Sit still and do your work!

If you’ve ever heard that familiar refrain, or if you’re a parent and have employed it yourself, you know what it’s like getting some children to sit still and concentrate on the task at hand. As most parents of young children know all too well, kids, especially boys, like to move around. In fact, it’s almost as if they are incapable of being motionless for prolonged periods of time.

This, unfortunately, includes the classroom, where you can imagine what teachers must go through to get their students to pay attention. Because of this, children may suffer some the negative consequences of their inability to sit still in the form scrutiny, punishment and humiliation when in the end it may not be their fault. They just need to move.

Well, it appears that conventional wisdom may be due for a change. In the face of increasing cuts in physical education as well as free time to actively play in the form of recess, a burgeoning movement is developing that acknowledges the importance of physical activity not only in terms of maintaining good health and fitness, but for aiding in learning, academic performance, and behavior, as well.

Education based on movement and activity, broadly known as activity or movement based learning, is gaining ground in educational circles as a way to combine the urge to move with the need to focus and pay attention. By employing light to moderate exercise, which includes running in place, dancing, bouncing on balls, jumping, and even standing at their desks, educators have seen an improvement in their student’s attentiveness and focus, not to mention their ability to learn.

Furthermore, there is a substantial body of evidence that supports this, with improvements seen in school and on standardized tests when learning is combined with exercise. Unfortunately, with budget shortfalls and cutbacks in educational funding, physical activity is the first thing to be sacrificed as gym classes, sports programs, and free play time go under the knife. That is not to say, however, that children have to go without, for exercise is hardly the sole provenance of academia.

In fact, it should begin in the home. Besides advocating fitness awareness at their local schools, parents can encourage their children to be more active during their time outside of classes. A short exercise regimen in the morning might be just the thing to get the blood flowing to their young brains and help them in their academic pursuits.

Whenever possible, have them walk or ride their bike to school, and if you can, join them. It is important to lead by example. You can’t expect your kids to be active and healthy when you’re not, and parking yourself on the couch all day won’t do much to inspire them.

And whatever you do, turn off the TV. They may resist (actually, you might resist, as well) and it may not make your life easier, but whoever said being a parent was easy? Besides, given a chance, kids will generally find a way to be active and entertain themselves in lieu of artificial stimulation, and when they do, it is often more imaginative and rewarding. Then again, most things are when compared to TV.

So encourage your kids to be more active. Not only will they look and feel better, but it may help them in their school work, which is a winning combination if there ever was one.