It’s no mystery that exercise boosts mental health and cognitive function in kids. A nine-month study of children aged seven through nine found that kids who were active could think more clearly. A March 2020 report published in Lancet found that 12-, 14- and 16-year-olds who exercised regularly were less likely to develop depression by age 18. Brain scans of 20-year-olds revealed that active young adults have better recall and thinking ability. The relationship between movement and brain health is so clear that the World Health Organization recommends an hour a day of moderate exercise for kids aged 5 through 17. Though most children in the United States get far less than that, regular recess and athletic teams provide at least some built-in movement for many children.
Along with countless other sobering repercussions, COVID-19 jeopardizes kids’ physical activity at a time when the emotional benefits that exercise provides are sorely needed. With school closures, suspension of team practices and the imperative to stay home and away from others, children and teenagers (and their agitated parents) will have to find other ways to keep moving. This is especially important now, as a global pandemic with potentially catastrophic repercussions has a way of igniting fear.
Some parents and athletic organizations are already making plans for how to keep kids active without schools, organized practices or games to fall back on. Ashley Quinn, a mother of three—and high-school lacrosse coach—said she’ll try to create a home routine with her young kids that includes regular exercise. “We will wake, eat breakfast, ‘attend school,’ and remain physically active with a set program of running, stick work, etc.—disguised as games for my younger daughters,” she said.
Julie McCleery at the University of Washington College of Education and the King County Play Equity Coalition created a list of activities as a direct response to COVID-19 related social distancing measures in Washington state. Some of those ideas are included in this list of resources from teachers, parents and experts on keeping kids moving while school is out.
For young kids: