Physical Education: Encouraging Parent Involvement

For most parents, chances are that the mention of “PE” calls to mind visions of supervised dodgeball in a dank elementary school gym once or twice a week. Of course, the value and benefit of physical education has been championed in recent years, and public perception has begun to swing in a positive direction, and just at the right time. Truth be told, in today’s culture of sedentary lifestyles and technological cocoons, the physical education classroom may be the only place where many children get any exercise at all.

Holistic approaches to education have driven the idea of educating the whole child, including the body. “A sound mind in a healthy body”, runs the famous quote. According to this idea, physical education should be treated as an academic discipline and given weight equal to any other subject (Siedentop, 2009). According to a survey done just after the turn of the century by the National Association of Sports & Physical Education, an overwhelming majority of parents (95%) believe that physical education is a necessary and valuable part of school curriculum.

Although the field of physical education has evolved rapidly, parental involvement has not kept pace. It is time for physical educators to win parents over and find ways for them to be involved in their children’s physical education. Whether you are a parent or a physical educator, we hope that you find some of the tips below to be helpful.

  • Introduce PE “home fun.” If PE is an academic discipline, then it stands to reason that students should be given “homework” of a sort. This will reinforce that PE is not just something that takes place at school, and will have the added benefit of (ideally) involving their parents, since PE will enter the home environment.
  • Host PE activities that children and parents can participate in together. Athletic achievements get lots of recognition from parents, but simple daily physical activity goes unnoticed and unremarked. Since work-a-day adults often cannot be present during the school day, try hosting a 5K walk for parent-child teams, or inviting parents to Field Day.
  • Join your school’s PTA group. John Baker, former IAHPERD President and PE Teacher of the Year, notes that engaging with parents through the PTA gives him a platform for ongoing with conversation with parents. In addition, by advocating to the PTA, you recruit agents for change; school administrators are likely to listen to parent representatives, and if you can get them on board with your mission, you can encourage physical education policy changes.
  • Build awareness of the importance of eating choices. Nutrition education is woefully underemphasized in most schools and in homes across the nation. In the NASPE study referenced above, while most parents stated that they actively encourage physical activity, only 50% of parents indicated that they restrict their children’s intake of unhealthy snacks and drinks. Perhaps you can collaborate with health professionals from your school or community to broach the topic and brainstorm solutions, for both school and home.

Further Reading

Siedentop, D. (2009). The heritage of physical education, sport, and fitness in the United States. Introduction to physical education, fitness, and sport (7th ed.). Columbus: Ohio State University.

Melanie. (2012). PE advocacy – get parents involved! Retrieved from pe4lifeblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/pe-advocacy-get-parents-involved.html

National Association for Sport & Physical Education. (2003). Parents’ views of children’s health and fitness: A summary of results. www.aahperd.org/naspe

National Association for Sport & Physical Education. (2011). Physical education is critical to educating the whole child. www.aahperd.org/naspe

Rink, J., Hall, T., & Williams, L. (2010). Schoolwide physical activity: A comprehensive guide to designing and conducting programs. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

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