In summer 2012, Active for Life interviewed TSN sportscaster and new-mom Jennifer Hedger for her thoughts and tips on raising an active toddler. At the time, son Jaeger had been walking for only a few months, but they were already exploring swimming and activity programs such as Sportplay to develop his physical literacy.
How has Jaeger’s journey progressed since then? We recently spoke with Jennifer to find out.
AFL: When we last talked in the summer of 2012, Jaeger was still just a toddler and he had been walking for only a few months. How old is he now?
Jaeger is going to be 3 years old in March, and he’s probably one of the largest 3-year-olds you’re ever going to lay eyes on. When he went for his two-and-a-half year check-up, he was 97 percentile for height and 90 percentile for weight.
He’s the biggest kid in his age group, that’s for sure. He’s also bigger than a lot of kids who are older than him, which is a bit challenging because sometimes people look at him and think that he should be more advanced than he is.
AFL: In 2012, you were taking Jaeger to the pool, spending time at the park, and riding your bike with him in the child seat. What kinds of activities have you been doing with him since then?
We always do an hour of unstructured play every day, whether it is in our yard or at the local playground, where he can run around, ride scooters, and climb. I like to make sure he gets an hour every day, whether it’s inside or outside.
Sean has started skating with Jaeger because he is really keen on him learning to skate, and he is excited for him to play hockey. I said to Sean that we just have to make sure that it continues to be fun because it can be harsh for a three-year-old to learn how to skate.
AFL: You said that swimming had been great for Jaeger, and you highlighted how it was an essential life skill. Now that Jaeger is older, what other activities have you discovered?
Jaeger loves the water, and he’s not afraid of it, which is really important. He’s jumping in and diving in, and he’s not afraid to have his head under.
He has a scooter that he likes to ride, and he also has some roller skates that we bought him last summer that he was trying out.
I find there have been instances where it has been tempting just to jump in the car and drive the eight blocks to the store when we need something. But Jaeger has said to me a couple of times, “Bike! Bike! I want to ride my bike!” It’s a tricycle that he likes to ride and it has a handle so I can push him when he gets tired.
I have said, “Oh no, it’s cold!” or “We don’t have time.” And then I have stopped myself and thought, “Well, no, for goodness sake—if he wants to ride his bike to the store instead of driving, that’s the whole point—this is why we ride our bikes!”
As I’m walking behind him on his tricycle, it’s awesome. He loves it, and he loves being outside.
AFL: You have been an early champion for raising physically literate kids. As a parent, what have you found most challenging?
The most challenging thing I find is when we’re around other kids at an indoor playground, or we’re around other moms, and they feed their kids junk food and my son wants it. It’s not a huge issue, but I guess my biggest challenge to make Jaeger physically literate or eat healthy is that a lot of families don’t [make the same effort].
Sometimes you run into families that maybe just don’t understand the impact it has on their kid to be physically literate or eat healthy. It’s hard to try to teach people because you sound like a know-it-all. And who wants to be that person?
AFL: How can parents deal with those sorts of challenges?
I find that if I take Jaeger to a playground or down to the beach or to a place where people are being active, then I run into like-minded people who are also being active with their kids. If you are down on the beach in October playing with your 3- year-old, you’ve got to want it. If a mother is down there with her child, I usually find that she is there because she knows what’s good for him.
If you can hook up with people like that — even strangers — then the kids start playing together and running around. And there is always something fun to do at the beach — it doesn’t matter how cold it is! [laughs]
AFL: The 2014 Winter Olympics are upon us, and you have done a lot of broadcast coverage of the Olympics in the past. Do you have any special Olympic memories?
My clearest Olympic memory is Elizabeth Manley skating at the Calgary games in 1988. I remember seeing those white cowboy hats as I watched the opening ceremonies, and when I was a little girl I thought they were pretty cool. I was totally oblivious to the fact that they were being universally panned by the rest of Canada! [laughs]
I remember Elizabeth Manley skating to the Silver medal, and she had that smile and that short blond hair. And I just thought, first of all, that she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Nobody could be more beautiful than Elizabeth Manley. And with her winning that medal, I could feel the excitement around that performance, and the excitement around my family when she won, and really around the whole country.
It sort of captured for me what the Olympics continues to be. These are fellow Canadians — someone we feel we can relate to, someone who might live next door to you — who are extraordinarily gifted and have worked extremely hard to represent us in a sport. It still gives me shivers every time we have an Olympic games.
There is an energy during the Olympics. People talk about the games, and people are talking about amateur sport everywhere you go, whether it’s in Starbucks or the library or the mall. It really is my favorite sporting event because we all feel so connected to it in one way or another. I challenge anyone to not care when Canada hits the ice to play the Americans or the Russians — because we do. It’s a great part of being Canadian, and it’s a great part of being a fan of sport.