Do your homework! Brush your teeth! Eat your vegetables! It’s exhausting always having to tell your kids to do the right thing. Wouldn’t it be great if there was something they wanted to do – something they loved that was actually (gasp) good for them?
Parents, meet your old friend and new ally … the trampoline.
That’s right. It’s not just a fun way to spend an afternoon. Trampoline time is loaded with health benefits, improving balance, agility, coordination, and spatial awareness. Says Stephen David, owner of Toronto’s Just Bounce trampoline centre, “ What’s so great is that it’s a lower impact sport, but it offers the high caloric reduction of something like spinning, and works all the core muscles, so you really get the best of both worlds”.
To overanxious parents worried about injuries (guilty), David is quick to point out that all sports carry that risk, but when done properly with supervision, trampolines are very safe, and less likely to harm than running, which affects knees and joints.
Ideal for all ages, and a great alternative for kids who just aren’t excited by traditional sports, trampolines offer a diversity of positions and opportunity to physically multi-task, developing not just legs, but total body control.
Helen Bertollini-Saari, program coordinator at Skyriders, a recreational and competitive Olympic training centre, concurs. “People think it’s just bouncing, but you’re on your back, you’re on your stomach. It’s not like bicycling, where you only do one thing.”
In fact, trampoline provides opportunity for such an overall body workout that it’s highly recommended for multi-sport success, particularly in skiing, skating, wakeboarding, diving, gymnastics, and extreme sports. Just Bounce currently sees free-style skiers specifically coming in to work on aerobatics in a controlled environment, rather than trying to perfect their flips on the slopes.
More good news? The up-and-down motion on a trampoline is great for the lymphatic system, which helps reduce stress and anxiety. This relaxed state is great for all kids, but particularly for those on the autistic spectrum.
Colleen Smith, executive director for Giant Steps Autistic Therapy Centre has personally witnessed the effectiveness of trampolines when working on gross, fine motor and perceptual skills. Notes Smith, “It clearly calms the nervous system, and less alert kids tend to improve hypo-responsive skills. If a student has one in their backyard, parents say even 15 minutes allows them to decompress from a long day, making them more grounded and aware.”
Occupational therapists comment how well it helps with eye/hand coordination tasks, helping with body awareness and overall behavior. Smith does caution that all kids respond differently, so have your child assessed before you rush out to buy one.
On this last point, David and Bertollini-Saari are in agreement. They encourage parents to enroll kids in classes prior to getting a backyard trampoline and to always follow the safety rules.
So check out your local trampoline centres for a great alternative sport that your children will love. Maybe try a class yourself!
Just don’t tell the kids it was your idea.
How to keep things safe on a trampoline
- Consider the trampoline the way you would a swimming pool. Supervise. Supervise. Supervise.
- Only one person on at a time; the second person could get double-bounced by force of trampoline. This means parents, too!
- Just because you have netting doesn’t make it safer. In fact, instead of being bounced off, kids can get caught in netting. Repeat rule 1!
- Trampolines are tempting; if you want to ensure your kids or the neighbours won’t try to jump when you’re not around, be sure to do your best to cover it. A great tip is to take an old tire and chain link and string it through the frame to disable it.
- Tell your kids why they can’t use it unsupervised. Rules tend to get followed better when there’s reason behind them.