The Importance of Fitness for Kids

Fitness is not about being better than someone else… It’s about being better than you used to be.

Fitness is not a one-off phenomenon. One fine day you decide to get out of bed early and go running – kudos to your enthusiasm. But the fact of the matter is – did you manage to get up and about the second day? And the third? And the day after that? If yes, hats off. If no, you’ll more likely than not end up with sore knees and calves, groaning your way to the couch. There goes your resolution kaput.

In our family, my husband has always been the active one. He can’t wait for the morning alarm to go off so that he can happily begin his daily exercise on the jogging track, earphones plugged in, oblivious to his surroundings. I’ve been trying to pull myself out of bed the same time as he does lately, and I can proudly say that I’ve managed to do so successfully for one whole week. Yay! Running (or perhaps just walking swiftly) is next on my to-do list.

The other day I was wondering: We as adults tend to try and be conscious about what and when we eat, how much exercise we get, so on and so forth. What about our kids? Do they also need a regular exercise routine that keeps them on their toes? Or is it too early to bring a regular form of physical workout into their daily lives?

Couch Potatoes

Image 1

Girl” by andrewicus is licensed under CC by 2.0

Thinking back to our childhood, most of the games we played together had some amount of physical movement involved. Having no video games or mobile phones, we ran a lot, tumbled in mud, rolled off hillsides (yes, I actually remember cutting myself in several places when I landed in a prickly bush of brambles once) and cycled away to glory. Cut to today. More often than not, your kids will probably spend their evenings glued to a screen of some sort, happily whiling away a beautiful sunny day feeding their virtual pets online, or laughing maniacally at some ridiculous animated creatures on the tablet and laptop. Physical exercise? Zero. The traditional definition of a couch potato is: ‘a person who takes little or no exercise and watches a lot of television’. Add to it ‘spends a lot of time on the computer/laptop/tablet/mobile phone’ and you have the modern day versions of couch potatoes, aka our children.

Kids Need To Move

It’s as simple as that. Move as in, not move their eyes across a computer screen. But get out there away from gadgets of any kind and seek out their peers to move with them. We need to make our kids realize that moving about frequently is a fun thing – it could be playing a simple game of tag, jumping about on one leg for hopscotch, racing to the nearest park with their friends or just cycling to the neighborhood grocery store to run a few errands. It just struck me; we adults complain of a whole lot of diseases we are afflicted with today – obesity, hypertension, fatigue and the like. And this was when we had a supposedly ‘active’ childhood. I shudder to think what our couch potato kids have in store for them in the future, with their totally ‘inactive’ childhood. We as parents need to change that and their perspective towards fitness to make things work in their favor in the long run.

We Need To Move With Them

Image 2

Girl” by Skitterphoto is licensed under CC by 2.0

That’s what I’ve decided as the easiest way to get them (and myself) up and about (this article proved to be a big source of motivation). We’ll go swimming together regularly as a family. We could cycle to the park every weekend for a picnic together. Their dad would simply jump at the opportunity of playing a game of baseball with them. Why not spend quality time together and have fun at it while keeping fit? For a person like me, it would do a world of good – a genuine reason to pick myself up and move with them out there. For the kids, it’s just inculcating (hopefully) a habit that will hold them in good stead for a lifetime.

And yes, what I need to remember more than anything else is – peanut butter is not the glue holding my body together!

Advertisements

Science Games to Teach Environmental Awareness

When you think science games, it is often physics games that come to mind. After all, any game that is built with a physics engine serves as a great physics game. They’re fun to play, and they help students understand concepts such as acceleration and conservation of energy. Angry Birds and Portal are great examples of fun games that are used to teach physics to students.

However, science games are about a lot more than physics. There are great science games that teach nearly every science topic, from how the body fights cancer to how pollution forms in the environment. That’s right, you can teach your child to look after nature without even sending them outdoors. Here are three great science games to teach environmental awareness to kids.

Sim City Zoningsim city 4 Zoning and Roads” by haljackey is licensed under CC BY 2.0

  1. SimCity EDU: Pollution Challenge

In this game, kids take on the role of a mayor along with all the city-planning and decision-making that comes with the position. The focus is on keeping pollution levels to a minimum while also ensuring that all other aspects of city life function smoothly. While SimCity may not be a science game, kids who play it come to realize how various factors contribute to the pollution level of a city. They understand how pollution-control measures can be put to effect in a practical way to reduce negative impact on the population. This game is a great way to take environmental issues out of textbooks and show kids how they affect everyday life. Playing this game is likely to make kids more conscious about how simple decisions can make a difference to the health of the environment.

  1. Citizen Science

This science game was conceptualized by Kurt Squire when he realized that there were lakes in downtown Madison that people couldn’t swim in. In Citizen Science, players try to find out why the local lake is so polluted by traveling through time and collecting evidence. They meet various characters responsible for the pollution of the lake and build strong arguments to convince them to change their behaviour. They use various scientific tools to conduct research about the pollution in the lake, and learn a great deal about lake ecosystems. They also understand the long-term effects of pollution on the environment. Eventually players must change the course of history and prevent the lake from becoming as polluted as it was before the quest.

  1. Web Earth Online

This is a great science game that lets kids understand what life is like for animals living in the wild. Players choose what animal they would like to play as, and then go about their life trying to survive in the natural environment. They must deal with natural climatic conditions as well as the threat posed by predators. Web Earth Online is a multiplayer game – players interact with each other as friends or foes depending on which species they belong to. Players are sensitized to the struggles faced by animals and are likely to be more thoughtful towards animals in real life after playing this game.

Easy Science Experiments for Primary School Students

Science experiments are the most fun when they are easy, require minimal adult assistance, and can be done without many supplies. Check out the following easy science experiments that may leave you stunned with their outcomes.

What makes a great penny cleaner?

Shiny PennyImage Source – https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/4566262271/

We’ve most often heard taco sauce makes a great cleaning agent for old pennies. Is that true? Let’s find out what makes the bets penny cleaner.

Process

  • Place three coins on three plates.
  • Cover each penny with each of these mixtures: tomato paste + vinegar, salt + vinegar, and tomato paste + salt. Let the mix sit on the coins for five minutes.
  • Rinse the pennies under running water and you can find out who’s the clear winner! Is it the mix of vinegar and salt?

How hard and sturdy are egg shells?

Egg ShellsImage Source – https://www.flickr.com/photos/phuthinhco/7787472496/

We’ve often observed egg shells cracking even when touched lightly. Conduct this easy science experiment to find out how fragile or hard egg shells really are.

Process

  • Spread a sheet of plastic before doing the experiment because it may turn messy; a couple of eggs are bound to crack!
  • Place two cartons of eggs next to each other. Make sure all the eggs are kept round side up (not the pointy side up) and there are no breaks or fractures in any of the eggshells. Replace the defective ones before you begin the experiment.
  • Remove your socks and shoes. Hold on to a friend and try to step up onto the first carton of eggs with a foot. The trick is to make your foot as flat as possible so that your weight is evenly distributed across the tops of the eggs.
  • When you’ve positioned your foot well, try to shift all your weight on the egg-leg and slowly bring on your other foot on the other carton of eggs. Don’t fret if you hear cracking sounds from the egg cartons. Instead concentrate on balancing on the cartons.
  • So aren’t egg shells stronger than we imagine?

What happens when vinegar and baking soda mix?

Apple Cider VinegarImage Source – https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/16360770737/

Vinegar and baking soda are two commonly used ingredients in the kitchen. What happens when the two are mixed? Let’s find out.

Process

  • Fill up a bottle till half with vinegar.
  • Fold two tablespoons of baking soda in a tissue paper and dump it into the bottle. They key is to put all the baking soda together into the vinegar at a time. You can explore the idea of using a funnel to pour the baking soda too into the vinegar.
  • Stand back and watch what happens! Do you notice an erupting volcano? Baking soda and vinegar, two very easily available ingredients, reacted to form the volcano.

Outdoor Science Experiments Perfect for Summer

Rainbows peeping between two baubles of clouds, bright, wild flowers adding a splash of colors to the backyard, slushy strawberry sauces dripping from tall glasses of vanilla ice cream – that pretty much sums up summers! It’s the ideal time to set up science work stations outdoors and experiment with the wonders of summers! Carry out these fun science experiments and amidst the warmth of summer, in your backyard, garden, community park, or elsewhere!

6807424348_d6916a33f3_zImage Source – https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevensnodgrass/6807424348/

Homemade water sprinkler

Summers are synonymous with cool drinks but it’s not very cool to dispose off the plastics in which the drinks come, so we’ve devised this fun science experiment with the not-so-cool plastic bottles.

You will need:

  • A plastic soda bottle
  • Pins
  • Water

Directions

  • Head out, it’s summer.
  • Fill the plastic bottle with water and screw on the cap.
  • Using a pin, make 5 evenly spaced holes on the side of the bottle, towards the bottom.
  • Run your finger along the streams of water that are gushing from the bottle.
  • Do you notice the five streams forming one wider stream? What forms when you run your fingers through the stream of water is called cohesion. The water molecules get stuck to each other and form one single stream while oozing out from the bottle.

DIY rock candy

How about spending the idle summer holidays doing something that you would not just like to see but eat too! Head out to make a rock candy because it may get messy indoors!

You will need:

  • Cane sugar
  • Drinking water
  • Mason jar
  • Pencil string

Directions

  • Fill the mason jar with water.
  • Add 3 cups of cane sugar to the water and stir well.
  • Place the sugar solution in the microwave and heat on high for two minutes.
  • Use oven gloves to remove the mason jar from the microwave and stir another time.
  • Place it back in the microwave and heat for another two minutes. Remove again and stir.
  • Tie a length of string to a chopstick and gently dip it into the mixture. Pull out the string gently again and allow it to dry.
  • Once dry, dip the string again into the mixture and then allow it a week’s time to dry.
  • Your rock candy will be ready in a week’s time!
  • You created a super saturated solution when you heated the water-sugar solution in the microwave. When you dipped a string into the solution, the sugar granules crystallized and formed a rock candy!

DIY vanilla ice cream

What’s summer without a scoop of our favorite vanilla ice cream? Make ice cream while you’re out running after the butterflies in your backyard and enjoying the summer!

You will need:

  • Two sandwich bags, one bigger than the other
  • A cup of full cream
  • Half a cup of milk
  • A teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • One fourth a cup of sugar
  • 3 cups full of ice cubes
  • 3 cups salt

Directions

  • Mix the cream, milk, vanilla essence, and sugar in the smaller sandwich bag. Seal it well.
  • Slip in the smaller bag into the larger and fill up the larger sandwich bag with the ice cubes and salt.
  • Seal the larger bag (with the smaller bag intact) and head out to enjoy the summers. Just make sure you keep shaking the bags for a good five minutes.
  • Come back in and carefully take out the small bag from the large one and pour its contents in a bowl.
  • Don’t you have a bowl gooey vanilla ice cream in front of you!

How to Teach Children to be Pragmatic

It’s very important for kids to learn the language of pragmatism from an early age. The pragmatic language involves specific ways of communication, sometimes also known as ‘social skills’. Kids must learn the use of language for different reasons such as greetings, farewells, asking questions, narrating anecdotes, etc. It’s important to change the language based on each type of communication, for example that with a teacher, a peer, a parent, et al. Pragmatic skills also involve turn-taking while talking and not interrupting, introducing new topics, correcting errors or altering something in a different way when a message is not understood the first time, maintaining eye contact and correct body distance while talking, and knowing how to talk to different groups of people (peers versus adults). So what’s the best way to introduce kids to the pragmatic language and help them master it? Check out the following.

Inside My ClassroomImage Source – https://www.flickr.com/photos/knittymarie/4802941163

Day-to-day happenings at home contribute significantly in developing a child’s pragmatic language skills. Encourage your child to greet parents and siblings at the breakfast table, say goodbye to whoever is at home while leaving for school, and wish a ‘good night’ before retiring to bed every night. Praise your child if she exhibits good communication skills.

Have you ever thought that the scientific method may be useful in contributing significantly to a child’s pragmatic skills? The scientific method is more than just a way of approaching sciences; it’s a way we live. The scientific method of studying has been developed taking into account our day-to-day lives and therefore devising the best possible way to approach a solution. The approach of the scientific method includes five very pragmatic steps – hypothesis, formulation, experiment, and conclusion. The four steps will help any child even beyond her science lessons – to understand life with a pragmatic approach. So have your child solve such scientific method worksheets which explain each step in detail and inspire her to adopt the approach in her day-to-day life.

Role-playing with children is another great way to help them becomes pragmatic in their approach. Pretend to be a teacher, a peer, a parent, or a stranger and converse with your child. Talk about various problems that are specific to each role and try to elicit a reaction from the child. Here are a few questions for two of the roles mentioned on which you can base the role-play.

Teacher

  • How long does it take you to reach school? Is there a better way to commute?
  • If you forgot to get your stationery on a math project day, what would you do?
  • If there’s just one chalk in the classroom and your friend is using it to demonstrate a problem on the board but you need it urgently for a project that the teacher has assigned to you. How would you approach your friend or tackle the situation?

Peer

  • Your best friend is going for a movie with her neighbor-friends. She insists you accompany her even though you not comfortable with them. How would you react/what would you do?
  • You are appearing for an exam and you notice your neighbor has not got a single pen/pencil with her. You haven’t got any spare stationery either. What would you do?

Practice story telling with the kids. Provide kids with connecting clues and sequences and help them string them together to form a story. For example, to weave a story on a day out to an aquarium with family, supply her with clues such as ‘when did you wake up’, ‘how did you go’, ‘who went with you’, ‘where did you go’, how were the animals at the aquarium’, ‘have you bought any souvenir from there’, ‘would you like to go back to the aquarium on another day’. Give her the freedom to use her imagination to tell the story, so don’t interrupt her if she sneaks in unreal events!

It’s important to be pragmatic and give your child the opportunity to develop her pragmatic side of personality with these tips.

STEM Apps for Kids

STEM education is seen as essential for kids as it gives them the foundation to explore a variety of careers. While these careers can be directly related to STEM, there are also those that require the skills one develops while learning these subjects. STEM subjects are Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. These subjects train students in skills like problem solving and critical thinking. So it is not necessary that only students interested in becoming scientists and engineers should get acquainted with STEM. Even those who find these subjects dreary can rediscover the subjects in a whole new light with apps that deliver the concepts without taking the skills and fun out of them.

Dibble Dash: In penguin games like this one, kids can practice their math skills like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Math Bingo: Kids can test their math know-how with this game and play through three levels. Questions are related to addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Math AppsMathApps” by Kathy Cassidy is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Science360: Older kids will benefit from the latest news, spectacular images and videos that are streamed on this app related to science and engineering.

Bridge Constructor: If building bridges is a passion, this app gives plenty of opportunities for that as it allows kids to choose materials and conduct stress tests.

Cat Physics: In this fun game, kids learn about underlying concepts of physicswhile the ball is passed from one cat to another, while simultaneously getting past obstacles.

New iphoneNew iPhone” by Johan Larsson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Aero: With this app, kids will learn about aerodynamics as they adjust the wings of an albatross to make it fly and simultaneously learn about flight techniques.

Monster Physics: Kids can have fun inventing. Another building app, this one lets you build planes and rockets, and once they are built, kids can operate them.

The Chemical Touch: In this exciting app, kids can learn about the periodic table and the chemical properties of elements.

Math GraffitiMath graffiti @ #SLA” by Chris Lehmann is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Spacecraft 3D: As the name suggests, the app helps kids understand space and learn about the earth and solar system.

Bobo Explores Light: Children can learn about scientific concepts like lasers, lightning and bioluminescence under the tutelage of a robot.

Curiosityjsc2013e065175” by NASA_JSC_Photo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When STEM is introduced to kids in an engaging way and they learn about the difference these concepts help make to the quality of life, they will become more receptive to learning and practicing these skills.

Make your own Storytelling Games!

storytelling

Storytelling, in its traditional sense, in an art that is being slowly forgotten. The great oral traditions of old have been replaced by movies and songs and even books. In the old days, travelling communities like the gypsies brought you news from towns you would never have visited – latest inventions, news about politics and the current state of affairs etc. Nowadays, everything is relayed the minute it is breaking and it is delivered to our fingertips. You don’t need an uncle visiting from Canada to know that there was x inches of snow this year. However, there is a forgotten charm to sitting around in a circle, sometimes around a fire, and narrating stories that have captivated your imagination.

In a bid to do so with my family, I’ve compiled a list of storytelling games that you could be your next pet DIY project.

Draw a Story –

If you have two or more people to entertain, start the activity by giving out art equipment and freedom to draw whatever they please. Once the activity is done, swap drawings and come up with a story for the image you have in hand. It’s a great way to keep your kids occupied for more than a few minutes and also a great way to exercise your imagination. An alternative version is to either collect previous artwork from your kids or draw more than one on cards and shuffle them up. The one rule would be that the story couldn’t be repeated more than once.

Once Upon a Time –

I found this idea at a beautiful blog called Blackboard and Brush and I don’t want to go on when Kim has done such a lovely job of it. Kim has described a lovely game that can be played during game night and can also be great lesson plan. In her words, “In this game I call ‘Once Upon a Time’, students become storytellers, not of someone else’s stories but of their own. Students will be presented with three sets of story sticks, the green sticks represent the place where their story will take place, the blue will be their main character(s) and the red (my personal favorite) will be the central problem of the plot or a problem their main character must endure or overcome” Don’t forget to click on the name of her blog for instructions.

Make it up –

You sometimes hear that the best songs, the best ideas – they come from last minute panic or from just winging it in an unforeseen situation. This is a game like it. I had my nieces and nephews apart from my own kids to take care of. I suddenly found myself in a situation where I had to babysit around 10 kids and wasn’t prepared to keep their attention. If you just leave them to play with whatever toy was lying around, you could almost guarantee there would be a fight. So I took an old laundry bag, stuffed it with toys and had the kids sit around in a circle. Like in scrabble, one kid would have to blind pick a toy and then make up a story that included that prop. The next kid who would pick up the next toy would continue the story and think of a way to include his or her toy in it. The game can go on for as long as you like.

Do you have similar games you have made up or ideas you have heard? Feel free to comment with your favorite games and camp hacks that bring out the inner storyteller in your child.