Physical activity offers great benefits, building cognitive and social skills as well as boosting mood and mental health. However, many after school programs face key issues in offering quality physical activity programs: lack of staff training, limited space and equipment, limited time and ideas for including children who have special needs.

Here are some key pointers to developing a successful physical activity program:

Train Staff: Movement can be fun for both staff and students. Consider a specialized staff workshop that will ensure they can deliver fun, engaging physical activities that meet national standards for physical education and health. Trainings can cover age- and ability-appropriate games, utilizing space, including students with special needs, active project-based academic learning, equipment use and assessment tools.

Invest in Versatile Equipment: Look for portable, easily stored equipment that you can use for a variety of physical activities and games. Many companies offer equipment and activity-guide packages specifically tailored to meet the needs of after school programs. Picking the right equipment can level the playing field so that everyone is excited to get moving.

Engage All Learners: Activities should engage all children in the program. Concentrate on developing each person's individual skill through a group game or activity. You will help all of your students develop skills at their ability levels, while giving them the social and cognitive benefits of group physical activity. Many companies offer easy-to-conduct activities that are fun for all.

Use Active, Project-Based Learning: Worried about taking time out of Common Core academics and STEM learning to get the students moving? You can do both at the same time! Many books and activities incorporate age-appropriate STEM and academic learning through movement. Include technology through computer- and tablet-accessible assessments that help youth process what they are learning during physical activity. Get students moving, activate their brains and give them hands-on opportunities for problem solving and learning.

Successfully integrating meaningful physical activity into your after school program can have a very strong impact on the youth's health and academic, cognitive, social and behavioral learning. Utilizing these tools can help accomplish a sustainable, impactful physical activity program for staff and students.