inspiring and the staff is thoughtful, patient and kind in leading the girls through an impressive array of choreography.”
Multi-sport camps are a good way to give kids a variety of several different sports and outdoor games. Bald Eagle Sports Camp proudly says their multi-sport camp is “known for getting even the laziest kids up and moving…and loving it!”
Family favorites: Growfit “The staff at GrowFit are simply amazing. I sent both my kids here during the school break and they had an awesome time. The staff went above and beyond when my son was being called names. I really can’t say enough good things about them.”
Coding, Science, and Robotics Camps
Parents know how kids can consume technology for hours at a time on video games, YouTube videos, and social media. So it’s not a surprise that many parents are interested in directing this interest into creating video games, making movies, or coding the next social media app like TikTok.
Summer is a great time to explore coding for kids because most schools don’t offer coding during the school year. Many coding camps use video camps as the subject matter for teaching kids how to use Scratch or Python to create their own game or learn Minecraft or Roblox mods. Teens may choose Java programming camps to prepare for high school computer science courses or App development camps to explore new app ideas.
Science camps and STEM camps are popular for girls and boys who are naturally inquisitive. Camps that focus on science, technology, engineering and math challenges are engaging for curious children who like to explore the how and why. For middle and high school students, STEM camps can showcase a wide variety of potential career opportunities.
Robot summer camps are like coding camps with an extra element of competition. TV shows like BattleBots have introduced more families to the thrill of designing and battling robots. Many introductory robotics summer camps use LEGO Mindstorms, which is also used by the First Lego League in nationwide competitions for kids.
Creative kids can grow their skills and express themselves in any number of art camps and maker camps. From learning to draw to learning to build, art and other maker camps can bring out the creator in every kid.
At a LEGO camp, kids build LEGO animals, spacecraft, and other creations.
For budding master chefs, a cooking camp like Sprouts Cooking Club or Culinary Dude offers hands-on cooking experience and a daily menu. On-demand activities include recipes and video walkthroughs for meals and desserts.
Kids and teens who want to learn to sew will find some creative sewing camps such as Camp Couture in San Mateo, owned by Project Runway finalist Alexandria von Brommson. Sewing camps like this let kids design their own fashions, accessories, and even soft toys.
Woodworking camp is very popular, even in the high-tech age, but harder to find due to the specialized equipment and instructors. Maker Nexus in Sunnyvale has sewing camps as well as woodworking and industrial arts for kids and adults. You’ll also find woodworking at Tinkering School in San Francisco and Young Builders in Palo Alto.
Outdoor and Nature Camps
For both boys and girls, outdoor camps are a top interest with kids ages 5-13. This is great news for parents who want their kids to spend less time with screens and more time connecting with nature and playing outside.
The Bay Area is the perfect place for kids to enjoy both water sports and mountain adventures. Kids can take a hike along creeks or try rock climbing, mountain biking, or canoeing.
Academic camps are a top interest for kids ages 7-10 who would like to explore a subject beyond the typical classroom curriculum in an exciting and engaging way.
Family favorites: “My daughter loves math circle. She tells me that she’s not doing math like at school, rather she says she’s doing puzzles and games and that it’s really fun. I love that she’s having fun learning and that math circle helps her develop a positive attitude about math.”
Girls-only camps are a chance for girls to connect with other girls and get a unique perspective on topics such as leadership, teamwork and goal setting. A single gender camp can boost confidence and help girls find their voice while making friends.
Summer Planning Made Easy
Are you juggling a summer camp schedule with multiple children? Or, are you trying to coordinate camps and carpool with friends? ActivityHero has launched a new tool to make inviting friends and teammates even easier. You can now add your favorite summer camps to a saved list, invite friends and share as a group. Parents are able to RSVP that they are interested, registered or unavailable for that camp all in one convenient location. Save time and plan the ultimate summer experience with your child’s classmates, teammates, neighbors and more!
How many camps should my child attend?
It really depends on your child. Some kids can be single-minded and want to enjoy one camp for the summer and focus on their favorite activity, other kids want to take several classes in different areas throughout the season.
Read our Ultimate Soccer Camp Guide for expert tips on choosing the best soccer camp to fit your child’s age, skill level and overall soccer goals.
Soccer camps are one of the most popular summer camps on ActivityHero. Played by over 2 million children nationwide*, youth soccer appeals to children of all ages and skill levels. With both recreational and travel soccer leagues in the Bay Area, there are many opportunities for both beginner and elite players to play year round. It is also a sport that can be started at an early age, with many kids soccer camps accepting those as young as 3 years old.
Finding the right soccer camp depends on your child’s age and motivation. Does your child dream of being the next Lionel Messi or Alex Morgan? Or, do you simply want a fun summer camp to keep your child active this summer?
Soccer Development by Age
From preschool to high school, soccer camps structure their programs to meet children at various levels of development.
Ages 3-5: The focus for the very youngest players is primarily on strengthening gross motor skills, socialization and having fun! Soccer drills for preschoolers are often just multipurpose games to keep players active, listening and making friends.Soccer camps for ages 3-5 often offer mini sessions that are semi-structured adventures designed to engage short attention spans.
Ages 6-9: For elementary school-aged children, soccer camps often divide players up by age and ability to maximize instruction. While some very advanced players can start to play at a competitive level, most soccer camps for ages 6-9 years old “focus on team building, social skills, and technical skill development. The emphasis of the soccer camp is to help our young players foster a love of the game,” according to the AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization).
Ages 10-13: For motivated players, this is the age where soccer development can be taken to the next level at camps such as the USF Junior Premier Soccer Camp. Developing technique, speed of play and simulated game situations are all a priority.
Ages 14+: High school soccer players can have a wide range of skill and motivation – ranging from recreational to student athletes eyeing a college soccer scholarship.
Specialized night training programs for intermediate to advanced soccer players aged 15-21 are available through San Francisco Soccer Camp. The night training can be very convenient if your high school player has a summer job lined up. Additionally, some travel leagues may encourage team camps, residential overnight camps or college ID soccer camps.
Specialty Soccer Camps
There are also specialty programs such as goalkeeper camps or striker soccer clinics. These camps are focused on developing specific skills related to your child’s preferred playing position.
What to Bring to Soccer Camp
There are a few items that you will definitely want to pack with your child for soccer camp.
Soccer gear: Cleats, Shin Guards and a Ball (optional). Sneakers can work too. *Tip: If you send a soccer ball, be sure to label it with your child’s name.
Water bottle: Your child will be working up a sweat!
Packed Lunch and/or Snacks: Keep in mind that most camps will not have a refrigerator.
Sunscreen: Campers could be outside in the sun for several hours.
Benefits Beyond the Field
Soccer can develop into a fun, lifetime participation sport where children can learn the value of teamwork, leadership, communication and respect.
“Active kids grow in self-confidence. They have the opportunity to develop an open mindset. They learn conflict resolution skills. They learn how to both cooperate and compete with others. They learn punctuality and responsibility. They learn how to contribute to a group. They learn communication skills and how to lead. They learn how to set and achieve goals toward self-improvement. The possible life skills, as well as sport skills, that an active soccer player could learn and benefit from is a long list,” said Sam Snow, US Youth Soccer Director of Coaching.
Prepping for back-to-school means juggling after-school activities and loads more stuff. These 5 organization hacks will keep your family organized and ready for anything.
By Jillian Chamberlain
Where are my shin guards? Did you sign that permission slip? I can’t find my sheet music! When you’re trying to get kids out the door and to their after school activities, time is at a premium. Taking a few minutes now to modify your organization process can help streamline things when you’re in a rush. Here are some of our favorite ideas from parents and caregivers who’ve been there, organized that.
1. “Stuff Station” — The One Place to Keep Everything
There’s so much to keep track of during back-to-school season, it gets overwhelming. When school is back in session, so are all of those music lessons, soccer practices, and martial arts classes. As parents of active children, you are guaranteed to be dealing with more STUFF. How do you keep it all straight and teach your children to be responsible for their things on any given day? Keep it all in one place, and color-code it! Your kids’ activity station can come in many different shapes and forms, but here is one ‘stuff station’ idea we thought was appealing to the eye and highly functional. Check out this and more organization hacks from IAmNotTheBabysitter.com
2. There’s a Bag for That
Once you create a ‘stuff station’ for homework, permission slips and projects are sure to add a hook for an after-school activity drawstring bag. If you have a child with a lot of various interests, consider making an individual drawstring bag that is designated as the one place to keep any and all equipment for each sport or lesson. On Mondays and Wednesdays, your child knows to grab the yellow drawstring bag with their shin guards and cleats for soccer. On Thursday the red bag is ready at the door for martial arts. Momtastic.com has a great DIY tutorial for customizable drawstring bags. So simple!
3. Car Homework Station
Homework happens. If there’s one thing to dread with the start of the new school year, it’s the renewed battle over nightly homework assignments. Convincing kids to sit down and do their work is one of the hardest parts of a parent’s job. One way to get them excited about homework is a comfortable and creative space dedicated to them…even if that is in the car. Consider creating a homework station in the car so that your little ones can knock out some homework while you’re on the road.
4. After-School Snacks on the Go
Kids start school relatively early in the morning each day. That means a big gap between lunchtime and after-school snack time. Kids need to refuel, and every parent knows how difficult it can be dealing with cranky, “hangry” youngsters. StuffedSuitcase.com has made it easy to steer clear of junk foods and other unhealthy quick fixes by gathering some easy-to-assemble snacks to keep ready in the car. After-school snacks can be healthy, fun and mobile!
5. Organize Your After-School Schedule, Too!
ActivityHero can help you find local activities that work with your child’s calendar — and nurture his or her interests! Whether your child likes to dance, sports, outdoor recreation, music, or computers, ActivityHero makes browsing and registering easy.
Getting organized is about clearing the space and time for your family members to meet their needs and find focus, in whatever way works for you!
When kids start to express an interest in sports, it might be hard to know where to start. How do you know if your child is a Steph Curry or a Serena Williams?
Here’s some ways you can help kids find the right sport for them.
1. Child’s activity level
Is your child constantly running about and complaining of boredom? Or do they prefer to spend their free time doing low impact activities like reading?
If you have a high-energy child, consider a fast-paced sport such as soccer, football, or basketball. If they are less interested in contact sports, your child may like individual sports such as golf, tennis or swimming.
2. Consider physical traits
Although many teams need a variety of different players, take into account your child’s stature and what activity may best suit them. Children that are taller and broader might make better football players while those that are shorter and more slender would be great runners.
But don’t let your child’s physical traits limit them from their passions—the only limitations are the ones set in the mind.
3. Check out the coaches
A passion for a sport can fizzle out due to an ill-prepared or off-putting coach.
Some things to look for in a good coach are encouragement, knowledge of the game, and approachability. A good coach is passionate about the sport and dedicated to helping kids do their absolute best. Check out the 10 qualities to look for in a good coach.
Observe the children on the team—are they smiling? Do they seem to be enjoying themselves?
Feel free to ask the coach as many questions as time allows, if they are truly committed to their job they’ll gladly give you feedback.
4. Individual vs. group
Does your child perform better in individual or group situations?
Some kids work better on a team and find it to be less pressure than individual sports where they are competing one-on-one. Some might find the opposite to be true.
If your child is more independent, consider sports like tennis or martial arts where kids compete one-on-one.
5. Widen your options
Try to introduce as many sports to your child as possible so they can see what interests them and what comes naturally.
Kids will have more trouble sticking with a sport if their minds wander to something they’ve never experienced.
Practicing different sports with your child will help open their eyes to their talents and skills. Pay attention to your child’s attitude during each sport and ask them how they feel after playing.
6. What sports does your child like watching?
Some kids can sit through an entire baseball game, excited from beginning to end, while others would rather flip the channel. Chances are if your child can watch an entire sports game from beginning to end they may have an interest in playing it.
Try to introduce your kids to as many sports games on TV as possible and take note of which ones grab their attention. Ask your child what they like about the game and if they can picture themselves playing the same game.
7. Consider costs
Before your child decides to be a star quarterback or a gymnast, do a little research on the costs of the sport.
Things like tennis rackets, soccer cleats, and leotards can be more expensive than you’d think. If your child is eager to start an expensive sport, be sure you have a solid commitment before making expensive purchases.
Some kids can find it especially tough to deal with loss in a team setting where there is a shared responsibility for success. Other kids might not struggle as much with this scenario. On the other hand, one-on-one sports like tennis or golf deal with facing personal loss. Know which types of challenges your child can handle.
Either way, it’s important to teach your child that winning isn’t everything. Playing to the best of their ability, not holding a trophy, should make them feel successful.
Swim safely this summer! Learn to recognize the 5 danger signs of drowning and find out how swim lessons promote safety, self-confidence, and more.
By The ActivityHero Team
Swimming is great way for kids to beat the summer heat. Before you hit the beach or pool, first teach children how to be safe in or near the water–including learning to swim. Here are 4 solid reasons to start kids on swimming lessons.
Since drowning is the second highest cause of death involving children ages 1 through 14, kids need to learn how to be safe in or near the water. With formal lessons, children learn how to swim in a safe environment, and are taught swimming strokes and basic water safety techniques like floating and treading water. For kids aged 1 to 4, a U.S. study found that risk of drowning decreased by over 80% if children had taken swimming lessons. If your child will be in or near water, make sure their lessons prepare them to do these basic life-saving skills:
Tread water or float for at least 60 seconds.
Turn in a circle and be able to locate an exit.
Swim at least 25 yards before exiting the water.
Pull themselves out of the water without a ladder present.
Jump into the water until fully submerged and be able to return to the surface.
Children should also be coached in common-sense safe behaviors including walking instead of running when near water, only swimming when an adult can supervise, and being aware of weather and environmental conditions.
Meanwhile, kids aren’t the only ones who need education about water safety. Many parents think, “that couldn’t happen to my family” or “as long as there are many adults present, we’ll be fine”. Both of these are dangerous misconceptions. In fact, three-quarters of drowning deaths take place in private pools. And up to half of all kids who drown are less than 25 yards away from an adult when the drowning occurs (source). Remember, drowning children can’t yell for help or wave their arms to get attention. A child who is making no noise might be in serious distress.
For parents of young children, remember these water safety guidelines:
Stay within an arm’s reach of your child
1:1 supervision is best
At a party, designate an adult whose sole focus is watching the pool or hire a lifeguard
2. Strength & Fitness
Learning a swim stroke can help with gross motor skills and basic coordination. Swimming can help a child build all-around muscle strength in arms and legs.
Once they learn to swim, a child has a skill that can be used to improve fitness throughout his or her life. Since swimming is a low-impact activity, it puts less stress on joints while providing a wonderful aerobic activity. Swimming can improve both strength and cardiovascular health in one activity.
3. Social Development & Confidence
Most swim lessons take place in groups, and as they learn to swim, children are also learning social skills such as observing peers and learning to wait their turn. Another benefit: socialization for water activities, as children learn the difference between acceptable behavior and rough play that might hurt someone else. That distinction teaches children responsibility for their actions. A third factor supporting social development is that children who really enjoy swimming will continue on to activities such as swim teams, in the process developing friendships which may last a long time.
Experts suggest that, compared to adults, children have a much easier time of learning to swim. For parents, knowing that their child has strong swimming skills will increase their ability to enjoy time around water.
When a child is comfortable in the water and swimming successfully, it is truly a rewarding feeling. A parent can feel a sense of satisfaction that they have given their child a tool that will serve them well throughout their life.
Before you sign up for swim camps or lessons, do some research to find out more about swim schools near you. You may want to learn about instructor background, class size, teaching style, cost, and the features of their facility, including pool size or temperature.
To find top-rated kids’ swim lessons and swim camps near you, visit ActivityHero.
Practicing yoga can provide kids with physical benefits such as strength and flexibility, but also improved emotional control and a boost of self-confidence.
By Nicole Nikanorov
Growing up in a high-paced society can be stressful for kids. Competitive pressures from school can cause stress and anxiety to build. Yoga and meditation are great ways to counteract these pressures and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
We spoke with two yoga and pilates instructors to find out how yoga and meditation can help your kids.
How does frequent practice of yoga and meditation affect children outside the studio?
The benefits of yoga and meditation flow through the body during classes and continue to flow outside the studio as well. Yoga is “shown to help kids with focus and increased attention span” says Amie Wang, Pilates After School Instructor and owner of Play It Fit, LLC. According to Stephanie Chee Barea, team yoga expert and owner of Mela Yoga, yoga also “helps children to regulate their emotions, teaches them how their body and mind works, and how to handle stress and anxiety” especially since children pick up on the extreme amount of pressure put on being successful. Both instructors agree that frequent meditation allows children to become one with themselves and find groundedness.
Any tips on finding a studio and instructor?
As with any activity, the right instructor can truly make a class special. While yoga might ultimately provide stress relief, introducing your child to a new and unfamiliar environment for the first few times can be a little overwhelming. Both Barea and Wang highly encourage parents to drop in on a trial class, if offered, before committing. If you have a younger child, Barea recommends finding a studio with “age appropriate classes, one where the teacher has a good understanding of where they are at in age appropriate yoga delivery.” Some studios offer classes that incorporate games into their practice to create a playful environment that helps keep children engaged.
What if my child thinks that yoga isn’t active enough?
Some children believe that they will not enjoy yoga and meditation because they picture traditional adult classes. One tip is to look for classes that are adjusted for a younger audience. Some studios integrate art and games into their sessions. Barea uses ice breakers and encourages children to share stories about their lives to “keep kids engaged and connected with their peers”. This builds a community and a sense of belonging that make classes fun.
What kids get the most benefit from yoga?
As with any sport or activity, always try it out before you can determine if it is a good fit. If you see that your child might have a bit too much energy or has trouble focusing, they might benefit from frequent meditation. Both instructors have noticed that children who are dealing with anxiety are getting more recommendations to yoga classes from their teachers and counselors. Barea notices another trend among the children who attend her classes. They are often kids who “don’t feel like they have found a sense of belonging in their school environment”. Unlike other activities and sports, there is no sense of performance-based competition and no pressure to accelerate at a certain pace. Everyone improves at their own pace with the shared goal of relaxation and connecting with their inner selves.
Tips for practicing yoga at home
If you wish to further your bond with your child or have scheduling constraints – here are some tips from the instructors on how to practice yoga at home!
Preschool / Early Elementary – Young children love to mirror adults. If you, the parent, practice yoga in your home, invite your child to join you. Focus on breath regulation and keep it short as younger children have a shorter attention span. You don’t have to be a yogi! Even the simplest poses can have a powerful impact.
Elementary / Middle – Children in elementary or middle school are more independent and might rather do their own meditation. Barea suggests that parents can help their child “identify the spaces where they are feeling overwhelmed and encourage them to use a yoga related skill to calm down”. Wang also recommends practicing deep breathing and thankfulness at home.
Middle / Highschool – Older kids and teens can benefit from having their own personal yoga mat. Even if they do not get the chance to practice yoga frequently, the mat can serve as a reminder that there is an option for an outlet for their emotions.
Is your child hypnotized by the back and forth bounce of a tennis ball being hit across a court? Or maybe you are simply looking for a new activity for your kid which will have them running around a court rather than inside? Then tennis might be a match!
By Nicole Nikanorov
According to the Tennis Industry Association, the number of tennis players in America has steadily been rising over the years reaching over 14 million players. If your child seems better suited for individual sports instead of contact sports, tennis could be a match. It is fast paced enough to be challenging and engaging but not so much so that your child will feel overwhelmed.
There are many benefits to tennis. This sport will teach your child physical and mental endurance, how to encourage others, and how to lose. Tennis is about short fast sprints to hit a ball strategically. These sprints build physical endurance and the fast strategic planning that goes into a hit builds mental endurance. If your child is playing doubles, they will learn to be in sync with a partner and the teamwork required to win together. This teaches children to encourage and support their peers. Lastly, tennis is help your child learn how to lose respectfully. A loss can impact a child more personally since she is competing alone or with only one other person. Overcoming this and using the losses as a way to improve their techniques will help in other aspects of life.
If your child is beginning tennis, knowing the levels and differences between recreational and competitive tennis will help you choose the right tennis program for your child. We spoke to Bay Area local coach Bob Jaeger and Palo Alto High School tennis coach Andy Harader to help you have your child swinging onto the tennis court in no time!
First, not everyone starts off playing on a full size tennis court. The younger the child is, the smaller dimensions of a traditional court are used as well as softer balls. As your child grows, the size of the court they play on will ‘grow’ with them too. Kids 10 and under will play on ‘red’ or ‘orange’ courts. Red courts are for children younger than 7 who are just getting started in this sport. This court is about a quarter size of a traditional court, being only 36 feet deep so it is easier for a child to hit the ball across. Children playing at this level will be using red felt balls that bounce slower and not as high as traditional yellow balls. This level gives younger kids the chance to take their time with their swing and not get overwhelmed by the intensity of traditional tennis. Orange courts are for children between the ages of 8 and 10. This court uses almost the full depth of a tennis court at 60 feet. Orange felt balls bounce slightly faster but are still fun and controllable. Knowledgeable and considerate coaches will take your child’s age and ability into consideration and decide which version of the court is best for them.
After the red and orange courts come the ‘green’ and ‘yellow’ courts. With these advanced levels also comes the question of whether your child should do tennis recreationally or competitively. Using the full court that is 78 feet deep, the green court uses a green ball that has a slightly lesser compression than that of a traditional yellow ball making it slightly easier to control on a big court. Finally reaching the traditional yellow court, the depth is the full 78 feet deep and the balls are made for adults and children that have reached this level.
Once your child has reached the green court, you have to make a decision of whether your child should play recreational or advance into competitive tennis. While both are fun, Coach Bob Jaeger says “recreation tennis is where players choose not to participate in tournaments or leagues.” They play for fun, exercise and as a social sport. After all, you can’t play tennis alone and when you play doubles you also enjoy teamwork and bonding with your doubles partner.
Competitive tennis players look for events where they can compete against players that are outside the circle of the regular players they always play with. This is usually done through an organized event such as a weekly league or a tournament ” adds Coach Jaeger. Additionally, Palo Alto High School Coach Andy Harader says that with competitive tennis, “[local and national] rankings are the ultimate goal and are used for scholarship purposes for college entry”. Both coaches agree that to reach the competitive level is a serious commitment, both on the child and on the parent. A player who aspires to play competitively typically has private coaches or small group clinics from the time they are a pre-teen, as didLane Leschly, who advanced to the top ranks of competitive junior tennis and earned a place on the team at Harvard University in 2016.. If your child has the “the desire to run hard, hit a heavy ball aggressively, handle the emotions of a competitive game by themselves and most of all enjoy practicing”, competitive tennis may be the way to go in Coach Bob’s opinion.
This may all seem a bit intimidating but whether recreational or competitive, tennis is still a great sport that teaches endurance and discipline. Coach Harader says that like with any sport, a “parent will know when their child has the determination and interest.”
Is martial arts right for your child? Here, experts answer common parent FAQs about choosing martial arts program styles, readiness, safety and more.
By Sarah Antrim
The first step in finding out if martial arts might be right for your child is very simple: Just ask them if they’re interested. Have a child who doesn’t know enough about martial arts to say yes or no to that question? Consider taking them to a local martial arts studio and ask the owner if you both can observe a class. They can also give martial arts a try at home through online classes. Also, encourage your child to ask their friends if they’re enrolled in a martial arts program. Having buddies who train might make your child more interested in trying karate, judo, tae kwon do, mixed martial arts, or whatever their peer group is doing. Also, don’t let your child be discouraged if they don’t think of themselves as “athletic.” Martial arts programs are good for kids who like competitive or team sports, but they’re just as good for kids who don’t.
What are some different types of kids martial arts classes?
There are hundreds of styles of martial arts and mixed martial arts to choose from. Mixed martial arts (MMA) doesn’t always mean dangerous cage fighting, either; it simply means that the style being taught includes two or more styles of martial arts. Some programs called mixed martial arts, karate, or tae kwon do include learning to punch and/or kick as methods of self defense. Kung fu is one of the oldest martial arts and focuses on strong blocks to prevent being struck. Others, such as aikido, focus on using the opponent’s strength and momentum to prevent them from harming you. Some include wrestling, and others focus mainly on kicks (such as tae kwon do). Some also train students in the use of traditional weapons, such as a bo staff or nunchakus, which are those two short sticks joined by cord that you’ll see in Bruce Lee videos. Many also focus on solo routines called kata, in which students practice a series of moves with an imagined opponent.
Regardless of the methods of self-defense taught, many traditional martial arts programs also teach philosophy, character, and behavior. They often emphasize humility and respect for all people as part of their curriculum.
How do I know which style of martial arts to choose for my child?
It depends on the type of personality of your child. Judo involves more throws, joint locks, and pinning opponents to the ground. If your child isn’t a fan of physical contact or tight spaces, this is probably not the best choice for them. Karate and Tae Kwon Do both focus on a variety of self-defense exercises involving striking and blocking techniques. Generally, karate is more focused on hand-to-hand techniques, while tae kwon do focuses on techniques using the legs. Mixed martial arts programs may include both of these, as well as others. There may even be kickboxing classes in which kids don’t spar (or fight) at all, but simply hit a heavy bag or padded shield.
The best way to find what you child might like is to watch classes at a few different types of studios. Be sure you watch students who are the age of your child and are beginners, so your child won’t feel overwhelmed or intimidated (which can happen if they observe advanced or older students). Also talk to the instructors of programs you like. Their approach and philosophy may wind up being the biggest factor in helping you and your child make a decision.
Remember, though, if the first program isn’t a good fit, there are plenty of others. Sometimes you only realize what you like after trying something you don’t! If your child does not enjoy or adjust to the program after a month or two, you can shop around for a different program.
How do I know if my child is ready for martial arts classes?
Most classes recommend that kids start around 8 to 10 years old, but young exposure is never a bad idea. Many schools also offer preschool or kids’ beginner classes, which get them moving, jumping rope, kicking a shield or the air, and learning how to focus and listen. Typically, the school you choose will tell you what age level they recommend, and many will also evaluate your child privately or during a sample (often free) class so they can tell you if your child is ready and which class would be the best fit for them.
What sort of safety concerns should I be aware of?
Of course there is always a chance that a child may get injured in any type of sport. However, some techniques learned in martial arts may help them fend off an attack or otherwise protect themselves later in life. For instance, some schools teach how to fall and roll so if you fall down (whether you’re pushed or you trip), you’re less likely to be injured.
Some schools offer little to no contact. Others have kids spar (fight) while wearing mouth guards, shin guards, helmets, padded gloves, and other protective gear. Mats on the floors prevent a hard impact if kids fall.
The most common injuries in the martial arts, according to HealthyChildren.org, are scrapes and bruises! Older kids may experience sprains or strains and finger or toe injuries — mainly due to improper technique. Also be wary of concussions, which can occur if kids strike their heads or are struck in the head. Whether your child engages in martial arts, soccer, football, or another sport, it’s a good idea to learn the signs of concussion and get your child checked by a doctor any time you suspect he or she has one.
Most classes tend to be 30 to 60 minutes in length. Class times for preschoolers may be just 30 minutes, while teens may train for over an hour. Other schools may have every class lasting 30 minutes. It just depends on the school. Ask your prospective school for a schedule so you’ll know how long classes are and how often they have classes (and when) for your child’s age/ability.
It is usually recommended that beginners practice 2 to 3 times a week, though preschool programs may meet just once a week. More advanced students will likely practice 3 or more times per week, especially if they are looking to advance to a higher level.
Columbus Day & Indigenous People’s Day is coming up and you know what that means… kids have a long weekend and are looking for something to do! Skip the TV and the mall this year and give them a new and exciting experience. From sports to coding, there are many school holiday camps for your kids in the San Francisco area.
In San Francisco: Adventure Camps is a unique mobile day camp for children for kids 4 years and older. For over 45 years, the Adventure Camp staff takes kids on a different adventure each day to create a fun, learning experience. View Adventure Camp Columbus Day schedule for more information and pickup spots.
In Alameda: Bladium, the sports complex in Alameda, offers a day camp and specialty sports camps for Columbus Day and other school holidays. Children can experience a wide variety of games and activities: Rock Climbing, Basketball, Dodgeball, Karaoke, Kickball, Arts and Crafts, Laser Tag, Cheerleading, Soccer, Lego®. Ages 5-14. See schedule for Columbus Day camps.
AYSO Soccer Camps
In San Mateo, Foster City and other locations: AYSO Soccer Camps have full day and half day camps to keep kids active and practice soccer skills. Different programs for different ages and soccer abilities. See locations and Columbus Day camp schedule. Also full week camps.
In San Francisco and San Mateo: Tech Rocks reinforces kids’ technology skills and extends their digital knowledge in a full-day format. Kids learn multimedia, game design, web development and app development as well as basic computing skills. See the schedule for October school holidays camps.
CD’s Kids Art Studio
In San Jose: Kids use different art mediums to express their unique creativity. Paper mache’ animals, glass mosaic stepping stones, fused glass art, woodwork, and painting are some of the kids’ favorite projects. Open for San Jose school breaks and holidays.
Don’t just muddle through the first weeks of school. Use these clever strategies from after-school teachers to help kids (and you) hit the ground running!
By Laura Quaglio
The first weeks of school loom with equal parts excitement and trepidation. Even though it’s a relief to return to the predictability of the school calendar, it’s tough not to dread the free-form anxiety that can accompany any type of change. Did you get the right binders? Will they have friends in their class? Will they like their teachers … will you? And how exactly did you manage to cram homework, after school activities (even their favorites), bathtime, and books into an evening with an earlier bedtime? Until the rhythm of the new school year is firmly established, you’ve got a recipe for general crankiness at home. It’s understandable. Expected, even. But does it have to be this way? Maybe a little. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to make the switch more smoothly.
“Any time you start a new routine or transition to something new, it can bring up fear, anxiety, worry … whatever word you want to use,” says Michelle Wing, founder of the San Francisco studio It’s Yoga, Kids, located in the Presidio. “This happens for kids especially, but also for parents.”
After school program directors like Michelle have some unique insights into helping kids switch gears, adjust to newness, and cultivate a positive attitude. That’s why we asked her to offer some advice on using the ancient practices of yoga and mindfulness to help kids gear up for school, settle down at bedtime, and generally de-stress. We also talked to Emily McCullough, director at San Francisco Math Circle at CSME at SFSU, about her ideas for rekindling kids’ enthusiasm for learning and their excitement for the activities (after school and otherwise) that will make their coming year great.
Back-to-School Tip #1: Use Yoga to Settle Body and Mind
“Yoga engages your brain, your body, and your heart,” says Michelle. That’s why it’s particularly useful in helping people deal with strong emotions and stressful thoughts. Here are a few ways she suggests using it to ease the transition to back to school.
To settle down before bed: Aerobic exercise helps burn off excess energy when kids are having difficulty calming down and falling asleep. Michelle suggests Yoga Jacks (jumping from the Mountain Pose to the Star Pose quickly, like jumping jacks). Have kids do 10 at a time until they’re tired.
Another of her favorites is Mountain Climbers (hands on floor and “running” by alternating knees to chest). Michelle follows these mini aerobic sessions with some peaceful reading time before lights-out.
To relieve stress: Breathing-based exercises are a good fit here. First, spend some time in the Astronaut Pose (lay on floor with legs up the wall and hands on belly, noticing the belly rise and fall with each breath). Just 5 minutes or so may be enough to help them relax.
Also teach kids the Lion’s Breath. This means taking a big, huge inhalation while making the eyes really big, then exhaling fiercely while sticking out the tongue to the chin (resembling a panting dog). Repeat 3 times.
To wake up in the morning: To wake up in the morning: Before getting out of bed, parents can try Body Drumming, in which they tap every part of the child’s body, from the toes to the top of the head, to wake up the body and mind.
Next, they can take a Giant Breath, laying on the back with arms extended overhead, stretching the body from fingers to toes, as though you’re trying to touch opposite walls. Wiggle the fingers and toes, then roll to the side and place the feet on the floor to stand up. Then go brush those teeth!
Back-to-School Tip #2: Rekindle Kids’ Excitement for School
Emily McCullough, director at San Francisco Math Circle at CSME at SFSU says that the best way to prepare kids to “get back in the game” of learning is to engage their emotions. “Get them excited about the social aspects of learning,” she suggests. When school is in session, they’ll be able to reconnect with friends they didn’t see much in summer, and they can return to fall sports or after school programs that didn’t make it into their summer plans. “Getting kids excited about attending fun after school programs will likely make the back-to-school transition easier,” she says. Ask them what they’re looking forward to in the coming months – or what new activities they hope to try in autumn.
Also reminisce about academic successes from their previous grades. “Remind your students of the fun they had working hard and being challenged,” says Emily. Did they have a History Day project they were proud of? Maybe they created a fun music video about the water cycle for their science class. Think, too, about the upcoming school subjects that might pique their interest. If they love spatial activities like building or drawing, for instance, an upcoming year of geometry may be something to look forward to.
Back-to-School Tip #3: Start Hitting the Books — Informally
To get kids’ intellectual juices flowing, pay a visit to the library or bookstore. “Check out the books on math games and puzzles,” suggests Emily. Or books with fun and innovative approaches to whatever subjects they enjoy.
Don’t worry too much about workbooks or textbook review right now, she adds. “The procedural fluency and conceptual understanding will naturally come back with practice, and they will get plenty of that when they return to school,” explains Emily. “It’s excitement and interest that we need to cultivate.”
Back-to-School Tip #4: Look into Enrichment Programs
If your student can’t get enough of math or enjoys playing with numbers, puzzles, and patterns in their free time, they might enjoy a program like the “math outreach and enrichment program” offered at San Francisco Math Circle. “We provide rich mathematical content in an engaging context, as well as much encouragement,” says Emily. “The students must bring the rest — energy, interest, and an openness to try new things.”
She adds that an enrichment program might be a great fit for students who once enjoyed a particular subject but now seem bored or frustrated by it. Maybe they aren’t challenged enough at school, or perhaps they had a negative experience in that subject with a particular teacher. You may be able to reignite your student’s love of an “old favorite” subject matter through after school enrichment.