Let’s Move! Active Schools is Partnering with Sqord

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Sqord is another Activity Point closer to keeping kids active and fit!  We are so excited to announce a new and impactful partnership.  Let’s Move! Active Schools, part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, announced nine new partnerships today, and Sqord happens to be one of them!

Dedicated to ensuring that 60 minutes of physical activity a day for children is the new norm in K-12 schools across the country, Let’s Move! Active Schools equips schools with the resources and tools to increase physical education and physical activity.  Sqord is proud to be a part of this initiative!

“We’re thrilled to be part of such a high-impact initiative as Let’s Move! Active Schools, which fits so perfectly with our Sqord mission to provide a proven solution that gets kids active and healthy again through technology and gamification.” –Paul Sebastien, CEO, Sqord

Click here and here for more information about this exciting new partnership!

 

 

3 Things to Do Now to Get Ready for Back to School

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It’s back to school prep time!  Here are some ideas to make the transition back to school smooth and seamless for your family.  Read on for three things you can do to help your children prepare for the upcoming school year:

1. Routine, routine, routine:
A big chunk of the battle is getting back into a regular school routine.  Have your children practice getting up and getting dressed at the same time everyday.  Start practicing assembling outfits (and finding shoes!) each night to save time in the morning.  Get your children into the habit now of making sure their backpacks are organized and ready to go before they go to bed.  You can even start to serve snacks and meals at the same time your child will have them in school.   And don’t forget fitness – building exercise routines as a family is not only fun, it will help your children feel excited for P.E.!  Click here for inspiration!

2. Put on a happy face:
Thoughts of homework, uncertainty about new teachers, worries of making new friends – as children start to head into back-to-school mode, they can experience a lot of different feelings, ranging the gamut from excitement to dread.  Your influence as a parent can have a huge impact!  Help instill confidence that this year is going to be the best school year yet for them.  Discuss with each child their joys and concerns for the school year – what are they looking forward to?  What are they nervous  about?  Start a journal where you and your child(ren) can communicate your feelings about the school year openly.  Mention exciting opportunities such as making new friends, joining clubs or sport teams, and the opportunity to learn about new and  interesting subjects.

3.  Get organized:
A stitch in time saves nine!  We know this is a tough one, however the more organized you are now, the better off your children’s first few weeks of school will be.  Make a place for your kids to stash book bags, a spot for important papers, a lunch packing station in the kitchen, and a calendar for everyone to write and keep track of important dates.  Also, start to think about getting your children involved in programs after school to keep them active and provide something fun and challenging for them to look forward to at the end of the school day.

A Message from our Founder, Coleman Greene

 

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Hello Sqord parents, teachers and coaches!

With summer winding down and school just around the corner, we are excited to be launching our newsletter and blog posts to provide more regular updates of all that we are working on here at Sqord. Your support to date has been amazing and we cannot wait to have you join us for the wild ride ahead!

Sqord was founded with the vision of being able to provide kids everywhere with fun, enjoyable experiences around everyday healthy habits. As we work towards that big, awesome goal, please know that your feedback is critical and hugely valuable to us. Let us know how we are doing by you and your kiddos. Are there any topics you would like us to focus on? Any ideas or requests? As always, thanks for the support – keep moving, syncing, and playing!

-Coleman Greene

3 School Lunch Ideas Destined for Lunch Room Envy

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Here at Sqord, we know that nutrition and playtime go hand in hand, and healthy eating is crucial for providing your child with ample energy to earn all those Sqord Activity Points. The dog days of summer are coming to a close, with children across the nation heading back to school in a few short weeks.  Aside from the usual back-to-school shopping, it’s time to dust off the old lunchbox, or perhaps splurge on a shiny new one. Quell the unspoken dread of packing lunches five days a week with these three quick, and healthy, recipes for your children.

1. Quesadillas:
Tired of the standard sandwich?  Look no further than quesadillas! Kids will gobble them up and they can be devoured cold.  Fill a large tortilla with apples and peanut butter, and serve with a side of raisins and carrots for a dairy free lunch sure to please.  Or sub the wrap for lettuce if your child is gluten intolerant.  Adding a tasty side and maybe a small serving of chocolate covered almonds will be a hit!

2. Spaghetti:
Who says pasta can only be served at dinnertime?  Let your child enjoy this for lunch. All you need is pasta, turkey meatballs, marinara, and a little shredded parmesan.  Add in an extra element of flavor (and veggies!) by substituting regular noodles for zucchini noodles – the unofficial squash of fall!  To serve this warm, heat it up in the morning and pack in a thermos.

3. Mini-Kebabs:
These are perfect for little fingers!  Try this versatile treat with any combination you can imagine.  Our delicious suggestion: grapes, ham cubes, and cheese cubes on decorative toothpicks or skewers.

Bonus: we are in the process of developing a nutrition app for your child, designed to be used with their Sqord.  Stay tuned to our blog for more updates!   

Tips to Keep your Child Active During Busy School Days

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Summer is the season of play, but movement and activity does not have to end as fall approaches and school starts.  When school is out for the day, make sure to set aside time for play!  Here are three ideas to keep your child active after the last school bell rings.  Hint: don’t forget to wear your Sqord Pods!

1. Living room dance party:  
Crank up the tunes to get everyone up and moving! Parents – you can set a custom Goal for silliest dance moves and award Sqoins in the Family Portal!

2. Head to your backyard — or a neighbor’s backyard:  
Set up a simple obstacle course and see how quickly each of your children can complete it.  Jump ropes, hula-hoops, hopscotch: the sky’s the limit!

3. Make it a family thing:  
Incorporate exercise into your daily routine as a family.  Walk to the local park, go bike riding or take the dog for a stroll.

Earn Activity Points Underwater!

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Do you have a child who loves to swim?  Don’t let a little water keep your child from earning their hard-earned Sqoins and capturing the intensity and duration of all their movement underwater!  While the school year has already started, or will be starting for many of our Sqord families across the nation, it is still swimming weather in many areas. The great news is your family can keep earning Activity Points even while swimming!  Your child may wear their Sqord Pod underwater for up to 30 minutes in the deep end of the pool.  Once you have finished, don’t forget to help your child tag it as an Activity in their Activity Chart!*

*How do you tag an Activity in your Activity Chart?  It’s a breeze! Simply log in to your Sqord Player Portal and select ‘Activity Charts’ from the drop down ‘Directions’ menu.

Meet Grace Daley, Former Women’s Basketball Player & Sqord Ambassador!

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It’s back-to-school time with Sqord!  This year we have a team of Sqord Champion Ambassadors* to help us put some extra pep in our Sqord steps.  One special Ambassador is Grace Daley from B.E. S.M.A.R.T.™ KIDS and College Park Elementary in Ocala, Florida.  A former professional women’s basketball player and an enthusiastic teacher, Grace says “Sqord has helped change the entire culture of my grade level.  I’m a former professional athlete and I wear a Sqord Pod along with my students, and I was struggling to stay in the Top 10 on the LeaderBoard in my class!” Grace has learned ways to build movement into her students’ school routine, and is excited to share what works for her with other Team Admins.  

At Grace’s school, she came up with “Sqord Up Friday,” a 20 minute recess where all Sqord players run around the track, earning loads of Activity Points and cheering each other on along the way.  Before heading back in to class, kids sync their Sqord Pods to their classroom’s iPad.  They even have an awards ceremony to recognize Players of the Week in different categories, such as Most Improved Player, and to celebrate movement and wellness as a team.  Way to go Grace!

*What is a Sqord Ambassador?  Our Ambassadors are active, diverse and influential Admins of their team or organization.   These Ambassadors have volunteered to keep kids moving, help newer Team Admins succeed with Sqord, and to serve as sources of all-around inspiration for the Sqord universe, making movement fun and creative, and inspiring imagination and happiness all around.  If you are a current Team Admin and are interested in joining the Sqord Ambassador crew, please e-mail coach@sqord.com for more information.

Interested in hearing more stories about how our Sqord Ambassadors inspire their students?  Follow us on social media for mini-lessons from our Ambassadors, along with the latest and greatest Sqord news!

Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today

This article originally appeared on The Washington Post here, and was written by Valerie Strauss.

The Centers for Disease Control tells us that in recent years there has been a jump in the percentage of young people diagnosed with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, commonly known as ADHD: 7.8 percent in 2003 to 9.5 percent in 2007 and to 11 percent in 2011. The reasons for the rise are multiple, and include changes in diagnostic criteria, medication treatment and more awareness of the condition. In the following post, Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist and the founder of TimberNook, a nature-based development program designed to foster creativity and independent play outdoors in New England, suggests yet another reason more children are being diagnosed with ADHD, whether or not they really have it: the amount of time kids are forced to sit while they are in school. This appeared on the TimberNook blog.

A perfect stranger pours her heart out to me over the phone. She complains that her 6-year-old son is unable to sit still in the classroom. The school wants to test him for ADHD (attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder). This sounds familiar, I think to myself. As a pediatric occupational therapist, I’ve noticed that this is a fairly common problem today.

The mother goes on to explain how her son comes home every day with a yellow smiley face. The rest of his class goes home with green smiley faces for good behavior. Every day this child is reminded that his behavior is unacceptable, simply because he can’t sit still for long periods of time.

The mother starts crying. “He is starting to say things like, ‘I hate myself’ and ‘I’m no good at anything.’” This young boy’s self-esteem is plummeting all because he needs to move more often.

Over the past decade, more and more children are being coded as having attention issues and possibly ADHD. A local elementary teacher tells me that at least eight of her twenty-two students have trouble paying attention on a good day. At the same time, children are expected to sit for longer periods of time. In fact, even kindergarteners are being asked to sit for thirty minutes during circle time at some schools.

The problem: children are constantly in an upright position these days. It is rare to find children rolling down hills, climbing trees, and spinning in circles just for fun. Merry-go-rounds and teeter-totters are a thing of the past. Recess times have shortened due to increasing educational demands, and children rarely play outdoors due to parental fears, liability issues, and the hectic schedules of modern-day society. Lets face it: Children are not nearly moving enough, and it is really starting to become a problem.

I recently observed a fifth grade classroom as a favor to a teacher. I quietly went in and took a seat towards the back of the classroom. The teacher was reading a book to the children and it was towards the end of the day. I’ve never seen anything like it. Kids were tilting back their chairs back at extreme angles, others were rocking their bodies back and forth, a few were chewing on the ends of their pencils, and one child was hitting a water bottle against her forehead in a rhythmic pattern.

This was not a special-needs classroom, but a typical classroom at a popular art-integrated charter school. My first thought was that the children might have been fidgeting because it was the end of the day and they were simply tired. Even though this may have been part of the problem, there was certainly another underlying reason.

We quickly learned after further testing, that most of the children in the classroom had poor core strength and balance. In fact, we tested a few other classrooms and found that when compared to children from the early 1980s, only one out of twelve children had normal strength and balance. Only one! Oh my goodness, I thought to myself. These children need to move!

Ironically, many children are walking around with an underdeveloped vestibular (balance) system today–due to restricted movement. In order to develop a strong balance system, children need to move their body in all directions, for hours at a time. Just like with exercising, they need to do this more than just once-a-week in order to reap the benefits. Therefore, having soccer practice once or twice a week is likely not enough movement for the child to develop a strong sensory system.

Children are going to class with bodies that are less prepared to learn than ever before. With sensory systems not quite working right, they are asked to sit and pay attention. Children naturally start fidgeting in order to get the movement their body so desperately needs and is not getting enough of to “turn their brain on.” What happens when the children start fidgeting? We ask them to sit still and pay attention; therefore, their brain goes back to “sleep.”

Fidgeting is a real problem. It is a strong indicator that children are not getting enough movement throughout the day. We need to fix the underlying issue. Recess times need to be extended and kids should be playing outside as soon as they get home from school. Twenty minutes of movement a day is not enough! They need hours of play outdoors in order to establish a healthy sensory system and to support higher-level attention and learning in the classroom.

In order for children to learn, they need to be able to pay attention. In order to pay attention, we need to let them move.

To Make Children Healthier, A Doctor Prescribes A Trip To The Park

This article originally appeared on NPR.com here, and was written by Sam Sanders.

When Dr. Robert Zarr wanted a young patient to get more exercise, he gave her an unusual prescription: Get off the bus to school earlier.

“She has to take a bus to the train, then a train to another bus, then that bus to her school,” says Zarr, a pediatrician at Unity Health Care, a clinic that serves low-income and uninsured families in Washington, D.C. So the prescription read: “Walk the remaining four blocks on the second bus on your route to school from home, every day.”

Kelssi Aguilar, his 13-year-old patient, wasn’t exactly excited about the change at first. “He told me about the four blocks and I told him it was a 40-minute walk and I was too lazy,” she said. “I was thinking, am I really doing this? I’m going to be late for school.”

Kelssi was actually 10 minutes early the first day she tried the modified route. Kelssi has kept up the walking. And Zarr says she’s moved from obese to just overweight — which is very good.

About 40 percent of Zarr’s young patients are overweight or obese, which has led the doctor to come up with ways to give them very specific recommendations for physical activity. And that has meant mapping out all of the parks in the District of Columbia — 380 parks so far.

The parks, mapped and rated based on facilities and in a searchable database by zip code, can be linked to patients’ electronic medical records. Zarr did it with help from the National Park Service and volunteers from George Washington University’s School of Public Health, park rangers and other doctors. Zarr also received some funding for the project from the National Recreation and Park Association, the National Environmental Education Foundation, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Zarr writes park prescriptions on a special prescription pad, in English and Spanish, with the words “Rx for Outdoor Activity” on top, and a schedule slot that asks, “When and where will you play outside this week?”

But it’s not just about the parks. It’s about what the patients want, too.

“I like to listen and find out what it is my patients like to do,” Zarr says, “and then gauge the parks based on their interests, based on their schedules, based on the things they’re willing to do.”

There are other park prescriptions projects getting started across the country, but none have matched the level of detail in Zarr’s parks database.

To Get Kids Exercising, Schools Are Becoming Creative
Many children aren’t used to going to parks, notes Dr. Steven Pont, medical director for the Texas Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity in Austin.

“If you didn’t grow up in a family that went camping or experienced outdoors and if you’re more from an urban environment, then going out to a park and experiencing nature might seem a little daunting,” Pont says.

A program like Zarr’s can help reduce that discomfort, Pont says. “The park prescriptions really help kids and families engage and get to those parks and say, ‘Hey, I belong here too.’ ”

The CDC would be happy with these guys, who were playing in Birmingham, Ala., in July 2013. Teenage boys say basketball is their favorite activity.
Shots – Health News
Most Teens Aren’t Active Enough, And It’s Not Always Their Fault
Of course, not every park is safe, especially in the District. The neighborhood next to one of the parks Zarr discussed with Kelssi, Kingman Island, had 30 incidents of violent crime over the past year.

“The more parks are used, the more people are there, the safer and the better they are,” Zarr says. “We want people first and foremost to be safe, and be active and be part of the solution to fixing parks that aren’t quite what they should be.”

Ultimately, Zarr says, he wants his parks database to exist in an app, on your smartphone, where doctors and patients alike can use it. And, one day he’d like to be able to track his patients’ activity in parks, to find out exactly how much good a little green space can do.