Exercise and Academics: Perfect Together

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My friend recently confided in me that she believes her 8-year-old son's brain has turned to mush. She said he's played outside a lot this summer but has shied away from reading as many books as she likes and loudly protested when she produced a math workbook she bought for the summer. This "Battle of the Brain" is occurring in homes across the country as summer progresses.

In the classroom, it is incredibly important to include physical movement in lessons across the curriculum. Movement is important for all learning styles- not just kinesthetic learners. Movement can wake up a tired student, reignite a thought in a bored student, and get the creative juices flowing in all students. Here are some tried and true physical activities that incorporate academics and are incredibly easy to do.

Exerdice Each player rolls the dice and adds, subtracts, or multiplies the numbers. The answer equals how many push-ups, sit-ups, or jumping jacks the player has to do. It's a quick and easy game you can play anytime, anywhere.

Skip Counting Jump RopeTake your jump rope outside and let each player take a turn skip counting by 2's, 5's, or 10's for each turn of the jump rope. See how high you can skip count!

Academic Relay RacesYou'll need two adults and some neighborhood kids for this game. Split the children into two teams and place one adult in charge of each team. The adults hold flash cards containing addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division problems. Each team member runs to the adult, solves the problem, and runs back to her team. The first team to solve all the problems wins! You can substitute other math skills - reducing fractions, finding the least common denominator - or sight words for reading as your targeted skill.

Trivial Pursuit Wiffle BallTake this beloved game outdoors! Each batter has to answer a question from the game before they take their turn at bat. Give points for runs scored and questions answered correctly. It's a new twist on an old favorite that keeps everyone's brains and bodies in action!

Exercise doesn't have to be too structured. Go for a walk or ride your bikes together then sit down to read, play a board game that incorporates problem-solving skills, or do a puzzle. Sometimes a little physical movement immediately prior to an academic activity is enough to spark your child's brain power!

Jennifer Cerbasi teaches at a public school for children on the autism spectrum in New Jersey. As a coordinator of Applied Behavioral Analysis programs in the home, she works with parents to create and implement behavioral plans for their children in an environment that fosters both academic and social growth. In addition to her work both in the classroom and at home, she is also a member of the National Association of Special Education Teachers and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.