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Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Mindfulness Online Learning

5 Ways to Help Kids Focus During Online Learning

Sit still. Pay attention… These seem like easy concepts, but these days while kids are attending school or an online class from their bedroom or kitchen table, it’s especially hard for kids to focus and listen to a teacher who is online.

ActivityHero sought out the guidance of Chaia May, an early childhood educator and writer. Her daughter was also struggling with ADHD and was “intensely fidgety and anxious” as a child. Chaia gives us five easy ways to use sensory integration to help kids overcome wiggles and wandering thoughts.

  1. Fiddle Away! Choose your “Tactile”

Give kids something in their hands to fiddle or squeeze. Very interestingly, pressure to the fingertips can help a child focus (imagine prayer beads) and also facilitates speech in speech-delayed children. Let them choose amongst things such as a double-balloon filled with cornstarch or a stress ball.

  1. Push with your legs!

Tie an elastic band around the four legs of their chair. As the child pushes against it with his or her feet, they work their ligaments and muscles. It also gives kids who like to rock in their chairs an alternative so that they don’t fall over!

  1. Sit on a bouncy chair 

We have the fewest nerve endings on our bottoms, so we are most passive when sitting. 

Use the bouncy ball chairs and build up their core muscles. If their core is strong, it helps their back and their shoulders. Supporting their weight helps keep their whole body strong and more alert. Also, a little bouncing break adds to vestibular stimulation. 

  1. Pedaling for mind power! 

Get one of the mini-bicycles that you can peddle that fit under your table or take breaks every half hour or so and do the “bicycle” on the floor. Or use training wheels to prop up a kids bike like this clever mom on Facebook. 

The magic of the bicycle is that when you are using opposing arms and legs, the mind cannot wander. 

5. Carry a load and feed the muscles and mind!

Give children a load of books to carry or a few chairs to push in between classes. While they push, they are working their ligaments and large muscles. It organizes and calms the whole body and makes them stronger as well.

These tips utilize sensory integration to help the brain stay alert, calm down, re-focus on one particular thing or cancel out extraneous information. 

Did you know there are three more senses in addition to the five senses we learned about in school? The first is tactile. It describes whatever sensory information is carried through our skin. Children can be either especially sensitive to touch (hypersensory) or not feel it at all (hyposensory.) Input into the tactile system can calm or stimulate as needed.

The second is proprioceptive. This describes what signals we get from receiving input into our ligaments and muscles (elbows, knees, for example.) Pushing into them can help children (particularly those who are lightweight and don’t get that input when they walk) regulate their nervous system and not bump into things or avoid things as they seek sensory input or avoid it, accordingly.

The third is vestibular. This is what we feel when we fight or resist gravity in any way: spin, twist, lean over, or rock. Children who love to spin, climb, or rock are self-stimulating to help organize their nervous system. Just leaning over can be enough to recalibrate and re-focus.

For more information about Chaia May and her books, visit LearningPlay.org. You can sign up for classes with Chaia May on ActivityHero. 

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Chess

9 Reasons Chess Classes Are a Smart Move

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.

Photo Credit: The Chess Club - San Jose, CA
Photo Credit: The Chess Club – San Jose, CA

#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.”

Now It’s Your Move!

Find an online chess class or club  and introduce your kids to the great game of chess.

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Crafts Holiday Break Camps Parenting Resources

Easter Ideas for Kids during COVID-19

Easter ideas for kids during COVID-19.

Many families have traditions for Easter that include fun community activities like egg hunts, visits to the Easter bunny or a special dinner out. With stay-at-home restrictions still in effect, the holiday is going to look very different this year. Here are some alternative Easter ideas for kids to still enjoy the weekend.

Easter Sunday Brunch for Kids

Start the day with a special breakfast or Easter brunch as a family. Before the happy chaos of baskets begins, serve up one of these too-cute recipes for Easter breakfast that not only will your kids love – but they can help make too. Our friends over at SheKnows have compiled a list of 15 Cute Easter Breakfast Ideas.

Alternative Easter Egg Hunts for kids

Even if the neighborhood or community Easter egg hunts are canceled, enjoy an egg hunt at your house. Fill plastic eggs with special treats or rewards. Extra screen time or picking the family movie are great alternatives to a midday sugar crash.

Easter Egg Hunt alternatives during social distancing

Or, get your neighbors to join you for a virtual Easter Egg Hunt. Paint, draw or display eggs that can seen from the sidewalk. Most importantly, spread positivity and enjoyment while practicing safe social distancing. Get the word out by posting on your community NextDoor or create a private Facebook group. Try some on-demand Easter activities, use colorful window paint or even draw eggs outside with sidewalk chalk.

Virtual Easter Meetings

After the excitement of Easter brunch and egg hunts, check in with friends and family virtually. Set up a family Zoom call or Facetime the grandparents. If your Easter tradition usually includes church, find a live stream service to watch together at home. If you had already picked out the perfect Easter outfit, don’t let it go to waste! Get dressed up and then take pictures for the scrapbook.

Easter Entertainment for Kids

To finish up your Easter during COVID-19, queue up an Easter-themed movie for your kids on Netflix, Hulu or Disney+. Some of our Easter family movie favorites include:

  • Hop
  • Rise of the Guardians
  • Peter Rabbit
  • Ice Age: The Great Egg-Scapade

Take a Break for Spring

After a fun-filled Easter weekend with crafts, treats and egg hunts you may want a few minutes for yourself. ActivityHero has live, interactive classes every day for kids of all ages. Schedule an online class with expert teachers in art, music, LEGO® building, sports, coding and more.

Categories
Holiday Break Camps Parenting Resources School Breaks

Online Classes for Kids: Tips for Success

Extended school closures can be a disruption of routine for many families. Parents are seeking online classes for their children to close the gap of learning, but establishing a new schedule can be a learning curve for all.

online classes for kids

As parents, it can be difficult to keep kids engaged during school closures and breaks. In-home lessons can help children stay busy, even when it is not possible to physically be at a camp. 

free online educational videos online - Fiona the Hippo - Cincinnati Zoo
Fiona the Hippo

Facebook Live and YouTube are popular for streaming educational videos like the Cincinnati Zoo’s, “Home Safari”, when zoo staff highlights a different animal each day. Local camps and online e-learning websites are offering a wide range of online classes for kids, from virtual dance classes to online coding classes and workshops. Languages and music are also popular online courses for teaching kids at home.

The act of both entertaining and educating children – while sometimes also working from home – can be a challenge. We’ve put together a list of steps you can take to support your child for online learning.

Setting your Kids up for Success Online

  1. Establish a new routine: Keep in mind that your child is also going through a lot of adjustment, regardless of age. A schedule can keep everyone engaged and happy throughout the day. However, be flexible if your kids need a little more time for an activity. 
  2. Act as if your child is going to class: Establish a time for the class, whether the class is live or self-directed. Post a daily schedule if age-appropriate, or verbally remind your child that morning. Stay comfortable, but don’t forget to change out of those PJ’s! 
  3. Schedule for success: Younger students are often the sharpest in the morning. Start with a more challenging subject early while their brains are most receptive to learning. Each child is different though, so plan accordingly.
  4. Create a quiet, distraction free environment: To help a child focus on their online class, remove toys and electronics from the room. For example, don’t leave out art supplies if they are having an online music lesson.
  5. Consider your child’s age and personality: The younger the child, typically the shorter the attention span. When planning an online course for your child, select a length of time that will keep them engaged. If it’s not a live class, schedule movement breaks. Jumping jacks or a couple laps around the yard can help keep your child engaged.
  6. Plan unstructured play time: Just like at school, it is important to take a break. This is also a good opportunity for parents to check their email, take that work call or finish other household tasks.
  7. Step away from the screens: If you have ever stared at a computer screen for work all day, you know how tired your eyes and brains can get. Plan a craft, science experiment or other fun activity offline. 
  8. Creative Connections: During a time of social distancing, kids may feel isolated from their friends. Plan an online class that your child could attend with friends. After an online session, set up Facetime chats so they can talk about it.  

As parents, we understand a lot of families are searching for enrichment activities to supplement homeschool and virtual learning curriculum. ActivityHero is here to help! Find free virtual events and online classes for your child on ActivityHero or download our iPhone app for faster and easier searching.