By GreatSchools Staff
Whatever you thought of gym class, the current debate over childhood obesity has made PE more relevant than ever. As the website for First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign informs us, kids need “60 minutes of active and vigorous play every day to grow up to a healthy weight.” Some schools are even using video games to lure kids to the gym. In an ideal setting, PE doesn’t just improve fitness — it also reduces stress, strengthens friendships, and improves self-confidence and self-esteem.
Is your child getting the physical education he needs? Check out our grade-by-grade guidelines to see what kids should be learning in PE.
In kindergarten, children begin to learn the value of physical activity. They should practice fitness while learning new movements and working to develop key social skills, including good sportsmanship.
Kindergartners should also learn to try new types of activities. As physical education specialist Amy Kaiser explains, “There are skills to learn and games to play. Nothing can be accomplished unless the child feels safe enough to try something new.”
Kaiser likens PE to a science lab. “Physical education is the ‘laboratory of life,’” she says. “Children [should] challenge their bodies and brains to try new tasks, accept difficult challenges, and learn a different vocabulary. When students fall down, they have to stand up again. If they drop a ball, they pick it up again. And if they lose, they learn to say, ‘That was a great game. I want to play again.’”
Kindergartners should be able to try new ways of moving, whether it’s galloping, hopping, walking, running, jumping, leaping, skipping, or sliding. Kids should practice these movements while experimenting with changes in speed and direction. And teachers can play music in the background to encourage children's creative instincts.
Classic games like jump rope can also be a great way for children to improve their balance, coordination, and aerobic capabilities. “Jumping rope is a universal game that has skills rooted in many sports,” says Kaiser. “It’s also fun and inexpensive.”
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