Jennifer Hedger

Jennifer Hedger on raising an active toddler

As a working mom raising an energetic toddler, Jennifer Hedger wants to make sure she does it right. Together with husband Sean, the popular anchor for TSN SportsCentre aims to strike a balance between career, family life and bringing up a healthy child.

One of her key interests for Jaeger’s development is physical literacy. Jennifer grew up as an active child with parents who encouraged her to play a wide variety of sports. She remembers the care they took to make sure she learned the right skills, even if she wasn’t a star athlete.

Active for Life spoke with Jennifer recently to learn some of the things she is doing to provide Jaeger with a good active start.

Q: You have a bouncing little boy in your household. How is that working out for balancing your career and family life? 

It’s a tough balance. I work odd hours from seven in the evening to midnight or one in the morning, so it’s a balancing act. The good news is that I get to spend all day with my son, and my husband comes home in time for us to be together as a family before I go to work. I certainly feel pulled at both ends, but I have always wanted to make sure I get to raise my child.

Q: What kinds of activities have you been doing with Jaeger to make sure he is developing his physical literacy?

He’s 16 months now, so he is walking. There are various things that we do on a practical level. We live in downtown Toronto but I make sure that we go out every day for at least an hour. I’m very conscious of making sure that he has at least an hour of unstructured play every day, whether it’s the wading pool or just monkeying around in the park.

When possible we just bike everywhere. Biking is fun, and it’s a good mode of transportation in the city. Hopefully he’ll have his own bike in a couple of years, and he’ll have good memories of biking and know that it’s fun.

We also go swimming at the local pool. It’s challenging to think of things when they’re so little, but we make an effort to keep him active and learning.

In September he’s going to do Sportplay, which is something I actually learned about through Active for Life. So we have started with a lot of unstructured play, but the idea is that we’ll move to some more structured play in the fall.

Q: Do you ever talk with other parents about physical literacy?

With my friends who are moms, we’re pretty like-minded. It can be a hard thing to talk about because it’s kind of a personal thing how you raise your kids. It’s hard because you don’t want to get into the realm of sounding preachy.

But definitely, when I go out with other moms, we go to the park with the kids as opposed to meeting at a restaurant and sitting. Or we go to a baseball game. It’s about being surrounded by physical activity and getting the kids to see activity as a natural part of life.

Q: Are there any particular games or activities you would recommend to parents of toddlers? 

Definitely swimming. Swimming has been awesome. He was three months old when I started him in the pool. There are lots of indoor pools around and there are lots of other kids there. And it’s a life skill, feeling comfortable in the water. It’s an issue when you go to a cottage or you go on summer vacation. If you’re not comfortable in the water, it’s not fun.

So the water stuff would be the first thing I’d recommend. And then going for bike rides. I know I’m the one being active with I bike with him, but he’s outside and he loves the wind in his face. I see it as laying the groundwork for getting his own bike one day.

Q: Were you an athlete when you were growing up?

Definitely. I was what you would call a tomboy. I was never a great athlete – I was an okay athlete – but my parents were always good at teaching us different sports. And they were always teaching us proper technique, whether it was soccer, basketball, tennis or whatever. We were allowed to choose what we liked, but they always gave us a proper foundation.

Q: What kinds of activities or sports do you and your husband do now to stay active?

I’m a bit of a yoga nut. Yoga is sort of my newfound passion, and Sean plays hockey. We also bought a couple of tennis rackets, and we do a lot of biking as a family.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for parents on how to raise kids to be active for life?

It’s sort of my mindset that it’s not a privilege to be active and raised in an active family. I think it’s my son’s right as a little boy to be active and to be exposed to different sports. And I think it’s his right to learn how to swim, and to run around and play soccer.

I think it’s my responsibility as a parent to make sure that he is raised with these skills, along with the mindset that being physically active not a drag, it’s actually fun! [laughter]

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