It's officially six weeks before school ends and the always-anticipated summer vacation begins. Routines will slowly unwind and take a backseat as families enjoy less structure and the great outdoors. Our kids will go from sitting at desks for several hours a day to summer camps, parks, splash pads and cottages.
School is (nearly) out; let the summer fun begin!
During the school year we normally hit a nearby park for some much-needed physical activity; and, since this is my field (as a strength and conditioning coach), we grab a ball and play games that help strengthen my kids' balance, co-ordination, speed and agility. Maybe this has a more familiar ring: "TAG, you're it!"
The numbers are startling. And they don't lie. Kids are getting fatter every day. Sugar consumption is on the rise. Experts warn that this next generation might not outlive its parents. That is an unbelievably frightening thought. How on earth did it get this bad?
More and more cutbacks at our schools means less funding for athletic programs to keep our kids active and fit. How are we missing the connection between the two? Why is it we focus so much on teaching our kids to read and write at such an early age, yet the same time and energy fails to go into developing the fundamentals of physical fitness?
Think about it. You learn to read and a whole new world opens up to you. You can pick up a book on any topic and dive into it for hours, consuming knowledge. Powerful knowledge that helps shape your future. And yet we neglect to teach our kids the ABCs of physical literacy.
What's physical literacy? It breaks down into agility, balance, co-ordination and speed. The four areas in which our kids are not being properly trained at early in life. You're going to hear this term more and more as it's one of the biggest cures to combat childhood obesity.
Getting kids to adopt a lifestyle of physical activity at an early age translates to a greater love of it later on in life. Now repeat that out loud and let it sink in. It's important.
Teaching kids how to run, jump, kick, swim, throw (and all that good stuff of being a kid back when playing outside was the norm) with proper mechanics is the foundation to develop fitness confidence. You wouldn't wait until your kid was 10 years old before teaching her to read, right? So why do we wait so long before developing their physical skills?
So I ask you, as a parent, what are you doing to ensure your kids are physically active year-round?
Send them on a neighborhood scavenger hunt. We hear time and again that kids just don’t play outside like they used to, whiling away the hours exploring their surroundings. Well, give today’s purpose-driven kids a reason to wander about by orchestrating a fun scavenger hunt! Have them track down “treasures” that encourage even more activity, like jump ropes and baseballs tucked away behind community landmarks like the tallest tree.
Assign them to dog walking duty. If your family doesn’t have a dog, see if any neighbours would be up for sharing their Fido time. Playing with a furry friend will be so much fun, your kids won’t even notice how far they’ve walked or how many sprints they’ve logged during an energetic game of fetch.
Set up a fun obstacle course in your basement or backyard. Not sure where to start? Parenting magazine suggests a rousing game of “Wobble Hobble.” Give your kids water balloons to place between their knees, and have them race to a finish line without dropping it. This clever game gets their hearts pumping while boosting their coordination and balance skills at the same time.
Give them a fun new dance or sports-based video game, like Just Dance 2 for Wii or Kinect Sports for the Xbox 360. While active video games can’t replace the benefits kids receive from getting physical outside (like healthy doses of fresh air and vitamin D), they’re certainly an improvement over their sedentary video game counterparts.
Instead of sitting at home eating chips while playing board games or watching movies on family night, try something livelier, like bowling, mini-golf or even a nature hike if the weather is cooperating.
Ditch the car more often, and make it a habit for everyone to walk whenever possible. Between hikes to school, the grocery store and the community center, the whole family will be logging major miles in no time.
Develop their green thumbs. Give your kids some seeds to plot, grow and maintain, either in your backyard or at a nearby community garden, recommends Parenting magazine. All of that digging and planting will have them breaking a sweat before they know it!
Follow Daryl Devonish on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@60minkidsclub