What Kids are Taking Away from Ophea’s Daily Physical Activity Challenges
Whether it’s learning movement skills in Health and Physical Education (H&PE), outdoor play at recess, or getting active during Daily Physical Activity—the 20 minutes of physical activity mandated by the Ministry of Education—a regular school day is packed with activity. But there’s nothing regular about the times we’re in.
That’s why Ophea initially launched the 10-Day #DPAEveryday Challenge back in March and why it’s still relevant now. The #DPAEveryday Challenge considers the health of the whole family as they can connect through movement online. Presented through a series of ten eight-to-ten-minute videos, the Challenge gives families easy, adaptable ways to get up and get active—while making some (virtual) social connections along the way.
Take-away #1: Active, healthy living is more important than ever.
As kids continue to adjust to the current reality of social distancing and home-based learning and as parents/ caregivers struggle with competing demands and new, unexpected stressors making time for physical activity can sometimes feel like one thing too many. In fact, according to a recent study commissioned by ParticipACTION to support the release of the 2020 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth; through our collective support to COVID-19 public health measures, an unintended consequence has been that our physical activity levels have declined.1
This research shows that this effect has been especially pronounced on children and youth; with only 4.8% of children (ages 5-11) and 0.8% of youth (ages 12-17) meeting 24-hour movement behaviour guidelines during COVID-19 restrictions, compared to the 15% (5-17 years) prior to the pandemic.1 Fortunately, parental/caregiver encouragement, support, and engagement in physical activity were positively associated with their kids’ healthy movement behaviours. Each additional 20 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity by a parent is associated with an additional 5 minutes in their child’s daily physical activity.2
The truth is, the physical and mental boost we get from regular physical activity makes it more than worth the effort. Benefits of daily physical activity include improved fitness and overall health, maintaining a healthy body weight, growing stronger, feeling happier, and learning new skills.3
Take it from 12-year-old, Jordan—one of the young participants who offered his honest and insightful feedback on the initiative: “If I didn’t do my DPA during the day, I would feel lazy, but remembering the video made me force myself to do it. It made me feel energetic and happy.” Children like Jordan described their #DPAEveryday experiences as ones that fostered creativity and novelty – through which made them feel strong, confident, and accomplished. Active, healthy living and H&PE is more important than ever because let’s be honest, we stop playing as we age. In their participation, 13-year-old Coltrane realized that “kids are pretty good at making up games from scratch. They can make up games from nothing. As some people get older they kinda stop being smart in this area”.
The content of the Challenge videos draws on a wealth of Ophea resources and reflects the same educational concepts students are familiar with, making it a powerful way to harness the learning from Ontario’s H&PE elementary and secondary curriculum at home. Each challenge is designed with a word of the day that directly relates to the Ontario H&PE curriculum Active Living or Movement Competence so that kids and parents alike can practise these ideas in action.
Take-away #2: Safety comes first.
On each day of the Challenge an Ophea Ambassador presents a video focused on a different word. For example, on day 1, Andrea Haefele and her son Petie kick things off with a focus on BALANCE. They create a course on the floor using painter’s tape and navigate it while holding or balancing various objects. But—just like at school where the Ontario Physical Activity Safety Standards in Education are always top-of-mind—before they begin, they make sure to clear the area of tripping hazards. For the indoor home-based physical activity they also take off their socks, so they won’t slip on the hardwood floor. Andrea and Petie work on their physical fitness through the #DPAEveryday Challenge so they have the skills they need to participate regularly and safely in physical activity.4 The word balance extends beyond the physical into social-emotional development as well, for example balancing competing demands in life (more formally recognized as stress management and coping skills under Strand A: Social-Emotional Learning Skills within The Ontario Curriculum Grades 1-8: Health and Physical Education).
Take-away #3: Physical literacy means using movement skills in different ways.
Through the words DANCE, TERRITORY and JUMP, Ophea Ambassador Heather Gardner’s videos focus on building movement skills while having fun—and to great effect. “It never got boring because we were doing a different thing each day, working on different skills and combining them for new games,” comments Ireland, age 9. “I did lots of dancing and I loved it because I got to do silly moves,” adds Kassi, age 6.
Although families might not always have access to the typical equipment found in a school gym, it’s nothing a little creativity can’t solve. Throughout the video series, common household items like stuffed animals, bed sheets, cans of beans, and water bottles make frequent appearances. In fact, sometimes the unconventional equipment seems to make the activities even more fun. “[My favourite part was] making up games with different equipment,” says Isabella, age 8.
A physically literate individual is one who can move confidently and competently in a wide variety of activities and environments. 5Participants of the #DPAEveryday challenge switched it up every day with different games, different movement strategies, and different environments (whether it was the forest, living room, balcony, or backyard) which allowed them to feel happy, confident, strong, and energetic.
Take-away #4: Physical activity is a great way to make connections between subjects.
With H&PE happening at-home, there is great opportunity for cross-curricular topics to be infused in Daily Physical Activity. Liana Williams, a high school H&PE teacher and Ophea Ambassador, focuses on the word SKIP in one of her videos, demonstrating how to skip through a backyard obstacle course. In another video, she shares activity ideas focused on COOPERATION (such as a Fast Pass game, where—with a little help from the family dog—she and her partner pass a ball back and forth ten times before cycling through different activity stations). In both cases, Williams talks about how the activities don’t need to end there.
Liana’s activities incorporate social-emotional learning through development of healthy relationships and maintaining a positive attitude while participating. They also set the stage for literacy, inquiry skills, and numeracy through thinking, expression, and reflection; “You can keep track and then graph your results or journal about the experience,” she suggests. Or, for an art activity that takes well-being into account, she suggests participants create different images to reflect how they felt before they started the activity, how they felt mid-activity, and how they feel once they’ve finished. As students realize feelings of accomplishment after daily physical activity they may realize their potential and become more motivated to be active for at least 20 minutes every day.
Take-away #5: Getting active is even more fun when kids get to choose how to play.
By demonstrating a skill or activity then inviting families to come up with their own take on it, the #DPAEveryDay challenge makes it clear that there are no limits to the ways we can move and play. “I learned how to make up my own rules,” remarks Crosby, age 4.5.
Throughout the ten-day live challenge, Ophea saw more than 25,000 retweets, replies and likes and gained more than 1,000 followers. But, more importantly, families built social connections by contributing their own ideas and examples via social media. “It felt like we were part of a group or club striving to get moving together,” says Jordan, age 12.
From a child who sets up an indoor obstacle course that involves crawling under a chair, bouncing over a mini trampoline and balancing a book on their head, to a solo relay race across the lawn using a deck of cards as equipment, the shared posts show that new ideas are never in short supply.
Take-away #6: Emotional well-being matters.
Challenge activities also focus on building emotional well-being. For example, Williams guides participants through some mindfulness activities in a video about RELAXATION. Participants are invited to focus on their breath, to listen to and isolate the sounds around them, and to think about their connection to nature and how it can help them to feel more grounded—especially in these difficult times.
Take-away #7: Meaningful Health and Physical Education for everyone.
No matter their age, background, abilities or skill level, everyone should be able to succeed in physical activity. When focusing on the words TARGET and FITNESS, Haefele demonstrates how some simple modifications set the stage for success for her daughter Bella, who has both cognitive and physical disabilities. For example, instead of using a balled-up sock to hit a water-bottle target, Bella uses a big red ball. Emptying some of the water out also makes it easier for Bella to topple the bottle.
Take-away #8: Any which way you do it, daily physical activity makes a difference!
The series of videos concludes with a focus on the word HOME. Ophea’s Executive Director, Chris Markham, staff members and Ambassadors alike take a moment to show what daily physical activity at home looks like for them. From running through a forest, to jumping rope on a balcony, to doing yoga in the living room, they underline the most important take-away from the challenge: any which way we do it, #DPAEveryday makes a difference.
Share the #DPAEveryday Challenge with your students and family!
Although the initial live challenge has wrapped up, everyone still has an open invitation to join in! And because we believe in the benefits of being active every day, Ophea has teamed up with TVOkids on a series of physical activity energizer videos. By getting kids active not only are you promoting healthy living, you are supporting them to prevent and manage anxiety, increase memory, build problem-solving skills, and boost self-esteem too.
Join us in this #DPAEveryday movement, because we can’t stop moving! According to eight-year-old Isabella, even grown-ups are likely to be surprised by how addictive it can be. “I think my father had more fun than us,” she says. “He never wanted to stop.... [I’m] so tired.” But perhaps the most important reason to make daily physical activity part of your routine in these trying times is summed up in these simple but wise words from 9-year-old Ireland: “I’m happy when I’m active.”
And—now more than ever—a little happiness goes a long way.
 Moore SA, Faulkner G, Rhodes RE, Brussoni M, Chulak-Bozzer T, Ferguson LJ, Mitra R, O’reilly N, Spence JC, Vanderloo LM, Tremblay MS (2020). Impact of the Covid-19 Virus Outbreak on Movement and Play Behaviours of Canadian Children and Youth: A National Survey.Manuscript submitted for publication.
 Garriguet D, Colley RC, Bushnik T. Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour among Canadian Parents and Children Living in the Same Household. Health rep. 2017; 28(6):3-11.
 Tremblay,M.S., Carson, V., Chaput, J.-P., Dinh, T., Duggan, M., Faulkner, G., et al. 2016. Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth: An integration of physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep.
 Ontario Ministry of Education. (2019). The Ontario Curriculum Grades 1-8: Health and Physical Education. Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/2019-health-physical-education-grades-1to8.pdf