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Kindergarten Behavior Issues in Physical Education

by Ashley K. Alaimo

Physical education class can be the highlight of a kindergartener's school day. Stretching their legs, running around and socializing with friends are some of the many benefits of PE time for children. But with all the excitement surrounding the opportunity for gross motor play, a child may sometimes forget to practice polite behavior toward her teachers and peers. If your child's teacher mentions to you that your child is struggling with behavior in class, have a family discussion about appropriate behavior when learning about physical education. Safety always comes first -- an important lesson that children should keep in mind in any environment.

Contagions

In a group of children, you can always pick out the leaders of the pack. A popular disruption caused by over-excitement is contagious behavior -- better described as "monkey see, monkey do." This is when one or two students begin to act out and the rest follow suit. If your kindergartener is involved in this behavior, explain to her that while it's fun to play with her friends, it hurts the teacher's feelings when the class doesn't listen. In addition, if the behavior gets out of control, she may miss important information about the lesson and someone could get hurt.

Nonparticipating Behavior

While many kindergartners love to exercise and play, some children prefer to sit on the sidelines and observe the action. Nonparticipating behavior can be caused by lack of self-confidence. Shy children often feel threatened when they step out of their comfort zone, especially when it comes to using their bodies. Ask the teacher for a copy of her lesson plans to practice at home with your child. Julie A. Rinaldi, staff psychologist in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, says that praising your child for her accomplishments and positivity can help reinforce the positive behaviors you want to encourage. You can also invite one or two of her friends over to play "gym class." The familiar environment may help your child feel more at ease and willing to participate. In addition, she will know what to expect during the next lesson, which will boost her confidence and encourage a love for physical education.

Roughhousing

Having a good time can quickly turn into roughhousing with children. Physical playfulness can especially be a problem in gym class, due to the ability to move around and excitement over new experiences. If you are informed that your child is engaging in roughhousing in class, it is time for a serious discussion at home. Explain to your child that, while he may just be playing around, it is possible his friends may not understand his behavior. As cited in an ABC news report, research from Richard Fletcher, the head of the Fathers and Families Research Program at Australia's University of Newcastle, shows that it's good for parents, and especially fathers, to roughhouse with their children. However, what is appropriate behavior at home isn't always appropriate for a PE class full of other children. But your kindergartener is old enough to understand that different behavior is expected in different situations. Help your child brainstorm different way to interact with his friends in gym class that don't involve roughhousing, like high fives.

Storytelling

Physical education class is a special part of the day, which means the time to learn is limited. In your child often goes on long storytelling tangents, give him a gentle reminder that staying focused is an important part of gym class. If he tells long stories, he could miss a game rule that will help him and his friends stay safe while having fun. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, give your child a sketch book and encourage him to draw pictures of his stories at home. He can present his teacher with the drawing the next day with a short explanation instead.

About the Author

Ashley K. Alaimo is a writer, blogger and certified teacher in New York. She has a master's degree in elementary education and early childhood education from Medaille College, as well as a bachelor's degree in music and theater from Buffalo State College. Alaimo has also worked as an education specialist with ages birth to 12 years old, creating classroom and enrichment curriculum for various early childhood centers.

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