Developing movement skills at a young age is crucial to well-being

If you were to picture some lion cubs playing, what sorts of activities would your imagination have them doing? Chances are you will imagine little creatures squirming, rolling, and wrestling, because that is what lion cubs do.

Now imagine a few 8-year-old children. What are they doing?

According to ParticipACTION, those kids are most likely to be parked in front of a piece of technology, engaged in parallel play, not interactive play. Only 9% of Canadian children aged 5 to 17 achieve the minimum time standard for daily physical activity. Contrasted with the greater than 75% of children who surpass maximum recommended levels of daily screen time, the outlook is even more discouraging for younger children: 85% of 3- and 4-year-olds exceed daily screen time recommendations.

The health and well-being of the current generation of children is at great risk.

Guest post by Gary Pearson

Gary Pearson is the co-ordinator of the Kawartha Lakes Sport and Recreation Council, a lifelong multi-sport athlete and coach, and a father of two strong-willed grapplers.

It is crucial that our children develop skills at an early age. Inactivity negatively impacts a very important feedback loop – children who are active develop movement skills; skill building boosts confidence; confident children are motivated to seek skill-building activities across a variety of situations. This feedback loop of skill, confidence, and motivation describes how an individual will develop physical literacy – the language of movement – across a lifespan.

Children must learn how to move. A host of cultural factors – including social distrust – limit the free movement of our young ones. It has now become essential to provide kids with fun and engaging skill-building activities that also provide positive social experiences.

The effects of our cultural shift toward sedentary living are being felt within the local high school sport system. In 2017, only 80 student-athletes participated at the Kawartha (Ontario) wrestling championships.

That number is down from the 240 wrestlers who participated in the same annual tournament just 10 years ago.

An interplay of factors including zero-tolerance, hands-off policies and decreasing to near non-existent unstructured play opportunities has created a vacuum that is begging to be filled by quality programs.

There is an emergent need to fill the gap in physical activity programming in order to provide opportunities for children to engage in peer-to-peer contact – like the little lion cubs that they are.

Depending on where you live, there are activities that offer kids the opportunity to develop grappling and wrestling skills in a safe environment. Community Sport Organizations that build their programs with long term athlete development in mind will offer introductory skill-building sessions for children as young as 3 or 4.

Look for activities like wrestling, Brazilian jiu jitsu, and judo, and be sure to ask for details on their approach to participant development.

To see an example of a quality judo program for 4-year-olds, watch the video below to see kids having fun learning the foundational skills for the sport.

You can also browse the Active for Life activities section for easy ideas that will get kids moving and having fun in the home, at the local park, and anywhere in between.

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