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Moving Children to Learn

Does your child love to rock out to music or enjoy a competitive game of kickball with the neighborhood children? Getting and keeping children moving has more than just physical benefits, it also stimulates children's most vital organs: their brains.

Like adults, children need regular exercise. Experts recommend children get at least an hour of physical activity every day. Regular exercise not only strengthens the body, but it lowers stress levels, which can help children stay focused in school.

According to a recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health, children who play vigorously for 20 to 40 minutes a day are also better able to organize schoolwork, complete class projects and learn mathematics. The link between learning and movement demonstrates how important it is for children to exercise daily.

So how you do get your children's blood pumping to the brain in the age of video games, computers and cell phones? Here are a few tips:

Keep it fun. Encourage your children to play games that include critical thinking as well as physical activity. Games like hide-and-seek require strategic thought, observation and lots of running. Try playing hopscotch, kickball, jump rope or freeze tag with your children. While simple in nature, each of these games requires reasoning and strategy as well as physical prowess.

Get creative. Children love adventure and role-playing. If your children's favorite bedtime story is set in the jungle, encourage them to act out the identities of the animals. Ask them what a lion or a monkey sounds and behaves like, and let them put on a little show for you. Later, re-read the story together so they can read more about the animals and perfect their performances for the next time around.

Get in on the action. Set an example by being active with your children. Ask them questions about their games, and encourage them to use their imaginations while having fun. When the weather is nice, go on nature hikes in a nearby park or forest preserve. If you live in the city, create a list of items that can be collected and go on a scavenger hunt to find items on your list within a certain period. To keep kids active and learn new skills, consider signing up for a class together through a community centre or local program. Most children love it when their parents get in on the action.

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