Category Archives for Early Childhood

Playground Benefits

Playground Benefits

Playgrounds provide more to our young children than just a place to run and play.  The benefits of playgrounds for children ages 2-5 target emotional, social, physical, and cognitive develop.  That’s right!  Playing on a playground increases brain development.  It was once said by Mr. Rogers that, “Play is real learning.”

Below are some highlights of the benefits of playground structures:

  1. Climbing– when children climb, they are pursuing their innate nature to explore, see, and experience adventure. They are born to do this!  Climbing benefits memory, problem solving and imagery for children.  Other benefits to climbing are gross motor strength of the arms, legs and core (stomach area).  When the body uses its arms and legs in opposition and then crosses over the middle of the body, the entire brain is used increasing brain development. Within safe reason, allow those children to climb away!
  2. Monkey Bars and other Overhead Equipment– Children love to be able to hang and climb with the arms but most children, especially girls ages 0-5 are very weak in the upper body. Climbing with the hands increases core strength, grip strength, hand-eye coordination and sideways weight shifts.  Some children may need assistance at the early stages to not fall.  Be sure the “drop zone” is not too far as broken arms and collar bones are typical when the wood chips are spread too thin and/or the apparatus is too high.
  3. Swings and slides– who doesn’t love time on the swings or a trip down the slide? Children seek out swinging type rides for various reasons. For a child who needs to be motivated, the swings and slides add adventure.  For the over-stimulated child, the swings and slides meet the needs of the excited child providing that exciting feeling of “flying through the air.”  Benefits of swinging type apparatus include gross motor benefits of swinging, swaying, turning, twisting, chest, arm, core, and grip strength.  Swinging and sliding also stimulates the vestibular system that our bodies use to balance ourselves when we move through space. Be sure to caution children not to jump off swings as this provides a danger to both the swinger as well as the passer-by.  In regard to slides, remember to use them safely; slides are for going down and ladders are for going up.  Always slide DOWN the slide feet first.

Don’t live near a playground?  Have no concerns.  Keep those kids active in the yard, at a nearby park or by limited screen time when at home.  There is plenty one can do inside the home provided there is a safe space.  Remember that the suggested minimum guideline is 60 minutes of physical activity a day.  Healthy, active kids make better learners!

New Year Resolutions

It’s that time of year again when many people at least think about making some changes in their lives.  That’s good news if you make a resolution and even better if you keep it!  But, I just heard a message that only about half of the people in the world actually make a resolution and the average length for keeping it is 8 days.  That’s not very encouraging but I’m still going to offer some easy ideas for you to consider as your “Professional” 2015 Resolution!  Choose one and once you complete it, add another one to your list!

  1.  Invite an administrator, school board member and parent to visit your class sometime before school is out.
  2. If you haven’t registered your school to participate in “Let’s Move! Active Schools”, go to the web site and get signed up!
  3. Participate in some type of professional development training (workshops, webinar, convention, etc.) during the next year and then apply some of the new ideas into your teaching plans.
  4. Share one of your favorite activities with other professionals (email the idea to others in your school district, write an article for your state association, submit a proposal to present at a convention, etc.).  Make sure you include how the activity addresses one of the National Physical Education Standards!
  5. Encourage those you work with to be more physically active by inviting them to participate with you in a fun activity.

See, those aren’t that hard and I’m sure if you make it a priority that you can meet one of these “Professional New Year’s Resolutions”!

Halfpint Skillastics® – Did You Know?!?

Did you know that Skillastics® offers an activity kit for pre-school and kindergarten aged students?  This Skillastics® activity kit is called Halfpint.  Halfpint Skillastics® allows children to work on number, color and shape recognition while being physically active!  Do you think that’s great?  Well how about if I told you that Halfpint also comes with a musical CD, that has slow and fast pace music, to match everyone one of the activities the children perform?  This music CD allows children to learn how to move to different paces of music!  Are you asking how can it get any better?  This kit is also available in English/Spanish. Halfpint Skillastics® is the ultimate activity kit to bring your preschool and Kindergarteners to the next level!

**This kit is also a great resources or children with special needs.

For more information about Halfpint Skillastics®, please click on the link below:

Handling the Press in Basketball

Handling The Press

Trying to break a full-court press can be very frustrating. So many games are lost because a team is unable to break a press. I’ve seen a number of teams panic when opponent sets up the press. Here are  things you can do as an individual and a team to gain confidence to break a press.

  • You need to be able to handle the basketball. Working on your individual dribbling skills (during the off season) is crucial in breaking the press. You have to be able to feel comfortable dribbling the basketball with either hand and with your head up, so you can see who to pass it to or where to dribble.
  • The best way to break a press is to pass the ball instead of trying to dribble through your opponent. . It’s very important to always have one teammate behind the dribbler to act as a “safety net”.  The dribbler passes to this person if he/she cannot pass the ball up the court, or if he/she picks up his/her dribble.
  • Don’t commit yourself into the trap. So many times young athletes dribble the ball right into the trap and quit dribbling. At this point, it is very difficult to get the ball to your teammates without traveling or throwing the ball away. Keep your head up and throw the ball to your teammate before you get into the trap. If no one is open up the court, you always have one person behind you (about 20 feet away), who you can throw the ball to.
  • Patience. Don’t panic when you see the trap. Remember the tips stated above and execute them. It’s also so important that your team practice breaking the trap in practice. This way you feel comfortable in knowing where your teammates will be.
  • If you are trying to help your teammate who is dribbling the ball, be sure to cut to the ball quickly, having your hands up, letting them know you are open and can receive the basketball.

Great Time to Think About Let’s Move in School

As the lazy days of summer are here, and your creative juices are being rejuvenated, take some time to really learn about the “Let’s Move in School” initiative.  I encourage you to focus on one component of CSPA (Comprehensive School Physical Activity) and plan a few activities for the next school year that fit with your school environment.  The components are: 

  • Physical Education
  • Physical Activity During School
  • Physical Activity Before and After School
  • Staff Involvement
  • Family and Community Involvement

If you go to this web site, and click on the “comprehensive school physical activity program” hot link, it will take you to a page where you can look for ideas and resources that will help you plan your school activities. 

Since the goal of the “Let’s Move in School” initiative is to help students be physically activity for 60 minutes each day, the Skillastics® activity kits are a great resource and strategy to include in your plan.  Whether you use the activity kits in your physical education class or in a before/after school program, create a plan for classroom teachers to use the mini mats with their students, or introduce a group of adults to the fun, Skillastics® is a great way to get everyone moving!

Summer Family Fitness Series

Summer Family Fitness Series

We continue our series on fun, quick fitness activities parents can do with their children.  Engaging in these activities 3-4 times a week for 15 minutes a day is a great addition to the required 60 minutes of fitness needed to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.  Here are the next three activities;

Mirror Drills – The next three activities are drills allow each person  to be a leader and a follower.  After a few moments you switch the responsibilities.

1)  Monkey Dance – Decide who will be the leader first.  Partners start in the standing position facing each other.  The leader starts by touching his/her right elbow with the left knee as the knee is lifted toward the right elbow The follower mirrors or copies the leader’s movements.  The leader then changes to touching the left elbow to the right knee. as the  follower copies the leader’s movements.  The object of this drill is for the leader to speed up and slow down their movements in order to challenge the follower..  After  30 to 60 seconds, switch responsibilities (i.e. the first leader now becomes the follower).  This develops balance and coordination, and strengthens the hip flexors, gluteus, trapezius (upper back) pectorals (chest) muscles groups.

2)  Jog In Place – Start in the standing position facing each other.  The leader starts by slowly jogging in place with the follower keeping up with the pace.  The object of this drill is for the leader to speed up and slow down their movements in order to challenge  the follower to keep up with the leader.   Jog for one minute and then switch responsibilities.  This develops cardiovascular endurance, as well as gluteus, quadriceps and hamstring muscle groups.

3)  Reach Drill – Start in the standing position facing each other.  The leader starts by extending his/her both arms in any direction (i.e. over head, toward feet, out to the side, out in front).  The object of this drill is for the follower to mirror these movements.  After one minute switch responsibilities and repeat.   This drill develops scapula, pectoral and abdominal muscle groups.

Grant Writer Resources

If you are interested in purchasing Skillastics® as well as additional equipment for your program, but are in need of funding – we can help!

We are excited to introduce two grant writer resources!  These individuals have been very successful at securing grants for their clients.  Contact either one of them directly and get the process started!  The resources are;

Grant Resources Of Wisconsin (Now offering assistance throughout the country)

(GROW) has been providing grant-seeking, program development, grant-writing, and evaluation services to Wisconsin school districts, municipalities, and non-profit organizations for the past 15 years.  Their team of writers and evaluators has worked on a wide variety of state, federal, corporate, and foundation grant programs, with a success rate of over 60%.  For example, over the past 8 years, eligible Wisconsin applicants have obtained nearly 100 Federal Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) grant awards.  The GROW office has written nearly half of those successful awards for applicants all across the State of Wisconsin.  Fee arrangements are flexible, ranging from hourly rates to nominal up-front charges with award-contingent fees, and are based on the complexity and viability of targeted grant programs and the nature of the services requested.  For further information, contact:

Kevin DeCramer, Coordinator

GROW (Grant Resources Of Wisconsin)

104 S. Main St., Rm. 320

Fond du Lac, WI  54935

Ph:  (920) 906-3747

Fax:  (920) 906-3750


Nancy L. Matthews, M.A., CPRP

Nancy has more than 20 years experience developing and managing “Quality of Life” programs and services which serve the community: eleven years in municipal government, seven years as an independent consultant, six years in higher education, and five years in student services.  She is currently consulting for a variety of organizations including government agencies, non-profit organizations, and colleges in the areas of grant writing, staff training, legislative advocacy and program development.  She is also  a member of the faculty at California State University Long Beach. 

Nancy received degrees from Scripps College in Psychology and Women’s Studies (B.A.), and U.C.L.A. in Higher Education Administration (M.A.) and remains connected to both institutions.  She also serves on the State Legislative Committee for California Park and Recreation Society as well as over 10 other Boards and committees.  Nancy values diversity and inclusion as well as service to the community.  She is characterized as “energetic”, “organized” and “service-oriented”.

Grant Proposals Awarded (highlights)

  • State of CA Prop 84 – $4.3 million
  • State of CA 2002 Bond Act – $1 million 
  • UniHealth Foundation – $500,000
  • CA Community Foundation – $100,000
  • Getty Foundation – $75,000
  • Metrolink – over $60,000 over 6 years
  • Tzu Chi Foundation – $37,000
  • Pomona 1st Federal Bank – $20,000
  • Archstone Foundation – $14,000
  • Lion’s Club International – $11,000

NLM Consulting Services

352 North Alta Vista Avenue

Monrovia, CA 91016

626 305-9215

FAX 626 301-9609

Ending the School Year on a Positive Note

It’s that time of year when most of us start thinking about summer vacation.  I learned a very valuable lesson from one of my Principals relating to the importance of ending the year on a positive note with students.  Her belief was, if they left for the summer having had a great end of the year experience, they would be more excited to return when school started again in the fall.  So, our school started the tradition of spending most of the last day of school doing all sorts of outdoor activities.  It was a ton of work but it was a great day for students and teachers alike! 

Even though you may not want to plan an all school event, I encourage you to think about what you might do differently during those last couple of weeks of physical education classes to make sure your students are not only excited about coming back to school in the fall, but also are excited about staying active over the summer.  The list is endless but here are a few ideas to get you started!

  • Get out some of equipment that you don’t use often but are things students love to use (fling it nets, hippety hops, fox tails, pogo sticks, etc.).  Let your students just have fun using the equipment!
  • If the weather is appropriate, play some water games.  One of my favorites was squirt bottle tag.  Purchase some small plant spray bottles, fill them up, give them to a few kids and watch them run! 
  • If it was hot, I kept a bucket of water and a water sprayer of some sort (those that look like a big crayon are awesome!) handy and would have fun “cooling” the students off during class.  It was always fun to get their classroom teachers a little wet when they picked their class up as well! 
  • Teach a few games that students can play at home (hopscotch, 4-square, sidewalk tennis, etc.).
  • Have students brainstorm a list of summer activities then create an activity calendar with those ideas to send home at the end of the year.

I realize the end of the year offers unique challenges but I encourage you to do a few different and unique activities with your students.   Make sure the goals of your lessons include having fun and promoting a summer of staying active!

Let’s Move In School Promotional Video

View the Let’s Move in School Video and see what the excitement is all about!

View the Video

SCCOE Purchases Halfpint for Head Start Programs

Santa Clara County of Education recently purchased over 100 Halfpint Bilingual Skillastics®®/Music CD Package  for every Head Start program in the county.