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Homeschool Hacks PE - Three Children Stretching on the Sportshall Floor

Homeschool Hacks: PE Time – Setting Up a Child-Friendly Gym in Your Living Room

Welcome to another day in the life of homeschooling! If you’re anything like me, then your living room pulls triple or quadruple shift as a classroom, games room, and even a makeshift gym.

Today, I’m sharing our secret to keeping the kids active and entertained (and just tired enough to sit down and focus on their books afterwards): by transforming our living room into a fun PE space every morning. Trust me, if we can do it, so can you!

Physical education is an essential part of your child’s development and the wife and I follow a montessori/waldorf hybrid approach to home education – As an aside: I loved PE as a child and studied it for my A levels, in hopes that one day I’d maybe become a personal trainer or engage in another fitness based career. That never transpired and I ended up in Tech but it always upset me that you’d get one or two lessons of PE a week!

Creating a dedicated space for physical activity can help your kids burn off energy, stay healthy, and it can even improve their focus during some of the more mundane lessons. Plus, it’s a fantastic way to spend quality time together as a family and stay fit while doing it.

The Homeschool PE Setup

Choosing Your Battleground

First things first, pick your battleground. For us, the living room is ideal since it’s usually the least cluttered space in the house. Move the coffee table out of the way and clear any Lego landmines. Make sure there’s plenty of room for your little gymnasts to tumble without knocking over your crystal collection (I learned that the hard way).

We set out a few gym mats from IKEA and yoga mats on the outskirts for extra protection. They don’t cost all that much, but the kids are a lot more active and less inclined to smack their head on the floor because of it.

Essential Equipment

You don’t need a ton of fancy gear to get started. Here’s our go-to list:

  • Yoga Mats: Great for yoga but also for keeping the kids safe.
  • Small Weights: The kind you get at the bootsale for 50p or any cheap set from Argos / Amazon will do. Failing that, a few water bottles with sand or liquid in can do wonders for their biceps.
  • Resistance Bands: Optional – we tried to use them – but the kids had too much fun pinging them at each other… will try again when they’re a bit older!
  • Jump Ropes: Simple, effective, and they burn off that boundless energy.
  • Balance Balls: Loads of fun and great stress relief when the kids are being too much. These are great fun to throw at the little ones (and great for playing RAIDERS)!
Additional Equipment Ideas
  • Hula Hoops: Great for core strength and coordination.
  • Foam Rollers: Useful for both exercise and post-workout recovery.
  • Step Platforms: Perfect for cardio routines and can double as obstacles in a course.
  • Stepping Stones / Sensory Mats: We picked up the XXL pack of Muffik sensory mats. There’s hours of fun to be had with these – from “don’t step on the lava” to a rather painful varient of hopscotch. If you’ve got some neurodiversity in the household, then these are an absolute must purchase.

Daily Setup Routine

Our morning routine is like clockwork (when we’re not sick or someone isn’t being lazy of course). After breakfast, the kids help set up the gym. We roll out the yoga mats ready for Yoga or HIIT depending on the day. I like to do yoga on nights where the kids might have been up a bit later than they should, for example after an evening of scouts or cadets. Otherwise it’s HIIT or BrainBreak style videos.

By involving them in the process, they seem to be a lot more excitable and ready to get started a lot sooner than if they come into a completely prepped room. It also teaches them responsibility and they’re more inclined to assist in the tidying up process afterwards too!

Here’s my step-by-step guide to setting up each morning:

  1. Clearing the Space: Move furniture aside and ensure the area is free of any hazards. Then give it a quick hoover and get the kids hyped.
  2. Choose Your Exercise: Depending on the mood, we’ll put it to a vote as to which exercise to tackle that day.
  3. Lay Down Mats or Exercise Amenities: Position the yoga mats to define exercise zones. (Especially helpful for neurospicy children who can’t stay in one place for too long).
  4. Get Sweaty: I mean it’s pretty self-explanatory… work up a sweat and get into the groove fam!

Fun and Educational Activities

Keeping PE fun is the key to success. Especially for children who are prone to zoning out on their tech. Here are a few of our favourite activities:

Obstacle Course: Create a fun course with pillows, chairs, mats, whatever comes to mind! The kids love it, and it’s great for agility. Change the course daily to keep it exciting. Include stations like:

  • Crawl Under the Table: Enhance coordination and flexibility. Be mindful of kids with poor spacial awareness as they can be quite prone to bonks.
  • Jump Over Pillows: Great for building leg strength and balance.
  • Balance Beam: Use a strip of tape on the floor to simulate a balance beam.

Dance Party: Crank up the tunes and let them dance their hearts out. It’s a fantastic cardio workout! Choose upbeat songs that they love and encourage them to make up their own dance moves. You can even have a mini dance competition (if the kids aren’t too competitive) or if you’re feeling adventureous, why not try learning some dance moves with the kids. I’ve started learning beginners dance moves, in the hopes that one day I won’t have to resort to the bog standard “dad dance” – synonymous with dads who just don’t have the moves.

Interactive Games: Games like “Simon Says” with a fitness twist keep them engaged and moving. My kids are also infinitely more likely to listen to a task if I gamify it for them (hurray for ADHD).

For example:

  • Simon Says Touch Your Toes: Enhances flexibility.
  • Simon Says Do Jumping Jacks: Boosts cardio.
  • Simon Says Stretch to the Sky: Promotes full-body stretching.

PE with a Learning Twist: Combining physical activity with educational content.

  • Alphabet Exercises: Assign an exercise to each letter of the alphabet. Kids spell out words and perform the corresponding exercises. Or I’ll get them to try and make the letter shapes with their whole body, or working as a team!
  • Math Movements: Solve math problems with physical answers (e.g., do the number of jumping jacks equal to the answer or take x number foward on the Muffik mats).

Safety Tips

We all know that kids & energy = inevitable chaos. Do keep a close eye on your kids to ensure they’re using the equipment properly. Secure heavy items and use non-slip mats. Always start with a warm-up and finish with a cool-down to prevent any injuries too!

Key Safety Tips:

  • Supervision: Always be present to guide and monitor activities. Even if you’re watching someone else, you’re still the active teacher.
  • Proper Use of Equipment: Teach kids how to use each piece of equipment safely. We have an elliptical and weight bench that the older kids are allowed to use now, but proper supervision and a few tutorials certainly won’t go amiss.
  • Warm-Up and Cool-Down: If you remember back to primary school P.E. The warm-up and cool-down were always there to keep us from getting injured, so make sure you’re doing the same for your little ones!
  • Hydration: Keep water bottles / squash handy to ensure kids stay hydrated.
  • Focus & Fun: If your kids aren’t feeling the exercise that’s ok, it’s important that they’re focused and engaged, otherwise they’ll be more prone to accidents!

Maintaining Motivation

Motivation can dip, so keep things fresh with rewards and challenges. We use a sticker chart for every completed day of exercise – a classic but effective method of keeping the kids motivated.

Set achievable goals and celebrate their achievements. Positive parenting and positive reinforcement goes a long way!

Additional Motivation Tips:

  • Variety: Change up the routine frequently to keep things exciting. I’ve gone as far as using a random number generator to help the kids pick which routine we’re going to tackle. Especially helpful on days where no-one can be bothered!
  • Family Challenges: Create friendly competitions with small rewards.
  • Parental Participation: This goes without saying, but make sure you’re joining in the fun to set a positive example and bond with your kids. It’s also helped me stay in shape and keep my fitness goals in check on days where I haven’t had a chance to do my own exercise regiment.
  • Go Above & Beyond: My 2nd youngest daughter is ALWAYS climbing things, she reminds me so much of myself, so we went and got a doorframe gym that saw a lot of love from all the kids. However she wasn’t quite satisfied…. so I ended up building a climbing wall in her bedroom. It’s not much, but she absolutely adores the thing, and it’s helped her brother and older sister with their fear of heights a bit too!

Personal Recommendations

We have a few tried and tested YouTubers that we frequently use – if you’re struggling for ideas then this list is for you. I’ll be adding to it over time but these are our core YouTubers.

P.E With Joe (The Body Coach) – A family favourite since lockdown. Joe helped keep spirits high during the monotony of covid and we still use his videos to this day.
Cosmic Kids Yoga – Amazing for younger kids. My children particularly enjoy the Minecraft and Pokemon yoga rituals.
Coach Corey Martin – Great for “Brain Break” style videos. Perfect for younger children, my toddler joins in with the bigger kids too. Target audience is just before they hit that tweenage phase!

Setting up a kid-friendly gym in your living room is a fantastic way to ensure your children stay active. It promotes physical health, teaches responsibility, and adds an element of fun to ourhomeschool routine. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to bond as a family and instill healthy habits that will last a lifetime. Give it a go and turn your living room into the ultimate PE playground!

Final Thoughts

Creating a home gym in your living room might sound like a bit of a pain, but once you’ve got the routine going, it becomes a very easily managed and rewarding project that can have lasting benefits for your family. With a bit of planning and creativity, you can provide a safe, fun, and engaging space for your children to enjoy your PE routine.

Remember, the goal is to make exercise enjoyable and a regular part of your homeschool routine.

So, roll out those mats, turn up the music, and get ready to transform your living room into a hub of activity and laughter. Your kids will thank you, and you’ll feel great knowing you’re contributing to their physical and mental well-being!

I’d love to hear what sort of activities keep you and your family fighting fit!

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