How to Keep Kids Healthy & Active During Remote Learning

Combine fun with a pinch of self-discipline, and you’ll be well on your way to a wellness routine your child wants to follow.

Prisma Staff
January 5, 2023

Prisma is the world’s most engaging virtual school that combines a fun, real-world curriculum with powerful mentorship from experienced coaches and a supportive peer community

Remote learning caught a lot of families and school districts off-guard. When social distancing mandates shuttered brick-and-mortar schools at the start of the covid-19 pandemic in the U.S., parents had to supervise every aspect of their child’s education, from math and reading to recess and physical education classes.

Among the unexpected challenges of that abrupt switch: how to keep kids healthy and active during remote learning — even as screentime skyrocketed and worries over coronavirus strained our collective mental health. Parents suddenly were responsible for keeping children active and incorporating regular physical activity into their routine (on top of all the other obligations that come from supervising a child’s school day).

Today, even as millions of children have gone back to school in-person, online learning has established itself as a part of the education landscape: for many, it’s occasional, tied to weather-related school closures or temporary accommodations; for others, virtual learning is a choice.

But whether your child learns from home on a regular basis, or just a few days over the course of the school year, there are steps you can take to help them adopt healthy habits.


Start small and build momentum

A 1% improvement sounds small, but over the course of a year, the benefits compound (much like interest in a bank). This concept, that we teach in our Prisma High school life skills course, is the foundation of James Clear’s Atomic Habits, a groundbreaking guide to automating the things in our life that contribute to the person we want to be — and disincentivizing the things that detract from our sense of self.

One of Clear’s core principles is the idea of starting small when you take on new habits: just do one, concrete thing, at a set time, every day, and you’ll soon be ready to take the next step.

No one would walk into a gym and expect to bench press 500 lbs on the first day, but sometimes these pie-in-the-sky expectations keep us from taking the step that would one day make that possible: lifting one pound. (Or, let’s be honest, for some of us, walking into a gym.)

Encourage your child to start with one jumping jack before breakfast and add another rep every day. Teach them to get into pushup position, and lift themselves one millimeter off the ground. (And get down there with them!) Have them take one gonoodle break halfway through their school work.

As the body adjusts to the new demand, the mind will start to respond by realizing what you’re asking it to do is actually possible. This positive feedback loop will end up leading you to go further in a year than you imagined when you were dreading that single jumping jack.

Let them choose their own adventure

There are five recognized components to physical health:

1. Muscular Strength

2. Muscular Endurance

3. Cardiovascular Endurance

4. Flexibility

5. Body Fat Composition

The reason for this list is not to convince you to launch a comprehensive plan to attack all five areas tomorrow. (See the above section on starting small.) The point is that there’s a lot of choice in terms of what it means to be active — so let your child start with whatever is fun for them.

If they love running around, see if they can increase the amount of time they play tag, or create a speed scavenger hunt with the neighborhood kids. If they’re super bendy, incorporating yoga or gymnastics movements into play time could be a great place to start. For kids who are itching to audition for top chef, introduce them to healthy recipes. There’s no wrong point of entry when learning to connect to your body, as long as you do it under the supervision of a responsible, responsive adult.

When they get these small wins, it will help reinforce the idea that they’re capable, giving them a boost of confidence they can carry over into their next endeavor — perhaps in an area that feels just slightly out of their comfort zone.

Wellness doesn’t have to be a drag (does it?)

Is it cheating to make a habit fun? We don’t think so. One technique that James Clear recommends is to bundle habits to make them more attractive.

Temptation bundling pairs an activity you don’t want to do with one you do want to do: for example, walking on a treadmill for an hour while having screen time, which helps you associate exercise with pleasure. (Bonus: you’ve accomplished the cdc’s physical activity recommendation for adolescents, without exceeding their screen time limits).

Ritualization uses positive motivation to encourage a challenging initiative. Think of it as a ‘pre-game’ routine, like listening to your favorite song before stepping up to the plate. Choose your ritual, experiment as needed, but then set it on autopilot: the idea is to make it easy on your brain, so there’s no chance it throws any objections in your past.

Find an accountability buddy

Humans are social creatures: If we commit to an activity with someone else — whether we choose to do the activity with the buddy or just promise to share our personal progress — we’ll be more likely to follow through. And, when we experience setbacks, we’ve got a cheerleader at the ready. As our Prisma learners go on their habit-building journey, their coaches serve not only as cheerleaders but also sounding boards who can help them reflect on wins and challenges, developing a growth mindset as part of the ride.

You might encourage your child to pick a peer as an accountability buddy, or an adult mentor, or both. The more the merrier. In addition to the increased likelihood of actually achieving your goals, an accountability partner can be a great social connection, ensuring distance learning isn’t isolating.

Get in the habit of building habits

At the end of the day, there are certain habits that experts agree are beneficial for all people. But whatever activities your child chooses to adopt, keep in mind that one of the most valuable lessons that can come from the experience is how to build healthy habits and break ‘bad’ habits, in general. That skill will pay dividends throughout their life. As they grow and change, they’ll be able to be in control of their well-being, by starting new healthy habits and letting go of old ones that no longer serve them.

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