Creative ways of making kids sit still longer cannot replace outdoor play

If there’s one thing my eight year old daughter likes to do, it’s bounce.

In bed. At the dinner table. Name the inappropriate spot, and she has bounced there — so when I heard that some teachers are successfully getting kids to focus better and actually sit still in class by putting them on large yoga balls, I got excited.

Sigh. My joy was short-lived. According to an article in the Washington Post, sitting on yoga balls, while a creative and potentially fun approach, doesn’t truly solve the problem of kids inability to be attentive in class.

Says Angela Hanscomb, a physical therapist, “In order to create actual changes to the sensory system that results in improved attention over time, children NEED to experience what we call “rapid vestibular (balance) input” on a daily basis. In other words, they need to go upside down, spin in circles, and roll down hills.

Moreover, Hanscomb, who is a founder of Timbernook outdoor development centre believes that, unless there is more opportunity for real daily playtime, then we are only going to get half the results, and her big concern is that while teachers agree it’s necessary, schools just aren’t making the time for it the way they did when many of us were growing up.

This is one of the key reasons why we walk to school most days. We also skip, run, jump, hop, and whatever else fuels my daughter’s imagination in a never-ending series of spy/ninja/superhero playacting. It’s no coincidence that two of her teachers have commented on her morning focus and energy.

As parents we do need to take responsibility for finding more ways for our kids to get active and play outside everyday. It’s also up to us to advocate for more activity at school.

Look, Hanscomb’s not ruling out the yoga balls entirely, so neither should we. But before you accept creative ways to make kids sit still longer from your child’s school, perhaps it’s time to make sure that they are putting equal energy into making sure the students have enough time to play outdoors during the day. You can also advocate for physical literacy programming if your school isn’t already making it part of the curriculum by sending this letter to your teacher or principal. Let’s get this ball rolling.

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