As a parent of a 9-year-old girl and 10-year-old boy, Sharon knows what it is like trying to prise them off their PlayStation, tablet and tv and getting them out of the house to be active. Sharon shares her thoughts on how to encourage children to step outside and get moving.
Where it all started…
Sport has played an important part in my life, I was no Olympian, just an average all-rounder who enjoyed playing sport and being active. But what it gave me was an opportunity, it kept me in education when I thought that wasn’t really my thing. I found a degree course at University that excelled my passion for sport and physical activity, it gave me the chance to travel the world coaching and teaching hockey and sailing. It gave me pride when I played, lifelong friends forged on and off the sports pitch. It even gave me a career that has spanned 28 years (so far!) where I have (hopefully) influenced many young people to enjoy the values of sport.
Why do we need to encourage our children to move more?
I know the associated benefits and values that sport and physical activity can play in building healthy lifestyles and defining them as young people. This has been my experience, but I want to share the deeper significance of helping and encouraging their children to be active.
Here’s my list for why PE, sport and physical activity are so important;
- Builds confidence and social skills, my children’s friends extend way beyond the school gate, helping to forge different relationships and reduce anxiety in social situations
- Develops co-ordination, helping to enhance with fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and improved handwriting particularly relevant as my son has dyslexia
- Strengthens muscles and bones, building their ability to be physically active and enjoy taking part with confidence
- Improves concentration, promoting better thinking, problem-solving and stronger attention skills, leading to improved learning and I believe overall school performance
- Improves general health and fitness, I am helping my children to create lifelong healthy habits which I hope they continue in the future. Maintaining a healthy weight and helping to reduce the risk of developing lifelong health conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease
- Improves sleep, supporting readiness to learn and better behaviour
- It makes them feel good, helping to build resilience (yes they take a few knocks along the way), a willingness to try new things, generally better mental health and well being and creating happy smiley young people
Turn it into something they love…
Making activity work for your children and family is key, it’s definitely not easy, so build on your child’s interests and try and make it part of your daily routine. Try making time to walk or scoot to school rather than driving. App-based games such as Pokemon Go, might entice a tech-savvy child to get outside walking to hunt for Pikachu, or maybe Wii Sports can get their heart rate up in the living room. Develop and encourage their passions and listen to what they would like to try and help them access opportunities.
Making it affordable
Joining sports clubs can be expensive, although I often find this as a perception, my daughter plays hockey for £75 a season this works out around £2.50 a week. The kit can be provided and it is run at a local school. My son goes to athletics at £75 for the whole year working out at less than £1.70 a week. But there are often plenty of things free in the local community, junior park run is a great example, and you don’t even need to run, walking, jogging even skipping is just fine. Parents can do this alongside their children and be reassured you won’t be last, they always have a tail runner.
Most weekends we go out for a walk as a family, but it’s definitely how you ‘package’ it, we NEVER go for a walk, we go on a treasure trail, adventuring and scavenger hunting! In my experience encouraging and being there for my children is the most important factor in their willingness to get up and get active, yes there are days when they don’t want to go, but as a supportive parent I am there to encourage, cajole and persuade them to get active, and once they are there they always love it!
Yes, it takes some effort on my part, but I want my children to have the opportunity to experience sport and physical as I have had.