Jennifer Langlois knows a thing or two about what it means to be active. She’s a former synchronized swimmer who now works as athletic therapist in Quebec City.
Now this mom of two young kids is helping to encourage children, not just her own, to be active and have fun.
In 2012, she started Sports+, a program to teach physical literacy to youth between Kindergarten and Grade 4. For 10 weeks, 1 day a week, students were bussed from an established after-school program to a nearby high school that specializes in sports studies. There, each kid took part in a 1-hour class in one of four sports: tennis, soccer, dance, or swimming.
More than 60 kids participated last year, learning all kinds of physical literacy skills, including running, jumping, swimming, dodging, and stopping, she says.
“I am a believer that children need to do at least one hour of physical activity every day,” says Jennifer, who is also the Synchro Canada athlete development expert for Eastern Canada.
“But for working parents of a young child, it is hard to ensure they receive this physical activity on a daily basis.”
Jennifer cites her own experiences — dashing to pick up her daughter after work, and then dashing home to eat and do errands. She wanted to enroll her daughter in their city’s after-school classes, but found the work-life juggle too difficult.
“There was not an opportunity with city programs to enroll my daughter in an activity right after school, that allowed time to fit in supper and homework, and get to bed at a reasonable hour,” she says.
“The objective is for the kids to get their hour of physical activity done right after school.”
Want to start a similar program at your children’s school? Says Jennifer: “Contact the local sports programs of your community, and start a conversation.”
A review is underway now as to how the program will continue this year and beyond. Jennifer hopes it will eventually be expanded to two days a week, and she would love to see similar programs at schools across the country — and perhaps they will be able to offer an expanded list of sports for kids to try.
Her own daughter, now six, has tried everything from downhill skiing to ballet and tennis, and Jennifer has plans to do the same with her infant son, too.
She also makes sure she fits in regular, fun exercise with her family throughout the week — and it’s not always in a classroom.
“We walk to school every day, one kilometre there and back, twice a day, and in the summer we bike and hike a lot,” Jennifer says.
“It’s about teaching them the importance of getting fresh air, of having fun, and being active.”