We are continuously combing the web for interesting stories about kids’ health and success. Many of these stories make their way to my “in-box” and I read all of them. One that we published recently got me to pause and reflect.
The article sums up a British study that found nearly a third of four- and five-year-olds couldn’t perform basic physical skills like crawling or standing on one leg.
The researchers’ interpretation is that today’s children simply don’t move enough anymore. Because they sit in front of a screen or are driven everywhere, kids don’t have the opportunity to develop basic movement skills.
The fact that today’s kids are not active enough is not surprising. The trends in kids’ level of activity and state of health are disturbing.
It’s not surprising either that the study points to the fact that kids who are behind in their physical development are also behind academically. We know that kids who move and play sports get better grades, are better adjusted emotionally and have better social skills.
What saddens me the most is that the study highlights that some children are deprived of opportunities to develop movement skills very early in life. At an age when movement matters the most for their proper mental and physical development, they are taught instead to sit still.
If kids don’t get the proper start it’s ultimately because of our bad habits. After all, it’s us parents who are driving our kids everywhere and letting them sit in front of a screen for hours.
I believe we are trying to do our best, so why do we do this to our kids? I believe there are two simple reasons: it’s easier and everyone else does it.
Convenience and norms
Everyone is busy. Hectic work schedules combined with kids’ agendas filled with lessons and activities means that parents hurry everywhere. Our fast paced lives require that we do what is convenient: push the stroller, drive the car. But there is a cost for this convenience. And it’s our children (and us, too, really) that are paying the price.
The other reason we deny our kids opportunities to move is that we are social animals. Our habits are shaped by what we see others do around us. If you doubt this fact, watch this great video by Derek Sivers in which he gives some examples of assumptions we don’t even know we have.
For the sake of convenience and social norms, decisions that are unhealthy for our children have become “normal”. As a result our children fall behind in skills as fundamental as crawling and walking.
“When you know better, you do better.”
I believe that most parents don’t know they are having a negative impact on their kids. As we grow the Active for Life movement, more parents will learn about the negative impact of some of our social conventions, such as driving our kids everywhere and allowing them to sit idle in front of an ever-multiplying number of screens.
As awareness increases, we will make things right together. As more parents get to know better, we’ll do better together. We’ll carve out time in our day for physical activity and we’ll walk instead of driving when it makes sense to do so.
You can help grow the movement
You, too, can help overturn these negative trends by spreading the message so that more parents know better. Talk with each other about these issues. Make yourself a model parent who promotes activity and skill development in your kids. With heightened awareness, we’ll be better able to balance out the negatives and create a “new normal” where kids are active from the start and more likely to grow up happy, healthy and successful.