Published in the PRG fall issue 2019
By Nell E. Scannon
South Yuba Club
We live in a place that seems created for physical activity. Far from the oppressive asphalt heat islands found in urban areas and tucked amid National Forest beneath blue skies, you would never suspect that we would have problems with childhood obesity. But also beneath those blue skies, we have hectic lives, smart phones, social media, online games, school itself, and of course, homework.
Not long ago, schools could be relied on for age-old P.E. programs, but in recent years they’ve suffered significant cutbacks… and what child enjoys them anyway? Wouldn’t it be a blessing to find some way to engage your child mentally and physically in a way they’d enjoy and that would stay with them throughout their life? Moving our bodies goes beyond the body and serves mental health too!
Team sports are certainly an option and there are plenty of sports teams outside of school. Everything from volleyball, basketball, little league, water polo, and lacrosse (girls and boys). On one hand, team sports feature the added benefit of “team,” that is, socializing, working together, and overcoming disagreements. This team-ness is juxtaposed to the computer screens that increasingly isolate our children and can go a long way to counterbalance it. On the other hand, some children are more shy or have very different proclivities. The point is to have them enjoy it, right?
So what are non-team options? Tennis (or pickleball) is a great one. Children can get some lessons and practice with their friends or family at one of our public courts. Swimming lessons can be had in the offseason in preparation for time in the water during the summer. Affordable horse riding lessons can be found and not only get kids moving, but teaches responsibility and care for another being. What about gymnastics?
Not everything has to cost money either. All around us there are wonderful trails for hiking and biking that don’t cost a thing. We have disk golf too! Even just going to the park and tossing a ball is a great pastime to enjoy with your kids. Why not get yourself moving at the same time and build relationships with your children outside the house?
In addition, there’s so much benefit to getting creative! Children aren’t quite sold on a hike? Put a picnic or an art project at the end of it. If they try something a few times and it doesn’t grow on them, there are dozens more things to try; let them be part of the process. The key is to establish not only a physically healthy, but an enjoyable, pattern of behavior that they will maintain into and throughout adulthood.