Keep'er Fit

Gary Wallace

Are kids missing out on play?

I recently posted a video on our Core NI Facebook page about why kids are missing out on exploring play and what effect it is having on their physical literacy.
Think about the games you played when you were young and ask yourself do your children play any similar games?
Unfortunately for a lot of us the answer is no. Now think of the memories they are missing out on.
In a recent study of 1,672 UK adults, over half (56 per-cent) of our fondest childhood memories were made while outdoors playing and exploring nature. From the same study it found that 58 per-cent of parents claim they regularly have to force their children outdoors and an alarming 24 per-cent of children ‘rarely’ ever play outside in their free time.
And why would they when they have all the latest technology to keep them entertained at the push of a button? As a result of this children spend more time playing indoors on computer games and technology than embracing wildlife and the outdoors. 
Technology seems to be the biggest influence as to why children don’t play as much outdoors but there are also a number of other contributing factors – these include:
Additional study and home work 
It seems that every year children are faced with either more homework or further tuition classes. I’m big on kids learning but it can come in many ways. Finland has the top ranked education system in the world and their kids only spend about four hours a day in the classroom, even less for the younger children. And guess what, they don’t get any homework. They are encouraged to play and explore outside as much as they can.
In today’s society we have to be a lot more protective of our kids especially if they are playing out on the street but that doesn’t mean we stop them altogether. I remember playing outside for hours and only went home when I got the call from my mum that dinner was ready. Unfortunately, nowadays if your child is away for a few hours we fear the worst.
When I was growing up there were trees and fields all around my park. We would make huts, climb and jump off trees or play tag in the fields. Now all of these areas are taken up by housing or other buildings. It seems that people’s back gardens are the only areas children can play in and because of the high demand for space some don’t have much space for play.
Busy lifestyle 
We all lead busier lifestyles, some parents may have to work two or three jobs just to pay the bills and many children these days are being raised by a single parent. All this leads to less free time to spend with your children and giving them the opportunity to play. 
What effect has this on children?
If children don’t play, especially outdoors, regularly they will lose out on many life skills that could benefit them socially and physically. We build our strongest friendship through play with other children, we develop skills like communication and we seem to talk for hours about anything and nothing. 
We learned how to overcome fears, organise games, win and lose, fight and make up, even talking to other adults when we called round for our friends. All of these life skills really do help us develop from children to young adults. 
Physically it’s clear to see what effect it’s having on our children. With the obesity epidemic right in our faces we are setting our children up for a life of unhealthy lifestyles, sickness and pain. Children are losing out on the basic movement patterns that they not only need for sport but for everyday life.  Falling, rolling, crawling jumping and landing are all skills we learn through play. When we climbed a tree you had to climb back down or jump. If you didn’t nail your landing you had to roll to recover. Alot of kids don’t experience this. 
Then when children are the right age and enter into sport they don’t process these basic movement patterns and we as coaches expect them to kick, throw and catch. It’s like building a house on poor foundations, eventually it will fall or in the case of children they will get injured or quit because they can’t do it.
What can we do?
It’s not all doom and gloom, there are still many children out there playing on the streets and exploring all they can. 
We as parents, teachers, cousins, grandparents or anyone who can influence a child’s life must support and encourage our young children to play and play outside. Let them make mistakes, let them take risks (calculated risks), let them fall and pick themselves back up again, let them make up their own games. What we can do is provide an environment where they can do all of this. 
This is what we at Core NI are doing, we believe that kids who move better, live better. 
We have developed a long term development plan that will help children improve their health, fitness and sporting performance. We run a number of classes from the age of four-17 years with each class suited to the child’s age and current development level. 
Our next six-week block starts on November 6. 
• You can find more information on the Core NI Facebook page. You can also book your child online at Together, let’s start our children on the journey towards leading a healthy active lifestyle.

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