Talk it out Tuesday: what can we do to help instil a sense of interest in physical activity in our children?
It was brought to my attention this past weekend that physical education has been severly hit in the school system. With one single state in America offering physical education 5 times a week, I was in shock.
For a country whose child obesity rate is skyrocketing, I could not believe what I was hearing. Canada is no better. In a few local schools, children at the elementary level are getting 40 minutes of physical education every 10 days! This too was staggering. What are we going to do about this?
I had an opportunity to hear John O'Sullivan discuss his movement to work against this problem called the Changing the Game Project. John is the author of two #1 best sellers 'Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes, and Giving Youth Sports Back to our Kids' and 'Is it Wise to Specialize?' He has travelled all around Canada, U.S. and Europe and has spoken at Tedx and the Zen Parenting Let's Get Real Conference to name a few. John played professional soccer and coached all levels of sports for two decades. John now spends his time trying to spread the good word and implement change in today's youth. So let's help him!
After the shock of what I was hearing began to settle, I instantly knew what my topic for Talk it out Tuesday would be. I, alongside John, need to try to do something to shed light on this terrible reality affecting our children today.
With screen time increasing around us, we often hear parents saying "when I was kid I spent my whole day outside". Well, that's about as useful as someone telling us when we were kids "I use to walk up hill both ways for 5 miles to my school". Yeah? So what?
These kinds of statements just don't register between generations becasue we are forgetting one simple fact: we grew up in comepletely different societies than our children are. Due to the sheer fact that we didn't have mobile screens as parents and now that's all our children see, their world experiences and interests are vastly different than ours. We simply cannot compare our childhoods and expect that to be enough of an eye opener.
We need to take a look at ourselves, the parents. We are the role models, we are the ones creating the majority of our child's experiences in their first few years of life. What we do, rather than what we say, is what has the greatest impact in change. Countless studies have proven that what we do with our children in their first six years has lasting impacts on them for the rest of their lives.
We cannot expect our children to grow up with a healthy and active lifestyle if we never get them out for walks, adventures or playing a game of catch or soccer in the yard or local park. With physical education being the least important course in school's, it is up to us, the parents, to model it's importance from home.
Being active from day one is essential in shifting a child's mindset from indoors to outdoors. We cannot expect our children to have any interest in playing outside if we never took them out when they were young. In the early years, the need for physical education starts the moment they can walk. With sleep as the number one issue plaguing new parents, the first question I always ask clients is what type of physical activity do you participate in? Do you get outside daily? Is your child given an opportunity to practise their gross motor skills everyday?
Once your child is walking (typically around 12 months) it is your job to get them outdoors (if not sooner)! Taking your child for walks not only exercises their muscles, allows them to practise key developmental concepts such as balance and spatial awareness, but it shows them a healthy lifestyle routine. Getting outdoors is an excuse to escape the screen. It provides a sense of balance from indoors and can open up an entire world of mindful living. Once we put ourselves outdoors and start to check-in to our surroundings, we allow our senses to engage, our breath to deepen and our lungs to expand with fresh air. Breathing even 5 minutes of fresh air can help a baby and toddler sleep much more sound, while promoting so many of these other healthy lifestyle benefits.
In John's talk he touched on the harsh reality of organized sports for children today. As many as 29% of parents in the United States are confident their child will go pro. In reality, that percent is under 1. At recreational sports games with children as young as 5 and 6 years old we are seeing parents scream, cheer excessivly and even yell at their children in regards to how they play. John went on to tell us that in children under the age of 13, their 42nd reason for playing sports at all was to win. Now, 7 out of 10 children under the age of 13 are quitting sports for life.
These staggering numbers tell us that when it comes to putting our kids into organized sports, we are not on the same page as our children! Alongside this study, the number one thing a child wanted from their parents after a game was to just listen. It sounds so simple yet how often do we control our desire to comment, judge and react as soon as our children do something?
I encourage you to check out John's movement and read his books. He has valuable insight on how we can all work together, to provide, model and practise a healthy lifestyle for and with our children.
Start talking about physical activity with your family, and more importantly start doing it! Let's spread the word to our fellow parents and help spread the Changing the Game Project that John O'Sullivan has intiated. It is the least we can do. Click on the image below to check it out!