A childhood in the 80’s, or at least my childhood in the 80’s was active. And not with an after school schedule jam packed with organised sport each day of the week but it was full of imaginative play, outdoor fun with friends and the type of ‘create your own fun’ that I find myself having to really encourage with my three children.
The benefits of the unstructured and physical play that was so common in my era have been lost, and in my experience as a PE and Health teacher, it’s obvious. Kids come to school without having developed the foundations for key fundamental movement skills that are required for successful physical participation in activities. And I’m not talking competitive sport. I mean the type of everyday activities that open up avenues for connecting to peers and experiencing new things.
The fundamental movements of catching, kicking, jumping, throwing, hitting, leaping, dodging and striking form the basis of all organised sports and are the building blocks for the activities we encounter in daily life. Not having these building blocks in place, prevents kids from accessing experiences that require the ability to move and be free in the movement. Free of self doubt and limiting thoughts and free of physical limitation that prevents participation.
When we are active not only do we open and expand energy pathways but we allow ourselves to experience a fuller expression of our being. We give ourselves the opportunity to push limits, take non-life-threatening risks and fully understand the capabilities of our physical body. By missing these opportunities our kids miss big teachings about themselves. Not to mention all the other benefits such as the physiological gains, the connections between left and right hemispheres of the brain when kids are active and crossing their mid line plus the mental health benefits.
I totally appreciate that for some children, being active and playing sport is just not their thing. And that is fine. But for long term health and participation in life, all children need encouragement to develop some fundamental skills and strength.
So where to start?
- Have balls of different sizes and texture available for playing with in the backyard.
- Practice jumping with hopscotch, skipping ropes, hoops or elastics.
- Grab the chalk and draw some handball courts or hopscotch in the back yard or the front driveway (if your street is safe of course).
- Go walking. Take the dog for a walk and get outside! Maybe your child prefers to scoot next to you.
- Take your walk on different terrain. Give those sandhills a go the varying surface gives other benefits.
- If your child has difficulty with hand/eye coordination use balloons to bat and catch. The slow speed of movement allows longer tracking time.
- Totem tennis is a handy backyard game that doesn’t take up a huge amount of space.
- Invest the time teaching your child how to ride a bike.
- Encourage an organised sport for the socialisation and team ethic.
- Encourage participation in sports days and carnivals at school even though they may feel a bit nervous or unsure. Reassure and encourage, it’s part of the learning.
- Have fun being a role model.
- Keep an eye on Girl Empowered, more active resources coming. Take a look at the Five Active Alternatives cheat sheet.
Go enjoy, Bec xx