How To Help Physically Prepare Your Child To Go Back To School After Remote Learning

Your child is likely to be excited to return to school in person this year. However, going back to school in 2021 has presented new challenges for families that they have not faced before. Many children took part in remote learning at least for part of the 2020-2021 school year, and possibly even for the 2019-2020 school year. Inadvertently, this affected their ability to participate at gym class or in sports. They also didn’t walk to the bus stop, walk between classes, pick up items from lockers or play at recess. These gaps in their movement could have a negative impact on their physical health.

Johns Hopkins University researchers have studied the effects of remote learning on children’s physical health. They found that most children did not get the recommended exercise to keep them healthy during the pandemic. Children are less active in summer because many children stay at home and do not participate in school-based physical activities. Many students are now experiencing declines in their gross motor skills, as well as in strength, balance and coordination.

There are many ways to help your children get ready to return to school.

These are some fun and exciting ways that your child can improve their physical health and be ready for school. This should be fun for both you and your child.

Obstacle Courses 

Activity: You should include at least one of the following movements in your obstacle course: rolling, snake crawl/hands/knee crawls, jumping and walking (with one leg in front of the other), balancing with one foot, and sitting down. To make a balance beam, roll a towel lengthwise, then place a tube/broom under 2 chairs so that the child can crawl under them or jump over them. You can have them roll across the towel and let them squat to grab an item for them to bring through the obstacle course. You can allow children to bring along stuffed animals, dolls or toys through the obstacle course. You can also use puzzle pieces or game pieces for older children.

Results: Obstacle Courses are a great way to practice navigation and improve a child’s understanding of where their body is located in space. You can improve your strength, balance, coordination and motor planning as well as endurance.

Bean Bag Games 

Activity: Bean bags can be made from beans/rice/quinoa. To prevent any mess, double bag the bag and tape the edges. Your child can stand on the ground, on a box, on a cushion, or on their knees, and then have them place the bean bags in a basket/box about 3-7 feet from them. Your child will find this more difficult if they are farther away and have to place the bean bags in a smaller basket.

Results This activity is great for preparing children for gym classes, balance and to strengthen their trunk muscles for when they sit in school chairs for extended periods of time.


Activity: Tape a piece of paper to the wall and place stickers books on the ground. Your child should squat, grab a sticker and then stand up to place it on the paper. To further challenge your child’s balance, you can have them stand on a thick pillow. To even further challenge their coordination, you could have your child stand walk sideways to place the sticker on the paper.

Results This teaches leg and hip strength, and prepares children to squat to retrieve items from low cubbies and lockers. It also helps them to be able to climb up and down the steps at school.

Cup Kick 

Activity: Use disposable cups to stack in a pyramid. Depending on your child’s height, it might take you from 3 to 5 cups to make the base. Stand on one foot, and have them kick one cup at a given time. Alternate feet, have them kick across their body, or have them kick sideways so they can kick over the cups.

Results – This works on a graded control system that will help your child if they have difficulty standing straight or standing at the school line without bumping into other children.

Ball Skills 

Activity: You can use a smaller or larger ball depending on the age of your child. Skills such as chest passes, bounce passes and underhand throws, kicking or rolling a ball, trapping or running up to a rolling or stationary ball and kicking it are some of the activities. You can also use paper towels and toilet paper to build towers that children can knock over with their ball skills.

Results These skills will prepare your child to return to the in-person gym class where they are required for success.

Relay Races/Animal Walks 

Activity: You can have a relay race with your child by having them grab a piece of a puzzle, block, Lego or memory match game or a piece of Lego. Then they run to the opposite side of the room, where they will place the piece in the designated area. You can also give them clues on which colors to look for, such as blocks/legos/puzzle pieces or even paper pieces. This game is even more challenging and fun when they are timed! You can make it more difficult by having your child do different animal walks or exercises between the items. For example, bear walk, crabwalk, heel walk, tip toe walk, rabbit jump, bunny hop and one foot hop. Have fun being creative!

Results Relay races can be a fun way to improve your child’s ability to change direction quickly. This skill is essential for games at recess and in gym class.

Chalk/Painters Tape games 

Activity: If there is an outdoor space, you can make a hopscotch and inchworm game. Then, have your child navigate the game using walking, jumping, or hopping. You can also use masking tape or painters tape to draw the same shapes indoors if you don’t have an outdoor space or it rains. Tape can be placed in different patterns on a hallway. Your child can then crawl under the tape and move around it without touching it.

Results This activity is great for helping your child to become more aware of space and to help them move freely through the classroom without bumping into desks or walls.

Balloon Games 

Activity: You can also use balloon work with younger children. You can use your feet or hands to tap/kick the balloon back and forth with your child. See how many volleys it can take before it hits the ground. This can be done independently so that your child can see how many times they can hit the ball on their own before it hits it. To make it more difficult, mark a spot on the floor with tape or other markings. Tell your child that their feet must not leave this area while they hit the balloon. The balloon can be placed between the feet or knees of your child and they can jump around the room, but not drop it.

Results: balloons can be used to practice eye-hand and eye-foot coordination. They also help with balance, visual scanning, balance, coordination, and coordination while causing minimal damage to household items.

Incorporating existing games into movement games 

Activity: You can write down the names of the movements on Jenga pieces (or tape them to a piece paper) and then perform the exercise while you are playing the game. If you take out the piece that reads “mountain climbers”, then you must perform a set number of mountain climbers. To determine how many exercises you will perform, you can use a die/dice and roll a number. Pop the Pig, and other games with multiple colored pieces can be transformed into movement games too. Each color can be used to represent an exercise. Red = boat pose; purple = jumping jacks; green = wheelbarrow walk; yellow = toe touches. You can also roll a die/dice before you start each exercise or decide how many. You can choose to make certain movements or exercises the main focus of this game if your child has difficulty with them.

Results These toys and games are great for focusing on areas where your child may need extra practice.

Loaded Laundry Basket games 

Global strengthening can be achieved through pushing and pulling games. Have your child load a laundry basket/diaper box with books, groceries, or even siblings. Then tie the sheet around the basket/box edges to protect the floors and have your child pull or push the basket/box around the house.

Results This will strengthen the muscles of the back and front of the body and prepare children to walk around school with a backpack.

Summer is a great opportunity to have fun and play, but ensure your child is healthy enough to return to school. Exercise can also help build confidence in children. Let’s have fun and improve our gross motor skills.

Pro+Kinetix Physical Therapy is available to help if you have concerns about your child’s ability or if they are struggling to do these exercises. For a free assessment, contact us or visit Pro+Kinetix Physical Therapy. We care about the well-being and overall health of our patients. Therefore, we will create a rehabilitation program for physical therapy that is just right for you!


Dr. Ben Bagge

Pro+Kinetix Physical Therapy & Performance

"We Help Active Adults & Athletes Get Back To Workouts and Sports They Enjoy without surgery, stopping activities they love, or relying on pain medicine."

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