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Distant-Learners (And Homeschoolers) Need Recess And Exercise Too

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
Eight Recess Activities For Remote-Learning And Homeschooling Families
Scary Mommy and Martin/Getty

Recess is important part of learning, and not just because it provides the opportunity for kids to socialize and move their bodies. Recess provides vision breaks, helping children avoid unnecessary and prolonged eye strain from too much close-up work. Recess allows kids to express themselves creatively, to engage their senses, and burn some serious energy. As many of us approach fall and are engaging in homeschooling or remote-learning, it’s absolutely necessary that we include multiple recesses for our kids into their daily schedules.

I get that most of us don’t have a park in our backyard or even a backyard at all for kids to play. Sometimes the weather is uncooperative even if we do have outdoor space. Outside gear, like bikes and skateboards, can be pricey and require additional purchases like helmets. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to work in recess without spending much (or anything), making sure our kids get the breaks from schoolwork that they need to be successful.

Do a yoga video together.

Cosmic Kids Yoga is my children’s absolute favorite. The British host engages kids in song-based yoga routines or tells stories and pairs the plot and characters with movements. Her videos are free and available on YouTube. We like selecting our videos based on theme and how much time we have. Some videos are only about five minutes, while others are over a half-hour. Yoga helps with flexibility, strength, stress-reduction, and concentration.

Set up a home gym.


If you’re parenting a sensory-seeking or energetic kiddo, a home sensory gym can be magical. Consider putting together a combination of the following: mini (exercise) trampoline, a gymnastics mat, resistance bands, strength-appropriate free weights, a jump rope, a hula hoop, and an indoor-safe ball. You don’t need much space for these, and most are easy to store. We have found many items for dirt-cheap on local swap and sell social media groups. If you don’t have the budget for buying items, creatively use what you have at home. Set a timer, turn on some music, and burn the energy!

Learn to juggle.

Eye-hand coordination is important, and you can foster this in your child by learning to juggle together. You can purchase scarves and balls for fairly cheap. Use a “how to” video on YouTube and have fun! As you proceed through the steps, make it more fun, finding different objects to juggle. My kids find it fascinating when their dad juggles mandarin oranges. You can also learn to co-juggle, sharing your objects-of-choice between you.

Have a bouncy ball session.

My kids have tons of bouncy balls in all different shapes and sizes from party and holiday favor bags. Gather all the bouncy balls together, find a generally safe space, and start bouncing, chasing, and finding. Of course, these can be a choking hazard, so keep an eye on younger kids or children who tend to put objects in their mouth. An alternative is to throw the bouncy balls into various containers—which is quite difficult.

Go on a nature walk.

Outdoor walks can give you and your child the fresh air and sunshine that you both crave while giving you the opportunity to touch base. There’s just something magical about stepping away from electronics and life’s demands, and enjoy the great outdoors. My kids enjoy taking a bag along and finding “treasures” in nature. You can stay close to home or discover local trails.

Use recyclables to play.

One of my kids’ favorite activities to play a game of smash-the-boxes. (I’m not kidding). We pull all the cardboard boxes we have out of the recycling bin and take slow-mo videos of the kids smashing the boxes with their bodies, which they find highly amusing. You can do this indoors or outdoors. Another option is to stack the recycling to see who can create the highest tower, or build a creative structure using the items.

Have a dance party.

This is my kids’ favorite activity. Blasting our favorite music puts everyone in a better mood, and we can’t help but dance. My oldest tweens try to create dance routines, while the little kids just get silly. If you can do this in front of a mirror, even better. Kids love watching themselves. This always gives me the chance to play them my favorite ’90s hits.

Play rounds of hopscotch, kickball, or four-square.

My 1980s childhood included many games that seem to have sadly vanished. My kids discovered four-square last year, and they’ve been obsessed ever since. It’s been fun for me to relive my favorite childhood recess game with them, including a good old fashioned cherry bomb. Hopscotch can be played inside by using painter’s tape on a hard-surface floor or outside using sidewalk chalk. Kickball is definitely an outdoor activity, and you can take turns with your child being the pitcher and the kicker. Whatever you loved as a kiddo might be the perfect recess activity for your child.

Even though these activity suggestions are best for elementary kids, don’t forget that your middle and high schoolers need recess, too. Enjoy a walk, shoot hoops, do a yoga video, or engage in a sports (active) video game together. Recess benefits us all, young and old, to burn energy and take a break from the demands of work and school.

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