Why we need to play catch (and skip) with our kids
Now that the weather’s warmer, my kids are playing in the garden more frequently. The trampoline is seeing more action, and toys are strewn across the lawn. Meanwhile my eldest daughter, who loves gymnastics and goes to a class after school, spends every spare moment doing handstands, cartwheels, bridges and other ultra-bendy moves, most of which are beyond me.
I love seeing the kids being active. Regular readers will know that back in January, I posted a blog asking how much exercise kids need in winter as I was finding it so tricky to entice my children to the park when it was cold and grim outside.
But with the emergence of the daffodil buds, there are now three eager faces turning to me when they hear the word ‘park’. And I don’t have anyone’s freezing fingers to battle with.
Yet those battles aren’t in vain. Parents do an extremely important job in keeping our kids moving, according to the latest Start Young Stay Active report released today.
But the report warns that mums and dads need to take a greater lead in making sure our kids get enough exercise – a generation of children is growing up less fit and healthy than their parents.
I found the report interesting – and scary – reading.
It reveals two main problems with kids and exercise nowadays:
- Poor fitness in children. This is far more common than obesity – of the 8550 children who participated in the East of England Healthy Hearts study, 11% were obese, but 20% had low fitness levels. Apparently the media’s ‘obesity obsession’ has overshadowed the problem with lack of fitness.
- Poor physical skills. Lots of kids now start school without having developed crucial physical skills, including throwing, catching, jumping, running, agility, balance and coordination.
Parents need to monitor their child’s physical development just as they do their kids’ homework, according to the report.
Here’s some more interesting info that I pulled from the report, by UK Active, a not-for-profit health body:
- It now takes a child on average 90 seconds longer to run a mile than it did 30 years ago.
- Children aren’t born ‘naturally active’ or ‘naturally inactive’. Instead their parents are role models in terms of exercise habits, according to a study in the US journal Pediatrics. So children from families with less active parents are likely to follow a similar path.
- Exercising with family, as opposed to in school or a club, has advantages for some children. With no social pressure or fear of stigma, children can try any activity they want.
- Schools are important in helping children to exercise too. But parents’ role is crucial.
Sports toys to invest in
For work, I recently interviewed child fitness expert Nicky Kay of FitKid, who told me how surprised she always was by the number of children unable to use a skipping rope, or catch a ball.To help kids develop physical skills, she recommends investing in four essential toys for kids to play with in your garden: a ball, a pair of cheap tennis racquets, a space hopper (in the US, a hoppity hop) and a skipping rope.
After reading the report, I asked myself when I last played catch with my five and seven-year-olds?
I honestly can’t remember.
Luckily, I score a point for having thrown and caught a ball with my two-year-old recently.
I know what I’ll be doing this Easter holidays.
Stuck for active ideas? These websites have great physical games for kids
- The Change4Life fun generator. It has lots of ideas for activities, both inside and out, and for up to six kids. Just spin the dial.
Set4Sport. This is an app and website launched by Judy Murray, mum of tennis champ Andy, based on games she played with her kids when they were young.
I’m Carole Beck, a health and parenting journalist and mum of three small children (aged seven, five and two), and I have long tried to live a healthy lifestyle, but I’m not always successful.This blog follows my trials and tribulations as I try to boost mine and my family’s fitness, sharing some of the bumps and cracks that I’ve walked into along the way.