I am a Mum of 3 very active young boys who are now 14, 11 and 7. We live life pretty fast at our house. My husband and I both work, I am also at University studying a BA in Exercise and Sport Science and all three kids play sport and go to Scouts. I was always very active as a child, looking back the only thing that got me through school was playing sport, I never had a lot of interest in academics (that has come much later in life).
My two older boys both have kidney disease and for their early years, we lived in London. Whilst living in London, they were always sick and in and out of hospital, it was a standing joke that if we didn’t answer our home phone, we were in the hospital with one of the boys, sad but true. When we moved to Sydney in 2003 to join the rest of my family, we brought with us two sick little boys. Since our arrival and the access we have to getting outside things started to change. The change in their health and as a result our quality of life as a family was quite incredible. This is where my passion for being active for health really kicked in. I have been a permanent student on the side ever since – doing every course and qualification connected with kids and fitness that I could find, hence now moving onto the science side as I have done all the rest.
For some kids, being active is the most natural thing. Slowing them down is what is on their parents mind. However, in the age we live, for the majority, this is no longer the case. Children learn how to use their parents phone buttons long before they can move. Strollers now often come with DVD attachments, so infants are exposed to electronics within a few months of their birth. This means that being outdoors and active is no longer as natural as it should be.
For many kids need help to learn those gross motor skills. These motor skills, for previous generations, would have developed naturally through play. These include running, jumping, skipping, hopping, balance skills as well as the ability to hit, throw or strike a ball as well as muscle development and strength. So looking forward, this means that as children get older, they will shy away from active pursuits simply because they do not have the skills or confidence to get involved. The two most important things to remember in getting your kids active are to start young and do active pursuits regularly.
My entire working life and much of my role as a Mum is devoted to getting children active and helping them find an active pursuit that they really enjoy. Not just being active but learning to love physical activity is the key.
I love seeing my kids climb trees, make dodgy looking flying foxes, play with muddy puddles and jump on a trampoline without nets around the. I see all these pursuits as essential for their development and growth into well-rounded individuals.
Sometimes there are accidents and someone falls from a tree or the flying fox doesn’t fly as well as it should and mud gets in the eyes, but spending time outside playing and just using the body, helps with flexibility, strength, co-ordination as well as being a stress buster and great for learning how to interact socially with others. Nature has the most amazing ability to ground us and being active outdoors has so many more health benefits than indoors.
As parents we have to be the right role models, try and walk to and from school at least some days, go for bushwalks or go to the beach, have some fun at a park, throw/kick a ball, or join your children up for cubs or scouts, which is what I did and loved the organisation and its opportunities so much, 5 years ago I joined up and became a fully fledged leader (after much training).
Playing a team or individual sport is not the only way to keep active. Look outside of the box and do some research if your child just does not want to play a traditional sport.
In Australia we really are the lucky country – we have such amazing easy access to the outdoors and it is free! With life now being so busy and with most Mum’s working we have to plan being active into our daily lives otherwise we find it just doesn’t happen.
So what happens when the weather is just not perfect? Get outside regardless. If it is raining put on a raincoat and go for a walk, if it is cold, put on fleece and go and walk at the beach or in the bush. You feel so invigorated after a good bout of exercise in the great outdoors, battling the elements and winning. If going out against the elements just isn’t going to work, use a pair of socks as a ball, use balloons and play seated volleyball, make a cubby house, make an obstacle course and crawl under chairs and table, use a blanket as a cargo net and scramble under it – the options are only hindered by imagination and whether you are happy to help put chairs back and fold blankets.