Turning Your Backyard into a PE Playground
Useful Tips for Home School Families
Guest Post By Jay Harris
Homeschooling can be both a blessing and a challenge – and
P.E. is the perfect example. On one
hand, you have the freedom to provide your children with the exercise they so
earnestly need and crave; on the other, you may lack the funds, space, or
expertise to effectively make this happen.
Ahh, the dilemmas of home schooling…
Fortunately, with a bit of guidance and dedication, you can
easily turn your own backyard into an effective P.E. playground – a space for
your children to play, learn, and grow.
Here are a few helpful tips to get the ball rolling.
Organize your play space. Before you start picking out equipment and activities,
consider what you are working with.
How big is your
Even if you are restricted to a relatively small area, there are ways to
get the best out of every inch. Maximize
your play space by clearing large objects and structures to the corners of your
yard. Once you start putting in
equipment, you should adhere to a six-foot ‘safety zone’ around each such
structure. Try to cluster movable
objects (ladders, hoses, etc.) around permanent ones (sheds, electric boxes, or
HVAC units). Outdoor playsets and other
such playground equipment can be moved around accordingly.
What type of ground cover do you already have? While alternative ground cover is recommended
for playground equipment, a neatly-trimmed lawn is crucial for running
children. Tend to ant beds, clear excess
weeds or shrubs, and make sure your lawn is trimmed and even.
Consider your equipment. When picking out equipment, I prefer to stick to the
classics. The simple freedom of outdoor
swing sets and jungle gyms has always been a favorite for kids of all ages
(including some adults I know)! If space
is an issue, backyard playsets are compact, movable, and offer several activities
in one structure. Depending on your
space and budget, there is no shortage of playground equipment out there to fit
Consider alternative ground cover underneath such
structures. Wood chips, rubber mulch,
and sand make for much easier falls than grass.
Aside from simply providing equipment, it’s important to
keep in mind the task at hand: creating a space that encourages organized,
structured playtime in addition to free play.
After all, you as a parent also assume the role as P.E. teacher and
coach. With this in mind, be sure to
find a variety of equipment and activities that encourage sportsmanship. Depending on the size of your family and the
amount of space you are working with, include lawn games such as badminton,
volleyball, croquet, Frisbee, football, basketball, or soccer. And always include equipment that can be used
for independent practice, such as jump ropes or hula-hoops.
Make a schedule. Now that your
backyard has been transformed into a genuine outdoor gym, you are ready to
think about a P.E. routine. Just as
children need unstructured playtime at recess, they also benefit enormously
from organized physical activity – hence physical education. Before the start
of the next school year, come up with a schedule. Set aside a time each day for recess, and a
time each day for P.E. Just as they
might find in a public school setting, this block of time should be structured,
physically challenging, and educational.
Plan your activities ahead of time, and be ready to carry
them out when the time comes. Think
sports, games, personal competitions, and all-around good exercise
routines. Consider starting with some
stretches. Move on to a cardio warm-up
such as jumping jacks or jogging. Now
it’s time to move in to your activity for the day – something active and
educational, but most importantly FUN!
The internet can be a great resource for games and activities. If your kids come
back from P.E. panting, sweaty, and EXCITED about the next session… well done!
As a loving home school parent, always remember your
role. Lay down rules from the beginning,
and don’t hesitate to enforce them. Keep
safety in mind at all times, and don’t let your students push their
limits! Most importantly, be an active
participant in your child’s physical education.
Play with them, teach, them, and nurture them as they grow.
Summer is a perfect time to get your yard prepped for the
school year. With these tips in mind,
creating an effective P.E. platform can be a fun activity for both you and your
kids. Get them involved! A project such as this should not be thought
of as a chore for Mom or Dad – rather, think of this as an exciting summer
project for the whole family. When the
school year rolls around, you’ll be ready to deliver a top-notch P.E. program
from your own home.
Jay Harris is a Home Depot “on the floor” sales associate and a regular
contributor to Home Depot’s website. His interests include providing advice on
backyard children’s swingsets and playsets.
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