As the weather gets warmer children are ready for a change as you train them. Try the option of doing field days and relays with your kids. They are a great finale to your fitness training sessions.
Relays and field day activities reinforce teaching direction, timing, agility, and coordination. They also teach the importance of cooperation, conforming to following rules, and winning and losing games graciously. Emphasis should be on improving skill; not to prove who the best athlete in games is. Group instructors can also individually time students and see their improvement in a skill by performing the relays at the beginning and ending of a training program. It is also a great way to test kids without having to buy special equipment. Relays can be easily done with cones, beanbags, ropes, balls and other ordinary gym equipment. Some relays do not need any equipment at all. Most relay and field days can be played inside or outside.
5 basic types of relays follow. A variety of relays makes great field days/relay events.
Traditional relays consist of each person taking a turn and then sitting down after he has completed the event. In traditional relays students run from one area to another and back, often passing a baton or wristband to the next runner. The winning group is the first team to complete the task.
For a fun twist, on a hot day, use water instead of a baton. It can be transported with a bucket, bottle or sponge.
Modified relays are number, letter, or word-calling relays. They teach the kids to be alert to the task when called. An example of a modified relay would be “Stealing the Bacon”. Players are divided into two teams. The teams face each other. Players are numbered in sequence. If there are eight players on each team, they will be numbered 1 through 8. A “caller” puts the ball /object into the playing area and yells out a number.
The two players with that number run to get the “bacon” (ball or object). The player not in possession of the object or ball may try to win the “bacon” by tagging the other player who is attempting to take the object.
Locomotor relays teach locomotors skills and use controlled movements. They have a definite starting and ending point to distinctive parts of the room or area. An example of a locomotor relay would be balancing something on a person’s head or other body parts to a beginning and end point of a race.
Stability relays teach balance, movement, control, and coordination of a teacher-selected object. An example of a stability relay would be taking an egg and balancing it in a spoon from the start of a line to the end of the relay. Another example of a stability relay is to wrap a student from head to toe with toilet paper without it coming off their body. This is a good game to use at Halloween or Christmas party to make a mummy or a snowman.
Manipulative relays are a great way to practice skills. Kids go from one place to another performing the relay, running and dribbling a ball or skipping, hopping, etc. A combination of these skills can also be implemented.
When doing relays there are many basic guidelines that should be followed. Keep teams small. Teams of relays should not be more than 4-6 players long since kids spend a portion of their time waiting to perform the tasks. Make sure that teams are equal in number. If there’s an unequal team have students take turns being the additional person for their team. Never do a relay more than twice during a game session unless kids are very motivated to try the game again.
Teams should be frequently changed so less skilled participants can be moved to different teams discretely. Infractions of the rules should be discussed and emphasis on positive social learning should be addressed. Make sure that the area is safe and free from any obstructions. Modify your relays as needed. Have uncooperative kids sit out for one round, if infractions of rules are frequently ignored.
There should be a definite starting, ending, and a turning point in the relay. Have the children sit down and then make sure they are quiet and listening to instructions of the leader. Use a definite signal to start and end the relay. Cones, chairs, large water bottles are very effective for marking the key points of the course. Walls for turning or ending points in a race should not be used in a relay. They are dangerous and can cause accidents with overzealous players. A non-pointed or soft object that the child carries to another member of their team when they have finished the event is an effective way of having the children/ teacher know who is the active participant in the event.
The group game leader should demonstrate and verbally explain how to do each part of the relay. Sitting down after the player¹s turn is a good signal that the child has finished the task. It also calms the runner down after he has completed the event.
Kids often need a trial run and a chance to practice the relay in order to give them the confidence to successfully do the event. It also helps the group fitness instructor discover which parts of the game should be explained again. Kids then can act as teachers and explain the relay in their own words to the other participants. Sometimes children can be the best teachers. Never be afraid to stop a relay and explain things again that are confusing. Never force a child to participate. Rather, have them act as your assistants, gofers, or monitors of the game if they would not like to participate. Frequently encourage them to join in.
Here is a starting point for identifying great ideas to use in your next field day/ relay event. Field days and relays can be a fun part of your group instruction. What a great way to help children participate in fitness!
Christina Chapan is a certified special education and elementary teacher. Christina has a B.S. from North Central University in Elementary Education, an M.A. from Governors State University, and a C.P.T. from the American Council of Exercise and International Science and Sports Association. She is also certified in group fitness from AFAA.
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