For your next STEM activity, get 2-in1 workout out with a game of physical exercise mixed with brain training: iIt's the Computational Exercise Game!
3-8 year olds
The next weekend, when you need a work out -- it's time to move with your kid while playing a computational game about loops and rules. You will be moving and learning together!
It's work out time! Clear space in your home or lawn, and tell your child you'll be working out together -- and there will be special rules. You'll be focused on 3 things: Loops, Sequences, and Conditional Statements. You can tell your kid these 3 concepts explicitly if they're a little older.
The main rule to know is the Conditional Statement: If, Then.
Today we will use two conditional statements, Green and Red.
If you say Red, then the child must freeze.
If you say Green, then they need to go right back into the exercise.
Ask your kid what kind of music to listen while exercising together -- what music will give us energy?
Choose the right track and playlist together, and get it playing.
Now it's time to explain which exercise moves you'll be doing together. Pick 4 different moves in total, like Jumping Jacks, Planking, Front Kicks, and Jogging in Place.
Let the child know you'll be doing Loops: a set of 1 move, then to the 2nd, then to the 3rd, then to the 4th, and back around in a Loop.
The Loops Begin! For each exercise you will do it with them -- but you'll also be in charge of the Conditional Statements, saying Greens and Reds.
Time to start with the Jumping Jacks -- do 10, until you say "Red". When you say Red, you freeze -- and your child should as well. Start it back up with Green -- but now change the exercise -- time to go to Plank.
Hold the Plank until you say Red, then drop to the ground and freeze. Make sure your child understands the Conditional Statement: If the parent says Red, then we stop.
Keep going through the loop of your 4 activities and then come back to the start.
Hug your kids after each total loop of 4 that you do -- the payoff hug!
On the second loop -- time to change the Conditional! Now the Red and Green don't mean Stop and Start anymore. You are re-programming those commands.
Now, Green means: Jump as high as you can!
And Red means: Plank! Drop whatever you are doing and get into plank position, parallel to the ground, hold -- and then return to your previous move.
Keep going through the loop of your 4 moves -- and have fun taking turns being the controller: who gets to say Green or Red, to get a jump or a plank?
Continue through five total loops of your moves, and you're done! Always remember to do the hug at the end of each loop, too.
As you cool off, do some stretches with your child -- your arms, hamstrings, sides -- and talk about what you just learned. What does a loop mean? What loops showed up during your exercises? And what do Conditional (if-Then) Statements mean? Which Conditional Statements were you using in the exercise?
Tell your child you can play the Computational Exercise again -- and if they want, they can play the Controller, setting the Move-Loops, defining what Red and Green mean, and issuing the Conditional Statements.
Until next time!
PhD in Education
Originally from Turkey, then Pittsburgh, now California
I got my PhD in educating kids how to code, and how to think computationally so they can thrive in STEM. I have been researching how Offline Activities -- where kids aren't in front of a screen, but are playing in the real world -- can help kids get core concepts of coding.
There are plenty of good reasons to be physically active for you and for your kid! Regular exercise changes the brain to improve computational thinking skills. The main points to emphasize through this exercise are two: Loops and Conditional Statements. Your child should recognize that you are putting moves into a defined sequence, and when the sequence ends you are starting back to the beginning. This is a loop! And the Conditional Statement is the If/Then when one action (saying a code word, for example), means you have to take a specific action (like, jumping as high as you can). Both Loops and Conditional Statements are key to programming, and exercise makes for a great way to learn them.