Harried homeschool parents, get healthy and in shape-Grab your toddler,
kick a ball, dance to a music tape, or play an active game together!
Most youngsters can bop ’til you drop, so it’s fun to see how long mom
or dad can last.
Preschoolers don’t require expensive health, hygiene and physical
education programs. Still, it makes sense to plan. What do our kids need
Homeschoolers can individualize health and fitness plans according to
each child’s needs. As we see that our child becomes proficient in a
skill, we simply check it off. M. Jean Soyke offers checklists, such as
gross motor goals, in her Early Education at Home: A Curriculum Guide
for Parents of Preschoolers and Kindergarteners. You can also download a
free fitness guide, for ages six and up, from the President’s Challenge,
fitness.gov/challenge/index.html. Our family valued the following goals;
feel free to add, subtract, and adapt it to your child.
Goals for My Healthy and Fit Child
- Puts spiritual health first: Morning prayer and Bible verse
- Dresses self in appropriate, clean clothes and brushes hair (may
need help if long hair)
- Exercises daily: bunny hops, jumping jacks, ball bounces, or
- Washes hands before meals consistently (count to 20 or say ABCs),
- Covers coughs and sneezes into shoulder or tissue—then washes hands
- Keeps hands away from face, and doesn’t use others’ personal items
- Learns the basic food groups
- Knows the difference between “healthy foods” and treats
- Knows benefits of healthy foods and exercise
- Practices age-appropriate gross motor goals (climbing, catching,
hopping on one foot, etc.)
- Naps or spends quiet time during afternoon
- Eats healthy food without complaint
- Learns reason for any medications or vitamins given by parents
- Runs own bathwater (parent monitors) and washes self thoroughly
- Understands the importance of a good night’s sleep for children and
- Sets timer half hour before bedtime, put on night clothes
- Limits or avoids stimulating television or electronic games close
- Plays quiet board games, reads, or does creative projects to wind
down for sleep
- Brushes every tooth surface, minimal checking by parents (use timer
and disclosing tablets)
- Gets ready for bed on time without complaining (reward with extra
Very young children appreciate a picture reminder chart for daily
activities. Post the chart in a prominent place, such as on a bathroom
mirror or step stool. Kids enjoy helping make their own chart and
drawing or coloring the pictures. If you wish, you could number each
item on the list. Kids who can write may want to write their daily goals
in their own simple planner.
You may wish to spell out simple, logical consequences for not following
guidelines. For instance, a child who doesn’t eat veggies gets no
dessert. A child who dawdles at bedtime doesn’t get a bedtime story.
Create your own colorful food group place mats with poster board.
Collect old magazines with pictures of healthy food. Ask relatives and
friends to save magazines for you. Cut out pictures and paste or tape
them onto placemat-size poster board. Label the placemats and let your
child write or trace the words. Cover with clear plastic and enjoy your
Fitness goals at our house vary not just by age, but also by season. For
instance, in bad weather and ill health we can still find ways to
exercise inside. In the summer, walks and bike riding can take
precedence over indoor activities.
If the weather outside is frightful, find ways to play healthy indoor
games. Try oldie but favorite games that don’t require batteries, such
as Musical Chairs, Hide and Seek, and that old stand-bye, 21 Pick Up.
(See who can pick up 21 objects first!) Even housework can be healthy.
New research shows cleaning up offers great exercise; your toddler will
love to “help” with housework if you find child-sized tools for him or
her to use.
Game machines and computers increasingly offer relatively inexpensive
choices to get families moving, such as electronic sports games, rhythm
games, and Dance, Dance Revolution. You don’t need the newest program or
game machines—most young kids won’t be able to use all the fancy
features anyway. Our family uses an obsolete game machine, dance game,
and mat, but it still helps us have fun and get moving.
If you already own a computer, you can purchase a PC-compatible dance
mat/pad controller. Try the free dance software from StepMania.com.
Older kids will especially welcome the inexhaustible variety of games
If we play store and other pretend games with our kids, we model healthy
behavior, and our kids never even realize they are learning.
Ask, “What are good foods to sell in our store?” Help kids write their
own menu and open a healthy snack café. An inexpensive set of kid
dishes, in a lower kitchen cabinet, can foster healthy play. Kids can
play picnic with dolls and stuffed animals inside or outside, using a
blanket and play food.
You may wish to encourage fitness and positive social training through
local homeschool or community sports activities and classes. However,
wise parents carefully screen activities, as socialization can instill
either positive or negative traits in our children. Are outward
appearances valued instead of helpfulness toward others? Do the adults
and children in the program model Christlike behavior and good
sportsmanship and character? Or is the emphasis on winning at all costs?
Contact your local homeschool support group to find healthy outdoor
sports opportunities with like-minded families.
After an active day, snuggle down and reinforce goals with a story. In
The Berenstain Bears Play a Good Game by Jan and Michael Berenstain,
Brother and Sister Bear learn about pleasing God and the importance of
fair play and sportsmanship for both players and coaches. Read books
such as Oh, the Things You Can Do That Are Good For You! by Tish Rabe
and The Tooth Book by Dr. Seuss and others. Dr. William Sears’ Eat
Healthy, Feel Great book illustrates healthy eating with a simple system
of red light (stop!), yellow light (sometimes), and green light (go!)
Let’s get moving! As we model healthy behavior for our youngsters, we
reap a premium in our own improved physical condition. We can enjoy a
healthy, happy, homeschool life, together with our children.
Melissa L. Morgan is the co-author of Educational Travel on a Shoestring
and Homeschooling on a Shoestring. With her husband, Hugh, she has
homeschooled their three children from birth, taking advantage of many
educational opportunities in the real world. She invites you to visit
her website at www.eaglesnesthome.com.