Ideas for Joyful Learning During School Closures: Let’s Get Physical … and Emotional

This week, the education team wants to promote mental and physical health. We shared ideas to get moving and get in touch with your feelings, so your family can take care of themselves and have fun too.

At-Home Learning: PBS SoCal and KCET, in partnership with LAUSD and in collaboration with California PBS stations, are offering broadcast programming with digital resources that adhere to California’s state curriculum. Download this week’s schedule.

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PBS SoCal and KCET’s staff want to say “Happy Mother’s Day!” to all the mothers out there. The pandemic has added additional duties to the ones you already juggle every day, and we want you to know how much we appreciate everything you do, big and small. For all the hats you always wear so well — as a mother, teacher, entertainer, and caregiver — we applaud you and send you warm virtual hugs. We hope to inspire you with ways you can joyfully celebrate and connect with your children. 

Thank you, moms, for all you do,

The Education Team


The weather in Southern California is warm and sunny — the perfect time to be outside and soaking up the sun. This changing of the seasons also makes us acutely aware how long we have been staying at home. And while we may be getting used to our new routines, it’s important to encourage your kids (and yourself) to stay active and to check-in on their feelings during this time. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the current health crisis makes this month more important than ever to focus on our mental and physical well-being. It is totally normal for you and your kids to be managing higher stress levels during this time. This week, the education team wants to promote mental and physical health. We shared ideas to get moving and get in touch with your feelings, so your family can take care of themselves and have fun too. As our favorite tiger says, it’s okay to feel anyway.

Ideas for Early Learners (Pre-K–3rd grade)

WATCH

Did you know that yoga can be perfect for kids? Kids can practice yoga on their own as a peaceful independent activity. Or you can turn a yoga session into a fun group activity to do with friends or relatives over video call. Yoga teaches us how to tune into our breathing and helps balance the body and mind, which makes it great for supporting physical and mental health. Take a look at the Cosmic Kids Yoga channel to find yoga videos for kids aged 3+ that allow them to practice mindfulness and yoga through active storytelling.

A little girl and her mother sitting crosslegged on a green lawn.
A little girl and her mother sitting crosslegged on a green lawn. | PBS.org

Watch Pinkalicious build an obstacle course for her unicorn and get inspired to make your own out of household items such as laundry baskets, couch cushions, boxes, and pillows. Create exciting challenges for children to complete during the obstacle course such as, “can you hop on one foot or balance a book on your head?” Build a mountain of cushions to climb over, and jump into a plush pile of pillows at the end of the climb. Mix in larger physical obstacles with fine motor skill development, like balancing a small ball in a spoon, and if the ball falls out, you have to start the course again! Keep track of how long it takes to finish the course and encourage little ones to try to beat their previous time. 

CREATE

Painting with watercolors can be a relaxing way to unwind after a long day of distance learning or serve as an escape from screens. Because of the watery qualities of watercolors, you can’t mix in white paint to make a color lighter or black paint to make a color darker as you would with traditional paints. Instead, you can experiment with the intensity, or value, of watercolors by using more or less water on your brush. Try painting these lovely waterscapes to practice making different shades of blue, just by altering the amount of water you mix with the paint.  

Feeling crafty? Partaking in crafts can sometimes dispel restless energy! Check out this recipe to make your own playdough from the Play-Doh Kitchen. All you need is some flour, salt, warm water, oil, and food coloring. You can put your creation in the fridge to keep it soft so it’s ready to play with again and again. Have fun experimenting with different colors of playdough. What happens if you mix one drop of red food coloring with one drop of blue food coloring? What if you mix a piece of red playdough with yellow playdough?

READ

Enjoy an active storytime. Read one of your favorite books together. Then read the story again, but this time make up actions to go along with everything that happens in the story. 

We recommend Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson. This fun book is interactive on its own, having you shake, jiggle, and tap on the pages to bring about changes of the season for a lonely tree. Make it extra interactive by acting out the gestures with your whole body. 

PLAY

Have a dance party in your living room! Turn on your favorite tunes and make up some new dance moves together. Try choreographing some moves to your favorite song or if you need some inspiration, make up dance moves with Pinkalicious in this fun online game. Or learn the Cha Cha Slide with DJ Raphi

Have you ever practiced deep belly breathing when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed? If you have, then you know it can be a great way to slow down your body and calm your mind. With practice, deep belly breathing can become a familiar strategy that your child can use whenever they need to calm down or just need a moment to relax.

Ideas for Older Children (4th Grade-12th Grade) 

PLAY

Get moving with this Spell Your Name Workout Activity from the LA County Library. Each letter corresponds with a different exercise. Use the letters in your name to create a workout — definitely harder for those of us with long names!

Yoga and meditation are great ways to calm the mind and strengthen the body. Plus, it doesn’t take much space to do! As we shared above, there are tons of free yoga lessons online, but for your older children:

Learn a new style of dance with The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater! The dance company is offering online versions of their classes on YouTube. 

DO

Make your own Stress Ball out of balloons, flour (or rice, if flour is hard to come by!) and a funnel. After you create your stress ball, use markers to decorate!

Watch a sunset while on a family walk! This activity will get you out of the house and moving, but also presents a moment for reflection. When watching the sunset, have your family put away their screens and watch the sky. It may sound simple, but watching a beautiful sunset can help center you in the present and create time to check in on how you are feeling. And, everyone knows that SoCal has some quality sunsets.

WATCH

Learn all about your mind, and why you are reacting in certain ways, on the web series Braincraft, where host Vanessa Hill bridges the gap between science and your well-being in videos on forming habits or anxiety

One of PBS’s most meditative hosts is the incomparable Bob Ross. Watch episodes of The Joy of Painting  and follow along! 

More Resources

Mental Health Resources:

Read more about managing stress during this time, in Simple Steps for Parent and Child to Manage COVID-19 Stress

In the latest Above the Noise episode, host Myles Bess interviews CNN host W. Kamau Bell to answer the question,  Why Is Coronavirus Hitting People of Color So Hard? 

We want to hear from you!

We would love to see photos of you doing these activities with your family. Email your photos and stories to education@pmgsocal.org


When trying any of these activities at home, please make sure to always supervise children. When participating in any exercise or physical activity, there is the possibility of physical injury. The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. We are not medical health practitioners or mental health providers.