Kids push their muscular systems each day, but many don't realize just how important muscles are to daily activities. Engaging activities help kids understand how muscles work, from the cardiac muscles that keep the heart pumping to skeletal muscles that make the body move to smooth muscles that make up blood vessels. With a variety of activities on hand, you can help your child becomes more aware of this vital body system.
Kids often have difficulty picturing what is inside the body since all of the muscles, bones and organs are covered by skin. A life-sized self-portrait that focuses on the muscles will help your child imagine how his muscular system looks and works. You'll need a large sheet of paper so you can trace around your child's entire body. Have your child cut out 'muscles' from red paper that you attach onto his body outline. If you want to incorporate other body systems, you can cut out and apply the parts in layers. Start with the bones and organs on the paper cut out, followed by the muscles on top. Instead of gluing the muscles in place, use paper fasteners so you can rotate the muscles out of the way to see the organs underneath.
Getting physical keeps your child healthy and helps him understand how muscles work. His regular physical play gives you a chance to talk about the muscular system. Talk about the different parts of the body he is using and how his muscles feel while he moves around. You can also encourage your child to do different moves to focus on specific muscle groups. For example, you might have him cross the monkey bars to see how his arm muscles feel or compare running up a hill to running on flat land.
A variety of games work well to teach kids about the muscles of the body. A trivia game allows you to cover a variety of aspects of the system, from how muscles work to the names of muscles. Write questions that are relevant to what your child is learning. For example, if your upper elementary student has a test over the names of different muscles, your trivia game can center around those names. Another game idea is to have your child put up pictures of muscles on a body outline in the correct spot. For example, he would pin the calf muscle onto the leg and the heart muscle onto the chest of the body.
Building a model of a muscle helps your child see how real muscles contract and relax. A variety of materials work for the model. You'll need a sturdy object to represent the bones and a flexible object to represent the muscles. The two materials should be similar in size. For example, you might use craft sticks or toilet paper tubes as the bones and rubber bands for the muscles. For a larger model, the Body Walk curriculum uses paper towel tubes as bones and long balloons as muscles. You need a joint between two of the bone materials, which you can make by taping or using rubber bands to hold them together so they can still move. The muscle materials is attached to both 'bones,' either by wrapping the rubber bands or taping the balloons in place. As the joint moves, the model muscles contract and relax.