Waiting in the Lunch line: It Doesn’t Have to be Wasted Time

active kids

Fidgety, distracted, bored: these adjectives are synonymous with waiting in line. Add hunger and consider that those in line are young children in a lunch line.  Each weekday when children are waiting in the lunch line, they are asked to remain idle while everything else within their body may be saying the opposite.  So, what if those extra full minutes were used in a constructive manner, giving children an opportunity for engagement and some movement? 

Activity is essential to children and movement provides benefits of activity to children before they sit down to eat their lunch.  There are three important types of physical activity for children: aerobic activity, muscle strengthening, and bone strengthening. The recommendation is that children have one hour of activity a day. So, why not add activity in the lunch line by finding small ways to keep kids moving, focused, and engaged?

Below are some suggestions for adding activity to lunch line waiting time. Disclaimer: Do what children can handle and make sure you aren’t being disruptive in the cafeteria or lunch line process.  Also, note that these activities may be done by teachers who are on duty or some school districts may require all physical activity to be done by physical activity teachers

  • Stretches (muscle strengthening):  Doing some quick searches on the internet can find lots of visuals and information on kid friendly stretches.  Below are a few simple stretches that don’t require any extra space or equipment.
    • Arms wide
    • Shoulder stretch
    • Triceps stretch
    • Knee lunge
    • Quadriceps stretch
    • Crossover toe touch
    • Calf raises
    • Shoulder roll
  • Yoga poses (muscle strengthening):  Not all yoga requires a mat and the floor.  Children can test out these poses to improve their balance and learn simple relaxation techniques.
  • Dance (aerobic): The lunch line may not provide enough room to do line dancing, but children can practice their moves in place with simple dances that are fun, silly, and get them thinking beyond their hungry bellies.  If permission is granted, play age appropriate music.
    • Chicken
    • Twist
    • Freestyle
  • Games (improve listening skills, dexterity): Learning fine motor skills and improving listening skills are essential to all children, especially early elementary age children.  Try games that improve their coordination and test how well they follow directions.
    • Simon Says
    • Hand clapping games
    • Songs that use your hands to illustrate the words (itsy bitsy spider, wheels on the bus, etc.)
  • March in place (bone strengthening):  There may not be any place to go but this is a great way to get children to improve their bone strength.
  • Jumping jacks (bone strengthening):  The movement and coordination required for this activity can help children increase their bone strength and if fast enough it counts as aerobic activity too.

Finding ways to keep high energy students interested, engaged, and distracted while using physical activity can create an environment that is fun as opposed to forced militant behavior.  Waiting time does not have to be wasted time!


Vanessa Spero-Swingle, Florida State University Extension


CDC. “How much physical activity do children need?” Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, 4 June 2015. Web. 29 Aug. 2016.

Chan, Lisa D, Ashley Hamm, and Karla P Shelnutt. “FCS8892/FY1143: Raising healthy children: Family fitness.” University of Florida/IFAS Extension. Family Youth and Community Sciences, 31 Oct. 2013. Web. 29 Aug. 2016.

“Exercise and adolescents – health encyclopedia – university of Rochester medical center.” University of Rochester Medical Center. 2016. Web. 29 Aug. 2016.

eXtension. Mooga: Cow inspired yoga. 2016. Web. 6 Sept. 2016.

“Stretching.” Healthy Kids Running Series. Healthy Kids Running Series, 2016. Web. 29 Aug. 2016.

the, Regents of. “Wellness: Move more.” University of California, Riverside. 2016. Web. 29 Aug. 2016.

the, Regents of. “Computer and desk stretches.” University of California, Santa Cruz, Environmental Health and Safety. 2016. Web. 29 Aug. 2016.