UW-Madison’s Kuhrasch offers tips to help parents keep their kids active

As the COVID-19 pandemic shuts down schools across the nation, many parents are concerned about keeping their children active without the help of physical education (PE) classes.

But UW–Madison’s Cindy Kuhrasch, who oversees the School of Education’s physical education teacher education program, sees these new circumstances as an opportunity to showcase the full potential that PE can have in children’s lives.

PE courses can have a huge impact outside of physical fitness. “Physical education should teach to the whole child,” says Kuhrasch, a distinguished faculty associate with the Department of Kinesiology.

Cindy Kuhrasch

She explains that physical activity is a medium through which children develop mental and behavioral proficiencies, like self-respect and respect for others. Standard learning outcomes for PE courses emphasize that physical activity should develop a child’s value for health, challenge, self-expression, and social interaction.

The good news is it shouldn’t take much for parents to devise engaging and holistic activities for their children while most are stuck at home.

To help parents come up with ideas, Kuhrasch, her colleagues, and students are updating the UW-Madison physical education teacher education program’s Facebook page regularly to provide free resources and inspiration for staying active at home. (Check it out at: https://www.facebook.com/UMadPE/.)

Kuhrasch also encourages parents to think creatively and assume the role of playmate, not teacher.

“Parents need to play, too!” she says.

Most importantly, Kuhrasch says, activities should be fun. Parents should ask themselves if they would want to participate; if they don’t, it’s likely their children won’t, either.

Another way to think about structuring activity is to focus on basic motor skills, Kuhrasch advises. Think about a simple movement or action, and create a goal that promotes using that movement, like crawling around the yard to collect a bouquet of dandelions or playing games like kick the can.

Kuhrasch also suggests that parents take this opportunity to reintroduce play into their children’s lives — and not just younger children. It can be easy to leave high school-aged students to their own devices — literally — but if play is made a possibility, it’s likely older children will want to join in just as much as younger kids. Kuhrasch suggests that parents provide opportunities for play and normalize it for their older kids, and encourages children of all ages to play together, if safe to do so.

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