Since many schools no longer offer physical education, a lot of fitness professionals are volunteering their time before and after school. This is a great (and needed) community service, but unless you have experience working with kids aged 7–11, you may not be fully prepared for the challenge of corralling them for a cool-down. When kids are having fun, they don’t want to stop, listen and be quiet. The transition from a workout to a cool-down can be tough. That’s why you need a plan.
The following activities offer many creative ways to rein in kids.
This is a great way to teach the names of muscles and how to stretch them. Create stations, and post a card at each one with the name and picture of a muscle and a description of how to stretch it. Kids perform the movement on the card. Rotate every 20 seconds.
Position at least two students at each station. The imperative is to design an exercise or a stretch. When the circuit begins, partners perform their move while watching the station to their right. After 20–30 seconds, each pair moves one station to the right and performs the move the previous pair was doing.
Assign students a station where they’ll remain throughout the routine. Each station has different equipment and a different task card. On signal, students perform the activity listed on their card. When it’s time to stop, one student from each station collects the equipment and the card and passes them to the next group.
This is a “follow-the-leader” activity with a twist! You, the instructor, perform an exercise or a stretch. The class watches, and when you change to a second move, the class performs the first one. When you change to a third option, the class performs the second one, etc.
Place students in pairs, in a scattered formation. Call out various directions: “Touch biceps to biceps, touch patella to patella,” etc. Each pair performs the movements. When you call out, “Muscle mix,” the partners split and form new pairs. You also find a partner and the child without a partner is the new leader. (If there is an odd number of students, pair with the student who’s left and perform the moves as you call out directions; when partners change, choose another leader.)
Create two piles of cards. One pile lists an exercise or a stretch on each card, and the second pile indicates repetition or time. A student draws a card from each pile. For example, the exercise card might say “sit-up,” and the number card might indicate “10.” Everyone performs 10 sit-ups.
Roll for Fitness
Divide kids into groups. Each group has a die and a poster board with the names of moves. Each group rolls the die, and everyone performs the exercise that comes up.
- Do 10 crunches.
- Hold one plank.
- Do five push-ups.
- Walk backwards four laps.
- Do six squats.
- Do three turtle walks.
This is a great activity for strengthening abdominals. Kids sit in a circle with their left shoes in their right hands. Start in a crunch position, knees bent, feet on the floor. Give the following challenges:
- Tap the shoe on the floor next to your right foot.
- Lie down and tap the shoe on the floor over your head.
- Curl up and tap your shoe by the right foot again.
- Move the shoe to your left hand. Tap next to the left foot.
- Lie down and tap on the floor over your head.
- Curl up and tap your shoe by the left foot again.
- Pass the shoe under your legs to the child on the right.
- Repeat until you get the shoe back.
Variation: Do the same thing while in a plank position.
When it’s time to cool the kids down, it doesn’t mean the fun ends. Simply redirect their energy to other activities. Once you’ve established a few classroom and organizational rules, you can harness children’s enthusiasm in a positive and productive way.