If you’re a parent of young children, reading the 2015 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth and wondering what you can do to make a difference in your child’s life, here’s something to think about.
You may have noticed that one of the areas where we Canadians aren’t getting a failing grade is in organized sports and activities. According to the report card: “75% of 5- to 19-year-olds participate in organized physical activities or sport.” But here’s the thing, it’s not enough because the kids aren’t moving during that hour as much as you think they are.
So if you consider the physical activity box checked off for the day because your little one went to dance class, unfortunately, that’s often not the case.
A recent blog post in Motherlode, the NY Times parenting blog, talks about a research study that discovered kids are moving a shockingly small amount during dance classes. “The overall findings showed that moderate and vigorous movement accounted for only 36 percent of class time.”
But before you tell me that this doesn’t apply to you because your child doesn’t do dance – they do gymnastics, or soccer, or swimming – chew on the below quote from the author of the study, which illuminates that this finding is not unique to dance classes:
Across all kinds of sports or activities, we commonly find that only about a third of the time is spent in physical activity. Even in P.E. they’re standing around more than they’re moving.
One third of the time. That means you’ve signed your child up for gymnastics or soccer but they’re only moving for 20 minutes of that hour.
This is something that Kari Svenneby (AfL Role Model and advocate of active family outdoor adventures) touched on when we interviewed her in 2013 about her family’s outdoor lifestyle. We asked her if she thought kids could develop all the skills they need and get enough activity from signing up for programs and she said: “[programs] play a role in children’s lives, especially when they are older, but a lot of times it’s not enough.”
Nobody is saying that signing your kids up for quality programs isn’t a good thing to do and dance is a wonderful way for kids to develop physical literacy, but parents need to have their eyes open to the fact that it’s probably not going to be enough.
We need to be realistic about how much our children are moving and developing skills. We have to make room for physical activity, especially outdoors, as part of our family time because the truth is they just aren’t moving as much as we hope they are.
And it’s important for kids to understand that physical activity is something they do throughout the day in a variety of ways so that they don’t grow up thinking that because they had an hour workout at the gym they can spend the rest of the day sitting.
So get outside with your kids and let them play, climb, explore, roll around, and get dirty. You can play, climb, explore, roll around, and get dirty with them, too, though it’s equally important to give them space to safely test their limits.
Always keep in mind, the most important thing is for physical activity to not feel like work. Kids need to be having fun because we know that when they’re having fun they never want to stop. Author study, Dr. Sallis, agrees:
The good news is that the solution to this problem is to have more fun — more dance, more P.E., more recess.
We would add more active time at home, too.
Some ideas to keep you moving as a family are to go for walks, or bike rides, pack a ball or a skipping rope in your bag on outings and hit the park. Go on active day trips or just play in the backyard. Schedule an hour a day for your kids to play outside after school or after dinner (or break it up into smaller time periods throughout the day). Find other families to be active with on weekends. Create active games and make them part of your everyday routine like hopping to the breakfast table or throwing laundry into a basket. There are a million ways to do this; find a handful that work for your family and go from there.
For lots of fun activities and games that will get your kids active – without you needing to get in the car, remember dance shoes, or write a cheque – take a few minutes and explore our robust Activities and Resources sections.