Summer is here! School P.E. class is over, spring sport seasons have mostly wrapped up. Kids (and parents) are looking at a solid two months of “summer break.”
After the first few days of wonderful, unstructured laziness, most parents start thinking of ways to keep their kids active for the upcoming weeks. We all know that movement and activity are a big part of staying healthy; this is true for both adults and children.
With children we need to remember to keep activity fun and lighthearted, and to model great behavior.
Here at Columbia Basin Racquet Club we focus on five main areas in children’s fitness:
- Overall Fitness: Most of the fitness skills kids need to learn can be developed through P.E. style games. The focus should be strengthening the major muscle groups and conditioning. The more kids play and move, the stronger they will be. Playground games are a great way to encourage activity: hopscotch, four square, dodgeball, tag, and variations of these staples are all great ways to get kids moving in a fun environment.
- Balance: Kids are still learning how their bodies work, and a sense of balance is a big piece of the puzzle. Balance practice doesn’t need to be anything fancy: standing on one foot while moving through a series of motions, walking across suspended logs or beams (please remember to stay safe!), or using an exercise ball instead of a chair are all easy ways to encourage stability.
- Mobility: Kids tend to have tighter muscles than adults which means stretching is really important. Kids in sports should never skip the warm up/cool down routines, and unstructured activities should have some stretching built in as well. Flexibility is very important for a number of reasons: the more flexible a child is the faster they will be, both in reaction time and general speed. Keeping those joints mobile also plays into speed and flexibility. Anytime the muscles are warmed up by activity- never skip the stretching!
- Hand/Eye/Foot Coordination: Not only are kids still learning about balance, but they’re still trying to figure out how their bodies work in general. Proprioception is the fancy word for one’s own sense of body in space and the strength required for individual movement. Body awareness is a huge piece of childhood development and this development can happen at different paces for each child. Sometimes it takes a few years for children to fully understand their own sense of space. The best way to encourage kids to develop is to get out there and move with them. Just like any athlete, a child will need to practice movements over and over to understand just how much strength they need to kick a ball, and at which speed and direction. There are lots of ways to encourage this: backyard kickball and catch, monkey bars at the park, as well as sporting classes and teams all work to help kids learn how to master their movements.
- Having fun! We could’ve put this as the first point, it is that important. We see many kids participating in sports and events because their parents want them to, not necessarily because they enjoy it. This is a fine line- if you have a kid who would rather sit than play, then absolutely push them a little bit to get up and get moving. But kids have opinions on what they think is fun and this is a time to listen to their preferences. If a kid is reluctantly playing baseball, but lights up whenever he gets on a tennis court- by all means, encourage those budding tennis skills! The sport itself doesn’t matter so much as the movement. If you find an activity your child enjoys, capitalize on it!
The ultimate goal of kid’s fitness is to encourage them in a lifelong journey of health. Activity needs to be fun and enjoyable, and children need positive role models. Families who stay active together build relationships and healthy habits for years to come. Swimming, racquetball, hiking, cycling- find something your whole family can enjoy!
The best way to keep your kids active? Get out there with your family and let them see you having fun!
We wish you good health!
~Columbia Basin Racquet Club