Cultivating Gratitude with Kids

As a Vietnamese proverb wisely teaches, “When eating fruit, remember the one who planted the tree”. The Thanksgiving season is a perfect time to consider the many benefits of gratitude, because being grateful allows us to reflect on the goodness in our lives and can bring some surprising health benefits. Expressing gratitude by giving back through volunteering can be an excellent way for people of all ages to truly experience the meaning of the holiday season.  

Gratitude is defined as the expression of appreciation for what one has. People can deliberately cultivate a sense of gratitude in their everyday lives and in doing so, they can bring joy to others while reaping the personal benefits. According to research, feeling grateful is closely associated with an increased feeling of happiness and can boost physical and mental health. Those who regularly practice gratitude experience more positive emotions and as a result, they sleep better, express more kindness and compassion, build stronger relationships, deal with adversity better, have stronger immune systems, and feel more alive.  

When we express gratitude as well as when we receive gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for enhancing our mood and making us feel happy. Practicing gratitude regularly can help strengthen these neural pathways resulting in a permanent grateful and positive outlook on life.

Fostering gratitude in children has many of the same benefits and, with the increase in mental health issues among children, finding ways to offset this trend is crucial and can help them throughout their lives. Volunteering and giving back are wonderful ways to model gratitude for these youngsters and there are many ways to volunteer as a family. Here are some ideas: 

  1. Help take care of animals at an animal shelter 
  2. Foster a furry friend from an animal shelter 
  3. Help stock shelves at a food pantry 
  4. Spend time with elderly at a nursing home doing crafts, reading, talking, playing, enjoying music and dance 
  5. Donate clothing and toys to those in need 
  6. Volunteer at a soup kitchen 
  7. Take treats to firemen, police, nursing homes, local shelters 
  8. Raise money for a special cause by hosting a road race, walkathon, lemonade stand 
  9. Pack bags with personal necessities like toothbrushes, toothpaste, socks, etc. for a homeless shelter 
  10. Collect and deliver items such as clean towels, blankets, food, toys to local animal shelters and wildlife rescue organizations 

Gratitude and giving back through volunteering can bring everyone involved much happiness and can have many physical and mental health benefits. In the spirit of the Thanksgiving season, experience gratitude by finding the goodness in everyday activities and taking the time to let others know how much you appreciate them. You will make someone’s day and you will feel happier as a result.  

Nancy Day

BOKS New Market Specialist

Resources: The Neuroscience of Gratitude and Effects on the Brain, PositivePsychology.com

6 Ways to Help Girls Not Quit Sports!

Growing up in a family full of athletes was a privilege I never realized I had. Being put into numerous sports at a young age, supported by family members to work hard at each one, encouraged to practice with others, and strive for athletic achievement have all contributed to my academic success, confidence, self-esteem, and overall physical and mental health.

But sadly, girls’ participation in sports has historically been lower than that of boys even though the benefits of physical activity are equal for both genders. Due to several factors including lack of access, safety and transportation, social stigma, lack of positive role models, cost and more, girls are dropping out of youth sports at two times the rate of boys by the age of 14 according to the Women’s Sports Foundation.

We know that physical activity has been proven to increase a child’s attention span during class, improve their academic performance, boost their heart rate to decrease the risk of heart diseases, and improve their mood. Beyond the physical benefits of exercise, participation in sports can help young girls grow confident in their own abilities, learn about teamwork, develop leadership skills, and build a positive body and self-image.

With all these benefits at play, it’s imperative to share statistics and raise awareness around the disparity in youth participation in sports. But the question remains, with all these contributing factors that deter young girls from continuing in their athletic journeys, how do we get them to stay, or even start?

Below we’ve compiled six ways that can help girls stay in sports and get the physical activity they deserve.

1. Share the benefits of sports

Break it down into a version the girls may understand based on their age. Kids just want to have fun while they play, but sometimes sharing the bigger picture can make a difference in why they go to practice.

  • For the youngest, you could let them know that, “playing sports will help them grow big and strong”.
  • For pre-teens, share that participating in sports will help them in school and to make new friends.
  • For an older group of girls, let them know that being part of a sports team can help them be a great leader – 94% of C-suit execs participated in sports when they were younger.

2. Keep it fun

Getting girls to stay in sports many times relates to the environment in which they play. By keeping sports fun, girls will be more willing to participate and want to return year after year.

  • For parents – If she shares that she didn’t like a certain sport, don’t hesitate to have her try another! A new coach, practice facility, or team can also make a huge difference in her participation.
  • For coaches – bring your girl squad to a women’s professional or college  game! They’ll love to see the skills of the pros and be inspired by the players on the field. Can’t go to a game? Tune into ESPNW for the latest women’s games!

3. Try multiple Sports

If you’re able, it’s also a great idea to enroll your daughter in numerous sports for each season so they can figure out what they like and dislike instead of forcing them to narrow down too early into only one sport. Cross-training is a great way to improve athletic performance across the board. By trying multiple sports, she’ll also be introduced to a slew of different girls – helping her find a group she feels comfortable with.

4. Be a role model – participate with them

  • To the best of your ability, try to engage or practice with your daughter at home. This support will reinforce the idea that she belongs on the team and in sports. Many girls think that sports “aren’t for them” because of social pressure or the idea that “sports are for boys”. By showing her that sports are for girls of all ages, she’ll be reminded that it’s a great thing to be playing!
  • Even if you know nothing about the sport she’s participating in, try to ask questions about the game. Having her explain the rules or different plays will show her how much she knows about the sport! Or if she’s confused about certain rules too, you can research it together. Let her know you value her participation on the team.

5. Inclusive play

If she has tried numerous sports and didn’t like any of them, it’s important to still make an effort to stay physically active. Use games and activities from the Summer or Winter Fun Packs from BOKS to keep kids moving at home or in school. By focusing on inclusive, non-competitive play, kids can reap the benefits of exercise while ensuring everyone is getting a chance to participate.

  • Bring BOKS to your community or school to get more kids moving before the school day. New friends, new activities, and a new way of getting physically active can spark interest in numerous sports. Sign up today for free here!
  • After some time of playing games with friends or peers in school, your daughter may bring up the idea of joining a team to play more with new friends they made during BOKS!

6. Advocate for girls at every level for equal representation

  • As a parent, community member, teacher, or youth organization administrator, it’s essential to continuously advocate for girls in sports. We need to recognize when there is not equal representation in programs or if the opportunities are skewed. Thanks to Title IX, we can enforce equal opportunities, but we still need to make sure the program is of substantial quality.
  • Ask questions:
    1. Does this coach have experience leading girls?
    2. What is this organization doing to recruit more girls to participate?
    3. How is this program catering their uniforms and culture to suit young girls?
    4. What is my community doing to inspire young girls to participate in sports? Are they highlighting the high schools’ female athletes in the same way as the males?
    5. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns!

At the end of the day, the statistics speak for themselves. By the age of 17, over 51% of girls have completely dropped sports, and over 67% feel like, “society doesn’t encourage girls to play sports”.

It only takes one person to make a change in their community. Bring BOKS to your school to spark the joy of movement in kids of all ages and abilities. Start a new sport in your child’s school if they don’t have a girls’ team! Volunteer your time as an assistant coach or help with pick up and drop off for kids that might need it. There is always something that can be done to help girls stay in sports to reap all the benefits of movement and teamwork!

What are you doing to help?

Michela North

Former 2x All American Basketball Player

ACE Certified Health Coach

All BOKS Resources – What You Need To Know

AN IN-DEPTH LOOK AT ALL THE BOKS RESOURCES TO SET YOU UP FOR SUCCESS THIS YEAR. 

 

The new school year is here and we wanted to take a moment to re-introduce ALL the resources BOKS has to offer and break down each one to make it super easy to select the right ones for you. We’ll also share some tips on the best ways to utilize each resource to keep kids moving throughout their day, and hopefully all year!  

If you’re looking for resources that are great to fill a longer block of time (25-45 minutes) like a PE class, look no further than the BOKS Physical Activity Plans! Each resource will provide a variety of activity plans that take kids through a full warm up, running activity, skill, game, cool down, and nutrition tip (called BOKS Bits). Here’s a quick run-down of each Physical Activity Plan resource: 

Elementary and Middle School Physical Activity Plans 

If you’ve been a part of BOKS for a while, you’re probably very familiar with these resources. Our Elementary and Middle School Physical Activity plans are the ORIGINAL programs created by BOKS and are intended to get kids moving for 35-45 minutes, 3 times a week. Each resource offers 72 activity plans (24 weeks of plans, 3 per week) that are perfect for a before or after-school program, or to support PE programming. Each program follows the same structure and provides age and stage appropriate activities for Elementary and Middle school kids (ages 6-14). 

Break the Ice with BOKS

This ice breaker and teamwork resource is designed to activate minds and bodies while getting to know each other in a fun, collaborative setting.  As a new school year approaches, or the start of a new session of classes at a club or organization, it is so important to get to know your peers or “team.” These activities consist of teamwork games and ice breakers that you can do in the classroom or gymnasium.

Full STEAM Ahead

This resource incorporates science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics across the curriculum. Educators throughout the world are using STEAM concepts in their classrooms. These concepts are helping to promote problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, curiosity, decision making, leadership, entrepreneurship, acceptance of failure and more.

BOKS Bootcamp 

This Bootcamp program is perfect for young adults and is built more like a personal training program. Reebok coaches will take youth through an equipment-free workout that focuses on building confidence and competence in specific skills. There are 10 activity plans for kids ages 12-18 that are intended to be done whenever they find 25 minutes in their days. This program is self-guided but supported through instructional videos as well.  

Physical Activity Plans at a Distance 

Is your program still restricted by physical distancing protocols? No problem! BOKS offers two resources that model our original activity plans but accommodate physical distancing and little or no equipment in each. This is perfect to use with kids ages 6-14 and will take about 25 minutes. Again, these are great to use in before or after-school programming, or in place of a PE class. 

Lessons on Demand 

These on demand classes are perfect for in-person or at-home learners and follow the same structure as our Physical Activity Plans. Kids will be taken through a huge variety of lessons that are also instructed in a linked video by lots of different BOKS friends. There are 59 plans and videos to choose from and are a perfect fit for classes embracing a blended model of learning. Each lesson is about 25 minutes and is easily adaptable to many different environments, as well as accommodates physical distancing if it’s something still impacting your program.

BOKS Bursts 

This is one of the most popular BOKS resource offerings- by far! Bursts are 1-10 minute activities intended to offer movement breaks to kids throughout the day. They are transferable to almost any environment, easily modifiable, and super fun. With over 200 activities to choose from, you’ll be able to find endless ways to get kids 6-14 moving, at any time of the day. Bursts are excellent for transitions during classes or for breaks and are super useful in helping kids get their wiggles out! 

Monthly Calendars 

Each month, BOKS offers a themed calendar that provides one planned Burst activity for every day of the school week. This is a great tool to use if you’re looking for an easy way to integrate BOKS into your program as it has everything planned out and provides links for instructional activities. It’s a great resource if you’re looking to get active with your wider school community as well!  

BOKS delivers lots of wonderful, specialized content to support health and wellness, and provides some variety and balance to our activity offerings. We understand that not all kids get active in the same way, and we want to encourage a holistic approach to healthy living. 

Mindfulness and Movement Flows 

This resource is perfect for building mindful practices and bodily awareness through movement. It includes 25 different activities themed around breathing, mindfulness, movement flows, stretching, and gratitude exercises that can be done in most environments and only take 5-10 minutes. These activities pair great with Bursts to bring some calm after burning off energy but can also be used on their own. They’re great for ages 6-18 and can be super beneficial for kids to learn how to build independent coping strategies

Get Your Run On (at school or at home) 

This running resource will get kids at school or at home excited to build their cardiovascular strength and endurance. Kids can participate in a couch to 2km or couch to 5km version of the program and can access videos and tips and tricks to assist with each option. Get Your Run On is perfect for kids aged 6-14 and only takes 20-30 minutes/physical activity plan (there are 24 total). Running can be a big challenge to introduce, but this resource makes running fun and accessible for all.  

Junior Leadership Program 

Do you have students who are looking for more opportunities to become leaders in their communities? This resource will give you everything you need to build out and implement a student-led Burst program at your school. The program will walk staff and students through four different sessions (about an hour each) to become BOKS Junior Leaders and provide Burst activities to students in their school communities. This program is adaptable to fit each unique program and gives kids ages 11-18 the skills and confidence to lead activities for their peers. It’s an incredible tool for building sustainable physical activity in school communities.  

Keep Kids Moving at Recess 

As we saw playgrounds become highly restricted during COVID, it was important that we offer a resource to support kids in getting active during their unstructured time. Keep Kids Moving at Recess provides super simple activity offerings that are intended to be done outdoors, require minimal equipment, and are built for large groups of participants. It’s a great way to include any kids who seem stuck on the peripheries during unstructured time or practice for Junior Leaders in your school.  

Are You Game? 

This resource is all about getting moving through PLAY! Full of games, puzzles, crafts, and activities, this resource is amazing for getting a little silly and having fun. While the times vary a bit with each activity, you’ll have 30 games to choose from that can be done from home or at school. This resource takes us away from more skill-based activities and brings a focus to creativity and fun.  

And if that wasn’t enough, there are a few extra resource offerings that can help to support your program and get kids even more engaged in their health and wellness: 

Healthy Recipes

A big part of healthy living is healthy eating! Why not explore in the kitchen and get familiar with cooking healthy recipes? This resource offers fourteen amazing recipes for kids ages 6-14 to start cooking with and can include the whole family. The directions are easy to follow,straightforward, and use minimal kitchen tools to create tasty and healthy treats.  

Winter and Summer Fun Packs 

No need to worry about keeping kids active while on break. BOKS has developed Winter and Summer Fun packs for kids to keep active at home during their breaks from school. Each Fun Pack comes complete with recipes, crafts, games, BOKS Bursts, and physical activity plans for kids to choose from while at home. These are fantastic resources to get families moving together but can also be used by individuals looking to get active on their own. Great for ages 6-14 (but really anyone who wants to join in) and provides over 100 different options to choose from.

Activity Trackers 

Whether you’re looking for a tool to track weekly or monthly activity, BOKS has you covered! Help kids tangibly track their activity independently, track activity as a group, or use throughout your community to engage everyone in getting active together! The monthly tracker pairs perfectly with each monthly Burst calendar.  

Whatever you’ll need this upcoming school year to get kids moving, BOKS has something for you. Be sure to keep an eye out for all these resources on the NEW BOKS trainer hub, and check out the document titled “All BOKS Resources 2021” for descriptions and breakdowns of all the resources at your disposal.

Ready to get started with BOKS?

Sign up today and gain access to ALL of these resources for free!

Move Your School with BOKS – A Contest Case Study

The English Montreal School Board’s B.A.S.E. (Before and After School Enriched) Daycare Program kicked off its first-ever B.A.S.E. BOKS Contest in seven school daycares on January 18, 2022. The goal of the three-month competition was two-fold: To get children ages 4—12 years old physically active as often as possible and to encourage the daycare educators to animate different games that keep physical activity fun and engaging!

The grand prize up for grabs was a BOKS kit of physical activity equipment from a local supplier valued at $400 and a visit from Kim St. Pierre, the Manager of Business Development for BOKS Canada. Kim also oversees all BOKS schools in Quebec. In addition, Kim was a member of Canada’s National Women’s Hockey Team as goaltender from 1998 until 2011 and is a three-time Olympic Gold medalist.

Participation in the contest was voluntary. Participating daycares included Leonardo Da Vinci Academy, Gerald McShane, Cedarcrest, Parkdale, Edinburgh, St. Gabriel and Westmount Park.

THE PREPARATION

The daycare educators used four BOKS resources during the contest and animated the games in three different settings: schoolyard, classroom and gymnasium. Students participated in the BOKS activities in the morning before school started, during the lunch hour and after school. The number of different BOKS activities animated equaled the number of entries into the contest. Daycare educators submitted pictures as proof of participation.

In January, the daycare educators facilitated the BOKS Recess Cards games outdoors when the weather permitted. These games were quick to animate and play and required very little, to no equipment. This resource was a favorite amongst many!

In February, the competition required more commitment! Daycare educators were encouraged to animate games from the Are You Game? booklet in the classrooms. Although this resource is loads of fun—it requires time to prep the materials. In order to keep staff and students motivated, two photo submissions per activity were accepted: one photo of the game materials being prepped and one photo of the students participating in the activity. The daycares got competitive and didn’t give up on the chance for bonus entries!

Educator workload eased up in March with the Break the Ice booklet. Between gaining momentum in the contest and getting back to simpler activities, the educators and students in some of the daycares completed all the activities in this resource before the month was up. Therefore, for the final sprint of the contest, the staff and students were allowed to use BOKS Bursts and bank in as many participations as they possibly could.

A participation tracker was sent to all the daycares at the end of each month. It motivated the staff and students to keep moving!

THE OUTCOME

The highlight of this contest: 40 daycare educators from seven school daycares animated 1,287 BOKS activities with approximately 700 students in Pre-K to Grade 6 over a three-month period.

Due to the disparity in the number of participations between the daycares, two categories were created. During a virtual meeting with all participating daycares, Leonardo Da Vinci Academy B.A.S.E. Daycare was randomly chosen as the Grand Champion of the B.A.S.E. BOKS Contest. They competed against Gerald McShane and Edinburgh B.A.S.E. Daycares in the category 300—700 participations. Cedarcrest B.A.S.E. Daycare is the Winner for the category of 1-50 participations. They competed against Parkdale, St. Gabriel and Westmount Park B.A.S.E. Daycares. With a generous donation of new and second-hand gym equipment that came through during the contest, all daycares were able to receive a BOKS prize pack of different values. The Grand Champion still received the $400 worth of brand-new gym equipment.

In addition, Kim St. Pierre will be visiting the top-three performing daycares: Leonardo Da Vinci (677 activities), Edinburgh (322 activities) and Gerald McShane (319 activities). She will speak with the students and participate in BOKS activities with them.

THE IMPACT

Apart from having a tremendous amount of fun while improving physical activity levels, the daycare educators and students are now more familiar with the BOKS program and the possibilities of getting physically active! Large spaces and lots of time aren’t necessary to get active. Physical activity can happen in as little as five minutes and in as constrained a space as a classroom. In addition, the handmade activity props coupled with the equipment prize packs makes for really feasible BOKS Toolkits that can be used to keep physical activity fun and engaging throughout the school year!

We encourage everyone to try out a BOKS contest in their communities!

Jennifer De Freitas
Project Development Officer
B.A.S.E. Daycare Program, English Montreal School Board

Summer with BOKS

With summer approaching, are you thinking of new, inventive ways to keep your kids active? Looking for fresh curriculum ideas for summer camp? Or simply looking for ways to keep your kids, along with those kids in the neighborhood, active in fun, easy to implement ways? 

Explore our BOKS resources below to help you reach your goal of planning a day, a week or a month worth of activities to keep your kids/group having fun and being active over the summer months.

BOKS Bursts

If you aren’t familiar with BOKS Bursts, they are short movement breaks designed to keep kids moving throughout the school day and beyond. Bursts are a perfect option to get kids up and moving for short bursts of activity. In addition to written instructions, there are videos to show you how the Burst works. Check out these partner and group bursts to integrate into your summer schedule. 

Partner Scarf Toss & Catch

Materials: Scarves
Directions:
1. Distribute one scarf per pair of kids, have kids stand 1 meter (3 feet) away from each other.
2. Have kids toss the scarf back and forth to one another, with partners mirroring each other, each round switching their method of throwing.
  • Toss with dominant hand and partner catches with dominant hand.
  • Toss then spin in a circle as partner spins in a circle and catches scarf.
  • Toss then perform one burpee as partner performs one burpee and catches scarf.
3. Have kids get creative and perform different movements after throwing the scarf to their partner (e.g., donkey kicks, tuck jump).
Variations/Challenges: Instead of throwing and catching with dominant hand, have kids throw and catch with their non-dominant hand.

Pool Noodle Timber

Materials: Pool noodles (one per kid).

Directions:

1. Kids break up into groups of two to five. Each kid gets their own noodle.

2. Depending on the number in the group, and various skill levels, the kids in each group stand a set distance from one another holding their noodle upright with one end resting on the floor.

3. Based on the numbers, the trainer will pre-determine where each kid will be moving to when the game starts.

4. On the “go” cue, kids leave their noodles, trying to keep them standing by releasing and moving away quickly. They will then run to another noodle, attempting to grasp it before it falls to the floor. They will then repeat the action by moving to the next designated spot, and so on. Variations/Challenges:

  • Variations may include allowing the kids to plan the order of movements. A more complex version may involve crossing over the middle to the next spot instead of in a circular motion. Kids may use hula hoops instead of noodles. Depending on the skill level, hula hoops can be spun so that they remain upright like a top. This can involve playing the game over greater distances.

Elementary & Middle School Physical Activity Plans

Within our Physical Activity Plans you will find fun ideas for relay races and obstacle courses both of which are fun, engaging ways to get kids moving. An example of each is below.

Obstacle Course

Materials: Mat (if available), jump ropes, cones.

Set Up:

Place tumbling mat at start of course.

  • Line up jump ropes 10 feet beyond the mat.
  • Set up two cones about ten feet apart so that you’ve reached the other side of gym/field area.
  • Line up four cones close together.
  • Place one more cone about 1/2 way down gym/field area.
  • Kid starts by doing a forward roll onto the mat.
  • Then runs to jump rope and jumps five times.
  • Then does bear crawl between cones to end of gym/field area.
  • Do one cartwheel at cone and sprint back to end of line.

Relay Race

Just jumping Challenge (jumping jacks, squat jumps, tuck jumps)

Set Up: Two cones per team, place cones at start and end of gym/field area.

  • Kid does three jumping jacks.
  • Broad jump to end cone.
  • Three squat jumps.
  • Sprint back to the start and do three tuck jumps.
  • Next kid begins.

Summer Fun Pack

The BOKS Summer Fun Pack is a 50+ page document with a host of activities that will keep kids active and engaged throughout the summer months. It is complete with recipes, crafts, games, BOKS Bursts, and physical activity plans. 

Now that you have an idea of some BOKS resources you can access to get kids moving this summer, take the following next steps to help pull together a fun summer activity plan.

1.Identify your group. Students, campers or out of school attendees, at home kids.

2. Plan your activities. For summer camps or working parents, a set plan of activities will help create a routine for the kids. Kids tend to respond well to a daily routine as they know what to expect as the days and weeks go on. After looking through the above resources on the BOKS Trainer Hub you can use our summer planning page to outline a day at camp or simply plan out a day’s worth of activities for you kids and their friends.

3. Be sure to motivate and challenge your group. Inspire them to move, be active and have fun.One of the best ways to motivate kids is to get in there and participate with them. Modeling is a great way to get involved and show kids that the activities are great for all.

4. Keep it fun. Keep it positive! It is important to create a safe and supportive space where kids are comfortable trying new things. Create an environment where the kids want to come back for more!

Heather Chase

BOKS Team

HOW MINDFULNESS CAN IMPROVE YOUR FAMILY’S HEALTH

mental healthWhen you hear the word “healthy,” what do you think of? Maybe you imagine broccoli or push-ups, running or spinach. But do you think about your mind? The truth is, overall health includes both body and mind, and we can’t be truly healthy unless we’re taking care of our thought patterns and mental wellness.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on what you’re sensing and feeling in the present moment, without passing any judgment or allowing interruptions. Its practice has rapidly gained popularity after a barrage of studies show that mindfulness can reduce anxiety, stress, and symptoms of depression[1]. But does it work for everyone?

The answer is, YES! From children to elders, mindfulness has been proven to change the way the brain functions. It impacts the areas of the brain that control learning and memory, regulation of emotions, and the ability to understand different perspectives[2]. Children who have been exposed to trauma or significant life challenges stand to benefit from this practice even more, as mindfulness can have a particularly positive impact on developing brains.

Perhaps the best news is that this practice does not require a significant time investment. Just a few minutes a day is all it takes to start to feel the positive impacts of mindfulness. As an added bonus, this is something that can be done independently or in a group – families may find that making mindfulness a daily routine can help to bring a few minutes of calm to everyone’s life.

Examples of Mindfulness Activities

So, what exactly does mindfulness look like? While you might think of traditional meditation – sitting still with your eyes closed – that’s just one of many options you could choose to practice mindfulness. This practice can also be done while walking, laying down, inside or outside, and at any time of the day. Fortunately, BOKS, a free physical activity program for kids and families, has just launched a new Mindfulness & Movement Flows resource designed to take the planning out of mindfulness activities. Created by fitness instructors, this resource contains 25 short activities, ranging from 5 – 10 minutes in length, that all include a follow-along video. These activities are grouped into 5 categories:

  • Breathing – Focus on controlling and adjusting your breath.
  • Mindfulness Meditation – Tune into your surroundings and be aware of all that’s around you.
  • Movement Flows – Practice different movements, focusing on your balance.
  • Stretching – Be aware of your body and how different stretches impact different muscles.
  • Gratitude – Let go of your emotions and stressors by focusing on what you’re grateful for.

     

    To get the most out of your mindfulness activities, try taking them outside into your local park, backyard, or neighborhood. Research indicates that mindfulness has a far superior impact when practiced in a natural environment, away from artificial noises and distractions[1]. The great outdoors provides natural mental stimulation, which decreases the likelihood of a wandering mind. This contributes to the goal of focusing on the present without letting intrusive thoughts interrupt and provides support to those who may be new to mindfulness.

    Time to Jump into Mindfulness

    Now that you understand the benefits of mindfulness and how simple it is to practice, why not give it a try? Head outside and allow yourself to focus on your breathing, your surroundings, or your body. If you want additional guidance, sign up for BOKS HERE for free to download Mindfulness & Movement Flows and simply follow along with the videos.

    When you’ve tried your first mindfulness exercise, come back and let us know how it made you feel! And remember, mindfulness is not a competition – practice at your own pace, and soon enough, your mental and physical health will thank you.

    [1] Mayo Clinic. (2020). Mindfulness exercises. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/mindfulness-exercises/art-20046356#:~:text=Mindfulness%20is%20a%20type%20of,mind%20and%20help%20reduce%20stress.
    [2] Hozel, B., et al. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 191(1), 36-43. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S092549271000288X
    [3] Djernis, D., et al. (2019). A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Nature-Based Mindfulness: Effects of Moving Mindfulness Training into an Outdoor Natural Setting. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(17), 3202. Retrieved from https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/16/17/3202/htm

     

    SHEA PEASE

    BOKS Team

BUILDING POSITIVE MENTAL HEALTH

mindfulnessWe are coming up on a year since we first went into lockdown due to the coronavirus. Throughout the pandemic, mental health and maintaining positive mental health has been a top priority as we all navigate the constant pressure and stress that this situation has created. At BOKS, we are grateful for all that our trainers do to keep their kids moving and helping to support their mental health through movement. We hope this article allows you some insight as you focus on your own mental health and well-being.

Mental health- what is it?

Often, mental health is used synonymously with mental illness- but the truth is, they are two sides of the same coin. While approximately one in five Canadians will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime, ALL Canadians have mental health (CMHA, 2020). Mental health is a state of well-being, and just like physical health, isn’t just about the absence of illness. It’s important to create environments in which we, and those around us, can thrive rather than just simply survive through all life’s unexpected twists and turns! Here are a few things that signal your mental health is on track (CMHA, 2020):

  • You feel a sense of purpose.
  • Your relationships feel strong.
  • You feel connected to others.
  • You have a good sense of self.
  • You are able to cope with stress.
  • You are able to enjoy life.

This year has surely put our mental health to the test, as this prolonged state of uneasiness continues to linger. In order to be in a position to support those around us (students, family, friends, etc.), we first need to ensure we’re taking care of ourselves! We risk burning out if we continue to fill the proverbial cups around us while ours remains empty.

What can we do to maintain a healthy mind?

There are a huge variety of ways to support our own mental health, as well as the mental health of those we care about. It’s important to recognize that each persons’ mental health journey is unique, and strategies to maintain a healthy mind will be very individualized. Generally, there are some things we can do to create a healthy environment for healthy minds to THRIVE:

  • TALK ABOUT IT- why mental health AND physical health both matter. What being mentally healthy looks like. If it lives in the peripheries then we’re never able to fully prioritize our mental well-being.
  • Normalize expressing feelings- it’s so important! If this is a new process for you, try a Feelings Wheel to help label the emotion appropriately. Getting into the practice of naming our feelings can help us work through them in a much more positive way. It also helps to eliminate any shame around negative feelings that may creep in!Move your body! In whatever way feels right for you- go for a walk, stretch on the floor, dance to your favourite song, pick up heavy things and put them back down, just get your body moving. It does so much good for our brains! 
  • Do things that bring joy! Read, write, call a friend and catch up. Connect to the things that make you feel most YOU.  

It will take some time to figure out exactly what helps maintain your own mental health, but it’s time well spent!  

How to identify if you’re mental health is being impacted.  

The tough thing about mental health is that it isn’t always easy to determine when it’s being negatively impacted. How do we draw a line between mental health and mental illness? It won’t be the same for everyone, but here are a few things that might signal your mental health is starting to decline (American Psychiatry Association, 2018):  

  • Significant shifts in your sleep or appetite. 
  • Dramatic mood swings.  
  • Withdrawal or loss of interest in activities.  
  • Drop in functioning.  
  • Problems with concentration, memory, or logical thought.  
  • Increased sensitivity.  
  • Apathy.  
  • Feeling disconnected.  
  • Constant feelings of nervousness.  

If you’re experiencing any of these feelings, it’s important to have some strategies or supports in place. That might look like a trusted friend to talk to, a support line, or seeking support from a professional.  

Mental wellness is not just an individual responsibility- it’s a community responsibility. Our mental health is impacted through every interaction we have, and so the responsibility is shared by all. Good mental health has to be role modeled, actioned across different spaces (school, work, home), and woven into all conversations about wellness. Mental health is all about resiliency, confidence, and connection (CMHA, 2020), and we deserve to thrive mentally as well as physically!   

Resources  

https://cmha.ca/blogs/mental-health-what-is-it-really 
https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/warning-signs-of-mental-illness

LAUREN HUTCHISON, BOKS TEAM 

STEAM YOUR WAY INTO A BOKS CLASS – GET MOVING WHILE INTRODUCING STEAM CONCEPTS!

STEAM formerly known as STEM is an approach to learning that incorporates science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics, across the curriculum. Educators throughout the world are using STEAM concepts in their classrooms. These concepts are helping to promote problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, curiosity, decision making, leadership, entrepreneurship, acceptance of failure and more. These concepts are just as useful in our BOKS classes as they are in the traditional content areas. Check out some fun ways to bring STEAM into a BOKS class:

Science

Science is all about experimentation and observation. The way that we move can be observed by ourselves and others.

  • Have kids do star jumps as if they are lava rocks erupting from a volcano.
  • Even simple movements like turning in a circle can introduce basic science concepts.

Technology

Do you have access to a smartphone or some form of pedometer? This technology is quite easy to blend with physical activity.

  • If kids have access to pedometers have them track their steps over a given week. Do they get more steps during a school day or on the weekends?
  • Of course, I will give a plug to our BOKS Bursts which arguably are a use of technology to get kids moving. Just by clicking on a burst in our monthly calendar is using technology to get kids moving, or watching a BOKS Burst video.

Engineering

Engineering is about bringing new ideas to life. BOKS kids are always creating new games and ways of doing things. Often the best games and activities are the ones that happen organically.

  • Challenge your BOKS kids to create a new game. Break them into groups and allow them two or three pieces of equipment and see what each group comes up with. I guarantee the game will be different for each group, but the one thing they will all have in common is that they will be fun and inventive.

Art

The Arts bring out the creative expression in all of us. Dance, color, music, words and expressions are all modes that we can be creative in.

  • Let kids create their own dances to a song, play a game of charades and let the kids bring new ideas to life.
  • Kids can use their arms as paint brushes and use movement to get creative.

Math

Math is probably the easiest connection between movement and STEAM concepts that are used throughout the curriculum. Moving with numbers is something we do every day.

  • Kids can practice addition or multiplication or other math functions with movement. Challenge kids to create equations to movements.
  • Two tuck jumps plus four star jumps equals how many jumps?

Here at BOKS we know that kids who are more physically active are better able to learn and focus in school and in their daily activities. By using the STEAM concepts in your BOKS classes or at home, you increase your learning and growing power. Check out our April BOKS Burst Calendar and our special BOKS STEAM resource for more STEAM related activities.

Active kids = Active Minds 

HEATHER CHASE

BOKS Team

EASY AND INCLUSIVE POOL NOODLES GAMES

Have you ever seen the child who ignores the expensive toy and plays with the box that it came in? That is often the case with kids, as something insignificant may be a great source of interest. For those of us who work with children in the physical activity space, finding that “cardboard box” is a huge coup, especially if it is an inexpensive, convenient item. Pool noodles have fit that bill as they are generally cheap, but they are also versatile, easy to store and safe for games. They can be cut into various lengths for specific activities and are bright in colour for quick categorizing and grouping. Kids are inclined to actions that can be somewhat more potentially destructive actions such as swinging, swatting, and throwing, and pool noodles provide this outlet in a relatively safe and age appropriate manner. This article will feature fun and easy games that provide genuine physical activity for kids using pool noodles and can be adapted for most ages.

Pool Noodle Timber

  1. Kids break up into teams of 2 to 5. Each participant gets their own noodle.
  2. Depending on the number in the group, and various skill levels, the participants in each group stand a set distance from one another holding their noodle upright with one end resting on the floor.
  3. Based on the numbers the leader will pre-determine where each participant will be moving to when the game starts.
  4. On the go cue, participants leave their noodles, trying to keep them standing by releasing and moving away quickly. They will then run to another noodle, attempting to grasp it before it falls to the floor. They will then repeat the action by moving to the next designated spot, and so on.
  5. Modifications may include: allowing the participants to plan the order of movement, a more complex version may involve crossing over the middle to the next spot instead of a circular motion. Participants may use hula hoops instead of noodles. Depending on the skill level, hula hoops can be spun so that they remain upright like a top. This can involve playing the game over greater distances.

Tag My Foot

  1. Kids break up into teams of 2. Each participant gets their own noodle. The shorter the noodle the more difficult the game.
  2. Each kid will hold the other’s left hand, hold the noodle in the right hand, and stand arm’s length apart.
  3. On the go cue, participants attempt to strike one of their opponent’s feet with the pool noodle. Participants may move their feet in an evasive manner by hopping, jumping and shuffling in the space, all while keeping the grasp of hands secure.
  4. Modifications may include: holding the right hand of the partner and using the left for the noodle. Various length pool noodles will also increase or decrease the difficulty.

Pool Noodle Jump Rope

  1. Kids are challenged to grasp a pool noodle with both hands at each end and use the noodle as a jump rope by swinging it under their feet and then over their head.
  2. Modifications may include using different length noodles.

Pool Noodle Service Game

  1. Kids grasp a pool noodle near the bottom half and hold it out in front of them about waist high.
  2. They are then challenged to draw the other hand back and then forward striking the bottom of the noodle, much like a volleyball or badminton serve.
  3. The noodle is propelled in the air and kids are challenged to focus on how high and how straight up they can serve the noodle.
  4. Modifications may include: attempting to catch the noodle after serving before it hits the floor. They may also attempt to serve with the opposite hand or change the catching hand.

Pool Noodle Sweeper

  1. Kids break into groups of 2 or more. One long pool noodle per group is required.
  2. One participant acts as the “sweeper” by sitting or squatting on the floor with the other participants standing within a distance that does not exceed the length of the pool noodle.
  3. On the go cue, the sweeper grasps an end of the noodle and starts to move the noodle along the floor in a circular fashion by moving it in front to the opposite side and changing hands while circling the body and around the back. The sweeping continues in full circles while the others are jumping over the noodle as it passes and attempting to not allow the noodle to touch the feet.
  4. Modifications may include: Changing the speed of the sweeping. Kids can also try to hop instead of jump.

These are just some easy to try games that accommodate groups or individuals of most age groups of children. The space required is also not a limiting factor and can change the scope of the game depending on the amount of space or environment. The most important take-away from this is that a $1 store item can go a long way in getting a child active. What games can you invent?

CHRIS TREMBLAY

Regional Coordinator – Atlantic Canada

THE MANY BENEFITS OF BEING ON A TEAM

Often when you think of a team and kids, you think of competition. In fact, when I looked up the definition of “team” I got this: “a group of players forming one side in a competitive game or sport.”  When you think of BOKS – it is a place where we focus not only on making physical activity fun, but it’s where non-competitive skills are paramount. Yet, both of these environments cultivate the benefits of being a part of a team.   

At this time of year, many people are following and/or participating in football playoffs, basketball or hockey games. On media sources, it is hard to ignore several learnings on how a team works. Teams that tend to work well together and respect one another seem to have winning records. Teammates learn to work together to achieve a common goal – winning the game. The saying “we are only as strong as our weakest link” rings true in these situations as everyone needs to perform for the group to be successful.   

Even individual sports reap the benefits of being part of a team. Striving to get your individual best helps raise up the entire team. Winning a race is not just a win for the individual, but for the team as a whole.  Practicing for an individual race, whether it be a cross-country run, a 500m swim, or a ski slalom, you aren’t practicing alone, but with a group of people who share your same passion and will share not only your success but also your challenges. 

BOKS, on the other hand, is not focused on winning, but the many benefits of teamwork still thrive. I found another definition of team which was created by Northwestern Kellogg School of Business. It states that a “team is a group of individuals working together to achieve their goal.” So many of our games and skill work are based on teamwork. Kids involved with BOKS will often have the opportunity to work with a team that includes different ages and sizes. These teams must work together to complete a skill or activity. There is one game we play called “OVER UNDER”. In this game, we have “teams” of about five kids each that will form lines. The first kid will have a small object that they are going to pass over their head to the kid behind them, then that second child will pass the object between their legs to the kid behind them and so on and so on, until all kids have passed the object. In respect to teamwork, kids get to figure out that they will have to work together to make this game a success. The smaller, younger kids on the team may have trouble passing the object overhead, but are quite skilled at getting the object through their legs. The older kids need to figure a way to make the younger kids feel comfortable enough to listen to their directions on which way the object should go. Encouraging one another on this team is another key to a successful completion of this game. 

Our Five Favorite Teamwork Benefits at BOKS:

Confidence Through sport and programs such as BOKS, kids develop a sense of confidence in themselves and trust in others. When kids feel confident and secure, they are more likely to succeed in school and achieve personal goals. Having a positive self-image helps kids feel happy and capable. 

BUILDING YOUR CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM

Community The feeling of community is built in the BOKS program (and on teams), as kids share common interests, goals and attitudes. This feeling of belonging is created through a supportive, positive, environment that helps kids tackle challenges and thrive.

BENEFITS OF COMMUNITY

Friendship – We have seen kids in BOKS develop lifelong friendships through being a part of this program. These friendships help kids develop important life skills like getting along with others and dealing with conflicts and problems. Kids who develop friendships early in life are less likely to have social and emotional difficulties later in life. 

HOW TO SUPPORT SCHOOL-AGE FRIENDSHIPS

Cooperation – Cooperation is the process of working together to the same end. This skill is needed to be able to work together and be successful. Kids in BOKS gain positive social interactions and develop positive friendships through the experience of cooperation. 

5 TIPS TO TEACH COOPERATION

CollaborationAs teachers and BOKS trainers we want to help kids improve their outcomes of any activity that they doHaving kids collaborate forces them to debate, plan and solve problems togetherThese skills translate to a respectful and supportive learning environment