REGARDING BOREDOM: Yesterday versus Today. We all need a “GO-TO.”

“I’m bored.”

“Then go be bored.” my mom would reply.

“I’m bored.”

“Well hello, Bored. I’m Edward. Nice to meet you,” my dad would say, before turning around to continue whatever he was doing.

My wife recalls her mom giving her a list of chores when she would whine about being bored.

“I’m bored.”

“Great! I need the laundry folded, the dish rack cleared, the baseboards wiped, the toilets cleaned, potatoes peeled, and the floors mopped.”

She said it was incredible how quickly she learned to never utter those two words!

Knowing we’d receive NO empathy and NO instant gratification from our parents, both my wife and I learned to handle boredom similarly.

We both had a “GO-TO.”

A GO-TO is an easily accessible, enjoyable activity to help counter boredom and boost creativity. It’s a magical remedy used to build your story, move beyond the virtual and live in real time. 

Now don’t get me wrong. I realize recent studies suggest boredom is necessary. It enables creativity and problem-solving by allowing the mind to wander and daydream. However, it is my belief, that rather than daydreaming, a GO-TO can offer the same benefits of problem-solving and creativity. A GO-TO is usually a reliable, easy activity, requiring little concentration, and allowing the mind to wander.

Growing up, I relied on three GO-TOs when I was bored.

  1. Backyard Basketball – When I was 10-years old, I remember my dad giving me and my brother an option. “Would you rather go to the circus in New York or have a basketball goal in the driveway?” I know it’s an apple to oranges choice, but that is honestly what it was. With little consultation with my brother, we decided on the basketball goal. For me, the goal became my primary GO-TO! When none of my friends were around, I’d head out to the driveway and shoot some hoops.
  2. Oh, how I loved my bike – Growing up in a small town in upstate New York, there was nothing like taking off on my bike and exploring the backroads. First on my 1981 Mongoose Chromoly BMX bike, then later in the 1980s, a white Mongoose Switchback mountain bike. Screen Shot 2019-03-31 at 5.11.55 PMWhen I rode my bike, my mind would wander. I’d reflect on my relationships, my goals, my aspirations. This is very similar to the creative ideas people often report while they run. I have a colleague who says his best ideas are the ones he thinks of when he runs.Wiff
  3. Wiffle Ball – My third GO-TO required only a Wiffle ball and bat. Being a HUGE Yankees fan growing up, I spent countless hours in my backyard tossing the
    ball up and whacking it repeatedly. Prior to each hit, I would set up a scenario for added drama. “Two outs. Bottom of the ninth with Yankees trailing 5-2. Don Mattingly steps into the box with the bases jammed.” All this, of course, was said in my best Phil Rizzuto impression.

My wife would often take long road trips with her family. There were no iPads or DVD players with drop-down video screens in her late 70’s station wagon. Instead, to pass the time, she and her sisters were left to create their own amusement, their own GO-TO games. Here are her top three:

  1. Sing-a-longs­­- her oldest sister was a Girl Scout, so all the songs she learned she taught the family and they sang them over and over. Now our kids know them.
  2. Find it – Everyone was challenged to be the first to spot a deer OR windmill. The winner received an ice cream cone. Actually, everyone did, but it was a good incentive and back then, it didn’t take much to motivate a child.
  3. The Alphabet Game – Starting with the letter A, the girls would call out a category such as fruits and vegetables, TV shows, or cities and they would take turns naming an item from that category. Imagine the difficulty when they would get to letter X.

What our parents seemed to understand back then, is that boredom is necessary. Boredom is a tool to stimulate growth and creativity. It forces us to sit and ponder, to self-regulate, to focus, to think constructively.


Somewhere in time, boredom became taboo. It is falsely assumed if a child is bored, then parents or teachers “aren’t doing their jobs.” They feel the need to scramble and find some form of instant gratification for the child, eschewing the chance to problem solve for themselves.

Nowadays, in many situations, video games and other forms of screen time have become the default GO-TO. In a sense, they are the ONLY GO-TOs.

In my opinion, the primary way to find a GO-TO should involve a break from the blue screen. Not long ago kids would have “screen time” a designated amount of time to play a game or watch a video.

Now screens have become educator, babysitter, parent, sibling, friend, and dominator of time. It is as if every moment has to be filled with something. This is why we all (adults included) need our GO-TO.

A GO-TO should:

  • involve movement, hands-on experiences, or even getting lost in a novel
  • be organically developed by the individual who is experiencing boredom, something they truly enjoy
  • be a time to sit quietly, unplug and find solace


There is a difference between boredom and solace. Solace is what we strive for, it’s the feeling of being okay with the quiet and inactivity. Being able to sit in the silence, listen to our breathing and reflect. Sound impossible? Maybe, but if you can knock on solace’s door and walk in, it’s a game changer.

So challenge yourself by limiting your children’s device time and encouraging them to find their Go-To.

Tell them everything works better if you unplug it for a while, especially us.

Teach them it’s okay to be bored, to look up and count the cars on a passing train, or pick up a pencil and sketch, or just sit and embrace the solace. Like my mom said, just “Go be bored.”

Your screens won’t miss you. They aren’t going anywhere.


Ducharme, Jamie. “Being Bored Can Be Good for You-If You Do It Right. Here’s How.” Time, Time, 4 Jan. 2019,

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For the month of April, our students will discuss and participate in isometric fitness.

See below for an editable copy of April’s Macaroni Isometric Fitness Challenge.

Screen Shot 2019-03-25 at 1.20.51 PM

What are isometrics?

Isometrics are also known as static exercises. It’s a type of training where the body performs little or no movement while contracting muscle fibers. In other words, during isometric training, the joint angle and muscle length do not change during contraction. They are done in static positions, rather than through a range of motion like while performing concentric exercises.

Blueprint Fitness has listed 4 key benefits to isometric training as

  • Increased muscular endurance
  • Increased muscular strength
  • Toning
  • Time-saving has listed 11 benefits of isometric exercises. Click the link to find out more.

My goal is to introduce students and families to a variety of training methods in the ongoing process of promoting lifelong fitness. Isometric fitness is another way to add variety to our healthy habits. It takes up a limited amount of our precious time while using limited or no equipment.


In my classes, I’ve incorporated the macaroni timer.  This is a substitute for the traditional Mississippi count or the “one one-thousand, two one-thousand cadences. I remember playing American football as a child. The defense could only rush the quarterback after a 5 Mississippi count. The problem was Mississippi inevitably would lose a syllable or two resulting in a Missippi or a Missip or even a Sippi count. “1 Missippi, 2 Missippi, 3 Missip..”  (Oh, how I miss those days).

Often in class, our workouts challenge students to hold a static pose for a given amount of time. For example, “Complet a low plank for 15 seconds.” Without a second hand on our clock, we neede a way to count seconds independently. With the help of my first-grade students, we brainstormed words that could replace Mississippi. We finally agree on MACARONI for the following reasons.

  • Fun to say
  • Everybody loves macaroni
  • When said slowly (1 macaroni, 2 macaroni..), each macaroni is about one second in duration.

Ever since we’ve been using what we call, the macaroni timer. Here are my first graders in action using the macaroni count.

The Isometric Macaroni Fitness Challenge includes a fitness bank with twelve different isometric exercises. Participants taking the challenge must first cut out each of the exercises into twelve separate cards. Each day turn the cards over and spread them out so you cannot see the exercises. Randomly choose at least five cards. Complete each of the chosen exercises. Hold each exercise for the “macaroni count” listed on the bottom of the card. Count slowly and clearly – “1 macaroni, 2 macaroni, 3 macaroni…” Do not rush through the macaroni count. Feel free to increase the macaroni count for each exercise as the month progresses since you WILL get stronger!

Participants color the noodle on the calendar each day the Isometric Macaroni Challenge is taken. Signed calendars are turned in at the end of the month in order to receive an award certificate and a toe token.

Click April’s Macaroni Isometrics for an editable copy of the fitness challenge.

Click April’s Macaroni Isometrics PDF for a PDF version of the fitness challenge.

Click Isometric Exercise Bank for an editable copy of the exercise bank cards.

Click Isometric Exercise Bank for a PDF version of the exercise bank cards.

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10 Games – 2 “Must-Have” Pieces of Equipment for PE

We all have our favorite pieces of equipment used for our physical education classes. I documented mine in a previous post called, My 10 Favorite Pieces of Equipment for Primary PE. My list is growing and I’d like to pay homage to two items I use frequently, Foam Activity Pins, or cylinders as I’ll call them throughout this post, and Lollipop Paddles. Each is extremely versatile, beneficial for students of all ages and useful for a range of activities. Here are ten simple, fun, and adaptable games using foam cylinders and paddles. Each game is easy to set up and uses basic equipment. Enjoy!

Featured Equipment (click picture to purchase):

Lollipop Paddles

Foam Activity Pins


Operation Stack’em reminds me of the Hasbro game called Operation. Students need to be very steady in order for success. This cooperative challenge begins in pairs. Partners practice moving their cylinders around the room by pinching them between two swim noodles. Next, I challenge the partners to practice stacking and unstacking their cylinders. I give them two minutes to see how many times they can successfully do this. Then, the students get into a group of four where they are challenged to build a 4-stack. I have them repeat the 4-stack several times, encouraging them to mix up the order so that each student has an opportunity to place the fourth cylinder on top. Once this challenge is successfully completed, I allow each group to attempt a 5-stack, then a 6-stack, etc.


Set up:
Divide the gym in half with cones. Evenly space 6 poly spots behind each team’s baseline. Each spot is the foundation for each of the pillars.

Place 2 bins of cylinders (foam activity pins) on each sideline.
Put at least 2 pools or buckets in each of the 2 play areas. Sometimes I substitute basketball hoops or laundry baskets set a different height for each of the pools.

The Game:
Players try to accumulate as many tiers (cylinders) as possible to build their PILLARS OF POWER!
A complete pillar consists of 3 vertically stacked tiers.

2 ways to earn a tier:
– toss a ball into a pool
– catch a ball thrown by the opposing team
Any stacked tiers or completed pillars can be destroyed by the opposition. If this happens, any tier that is knocked on its side MUST be returned to the bins on the sideline. The round ends when a team successfully builds 6 PILLARS OF POWER or when the time expires.


Rules and set-up thoroughly discussed in the video.


Activity Procedures created by Chance Condran (@MrCondranHPE).

  • 2 students on each side of the court (Team A & Team B).
  • Team A serves from their end line to Team B
  • All players must stand on their end line for the serve.
  • Once the ball is served, players are free to move anywhere on their side of the court during gameplay.
  • The ball must go UNDER the “net” (jump rope)
  • Once the ball enters Team B’s side of the court, either player may strike the ball with their racquet or paddle. Their job is to hit the ball back to the opposing side.
  • Each player is allowed a maximum of two hits/touches every time the ball comes to their side. For example, one hit/touch to block the ball (if needed) and another hit to strike it back to the opposing side.
  • Players keep rallying back and forth until a point is scored.
  • Each team takes turns serving.
  • Play to 5 points, shake hands, switch sides & play again!

How to Score Points:

  • Hit the ball past opponent’s end line = 1 point for your team
  • Hit the ball out of bounds (on either side) = 1 point for the opposition
  • Hit ball over the net/rope = 1 point for the opposition
  • Knock over the net/rope with the ball or racquet = 1 point for the opposition




Divide the gym into quadrants. I always have a discussion on the prefix quad while explaining the game. Each quadrant houses one of four teams. Each team lines up 4 foam cylinders across the back of their quadrant. When the game begins, students use foam paddles to strike foam balls, attempting to knock over any of the opposing teams’ cylinders. The balls must be stuck in any one of the following ways:

  • Off a bounce
  • Tossed in the air, then struck
  • Off the ground

Balls cannot be kicked or thrown. When a team loses all of its cylinders, they immediately join the team to their right. The last team with cylinders wins the round.


Using foam paddles as candle holders and foam cylinders as candles, students explore a dark cave in search of artifacts and secret messages on the walls. The goal is to keep the candle lit while completing a variety of tasks. If the candle falls off the holder, the student must walk to the teacher or a student holding a torch (noodle) to relight her candle. This is a great opportunity for students to use their imagination while working on balance and body control.


Toss 12 had been shared more than any other game I’ve posted on Twitter (@justybubpe). I feel it’s because of its simplicity, basic equipment, and its adaptability for all grade levels.

Here are the simple instructions.

The Loner 1 Point – Ball lands in hoop / Cylinder remains standing

The Deuce – 2 Points – Cylinder falls / Ball stops outside hoop

The Ultimate – 3 Points – Cylinder falls and the ball stops inside hoop

To win, a player must score exactly 12.


This is a simple relay race that can be adapted for any grade level.

Rolling, tossing, catching, and hustle all rolled up into one game.

  • 1 point for knocking over the pin
  • HUSTLE after the ball
  • 1 bonus point for catching a ball tossed by your partner.

How many points can you score in two minutes?


The video pretty much explains the activity. I find this to be a great way to work on the underhand serving motion. Students are challenged to stabilize the non-dominant hand while striking the bottom of the cylinder.  Students must then attempt to catch the cylinder.


I’m always searching for ways for my students to use manipulatives to enhance their patience and body control. The paddle pin relay does just that. In pairs, students take turns carrying a cylinder across the floor by pinching it between two paddles, then carefully placing it on a spot. For increased difficulty, add a beanbag to the top of the cylinder. Students tally the number of times they place the cylinder on the spot in a certain amount of time.

Do you use lollipop paddles and/or foam activity pins? If so, I’d love to learn some of your favorite games. Please feel free to post them in the comments section.

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EMBRACE the STRIDES of MARCH – March Fitness Challenge

In an effort to bolster my goals as a physical education teacher and serve the needs of my students, I deliberately introduce various ways to keep kids’ minds and bodies healthy. Naturally, the monthly Keeping Kids in Motion Fitness and Nutrition Challenges help me accomplish that goal.

This month’s Embrace the Strides of March challenge teaches our students that even something as simple as playing outside or going for a walk with their family is an important means of staying physically and emotionally fit.

So this month EMBRACE your everyday, routine activities such as riding a bike, walking your dog, or hiking and take more purposeful STRIDES toward lifelong fitness.

Click EMBRACE the STRIDES of MARCH for an editable copy of the March fitness challenge.

Click EMBRACE the STRIDES of MARCH PDF for a PDF version of the March fitness challenge.

Click Embrace Certificate for a copy of the award certificate.

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8 More MASTER THE MINUTE Challenges


In one of my latest posts,  Master the Minute; 14 Active 1-Minute Challenges for PEI included 14 simple, partner challenges for physical education classes using minimal equipment. Since the post, I’ve used several of the challenges in a station format. For example, with a class of 40 students, I set up ten stations around the gym. While some of the stations include specific tossing, catching, striking, and team building tasks, others include several of the original 14 Master the Minute challenges. The Master the Minute challenges add an extra element of excitement and necessary reinforcement of teamwork and sportsmanship.

Recently, I brought home some equipment from school and gathered a few basic household items. I then charged my own kids to assist me in developing a new set of Master the Minute challenges. We immediately entered our “Creation Lab” to brainstorm possibilities. Through trial and error, we developed eight challenges I feel would work in any PE program OR as quick brain breaks in classrooms or at home! Insert a few of these activities plus the original 14 Master the Minute challenges into your stations. Let me know what you think!


Challenge: Stack four on top of each other using two pool noodles in one minute or less.

How to Play

The player holds a swim noodle in each hand. Each noodle is marked with a circle about 15 inches from the top. This represents the highest point the noodle can be held. On the signal to begin, the player uses the noodles to grasp an activity pin, then stands it up on a predetermined spot. I use a deck ring the spot. The ultimate goal is to stack the four activity pins on top of each other in one minute or less.


2 swim noodles (one large noodle cut in half)

4 foam activity pins

1 deck ring


Challenge: Balance as many noodle bits as possible on a partner who is holding a wall-sit pose in one minute. 

How to Play

Noodle Bits and Walls Sits is a partner activity. Set up a pile of noodle bits about twenty feet away from a wall, where one partner will perform a wall-sit pose. The second partner, the runner, begins the challenge near the pile of noodle bits. Once given the signal to begin, the runner takes one noodle bit at a time and attempts to balance it anywhere on the body of the partner who is performing the wall-sit. The runner repeats this process throughout the one minute. You could reduce the time to 30 seconds according to the level of your students.

*You may choose to have partners switch roles and play a second round.



#3 – POP and CATCH

Challenge: Each partner attempts to catch four noodle bits in four receptacles of varying sizes.

How to Play

Mark two lines about 6-10 feet apart, depending on the skill level. Along one line, set up four receptacles of varying sizes. Dump a pile of noodle bits on the opposite line. One partner begins as the popper and the second partner is the receiver. Once given the signal to begin, the popper pinches a noodle bit between his thumb and fingers until it pops toward the receiver. The receiver attempts to catch one noodle bit in each of the four receptacles. If this happens, and time permits, the popper and receiver switch roles. The ultimate goal is for each partner to catch four noodle bits in each of the four receptacles in one minute or less.

*I’ve also done this challenge with one receptacle rather than four different ones.

Equipment: 20+ noodle bits4 receptacles of varying sizes. I used a cone, 1 coffee can, and 2 oatmeal containers (small and large)


Challenge: Pick up a ping pong ball using a cardboard spatula, then drop it on a cone in one minute or less.

How to Play

Place a ping pong ball on the floor about five feet away from a cone. When given the signal to begin, the player must scoop the ball onto the spatula, then carry it to the cone. Once at the cone, the player must drop the ball on top of the cone. If the ball hits the ground either while transferring it to the cone or while attempting to place it on the cone, the player simply scoops the ball and continues to try and place on top of the cone.

Equipment: 1 cone with a hole at the top to hold the ping pong ball, 1 ping pong ball, 1 homemade spatula consisting of a 3-inch x 4-inch piece of cardboard and a clothespin.


Challenge: Bounce a ping pong ball off the ground, then into the wall and into a cup as many times as possible in one minute.

How to Play

Set up a plastic cup about one foot away from the wall. Secure the cup with a weight to prevent it from falling over. I placed the cup in a roll of duct tape rather than adding weight. On the signal to begin, the player attempts to bounce the ball off the floor, into the wall, then into the cup.

Equipment: 1-3 ping pong balls, 1 plastic cup, a weight to place in the cup or a roll of duct tape to prevent the cup from falling over.


Challenge: Pop as many noodle bits as possible into a bucket in one minute.

How to Play

PLAY WITH 2-4 PLAYERS. Divide the noodle bits evenly for each player. If the match is 1 versus 1, one player gets all the blue and green bits and the 2nd player gets the red and yellow bits. Players arrange themselves about 3-4 feet from a common bucket, placed in the center. On the signal to begin, players begin popping the bits into the bucket. Play continues for one minute. If either player pops all bits in less than a minute, they can retrieve any bits NOT in the bucket, as long as they don’t interfere with other poppers. The player with the most bits in the bucket wins the round.

Equipment: Noodle bits or a *deck of playing cards, 1 bucket

*If using playing cards, divide the cards by color for two players or by suit for four players.


Challenge: Bounce a ping pong ball off the ground and into a bucket held on top of your head as many times as possible in on minute.

How to Play

The player stands on a spot holding a coffee can or bucket on top of his head. On the signal to begin, he bounces the ball off the ground and attempts to catch it in the bucket. The bucket MUST be touching his head while making a catch. After each bounce, the player must return to his original spot before bouncing the ball again.


1 poly spot1 ping pong ball

1 large coffee can or small plastic bucket


Challenge: Bounce a SKLZ Reaction ball off the ground and successfully catch it as many times as possible in one minute.


How to Play

The player begins by holding a SKLZ Reaction Ball away from their body at chest level. On the signal to begin, the player drops the ball then tries to catch it. This process is repeated and the student tries to catch the ball as many times as possible in one minute.


SKLZ Reaction Ball


ENJOY, and as always, please share your ideas and suggestions.


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