Getting children active is a parent’s responsibility

It is the ‘summer’ half-term. I put summer in quotes because it is about 12 degrees and pouring with rain! But I have just come back from a great sports session with my friends’ kids. I am completely knackered as they have worn me out for 3 hours and I am sure that I was supposed to do that to them (?!), but I am buzzing. I had 15 children ranging from 2 to 10 and we all managed somehow to play badminton. Most had never played before, but by the end, all were hitting a shuttle.

It is exhausting being active with kids. The easy option is to sit on the sofa and stick a DVD on or CBeebies. It is a pain to get everyone organised and go out to an activity, and of course, it can cost money, but it is important to remember, we are parents. They are children. In my eyes, children should be running around, learning about how amazing our bodies are, exploring the world and getting stronger and fitter doing so. As parents, we should be helping our children become healthy young people, encouraging and being positive role models. Is a positive role model someone who sits on the sofa who can’t be bothered? Is a healthy child someone who is stuck in the house glued to the TV?

My mum never let me sit down as a kid. If someone talks about childrens TV from the 1980s, I have no clue as it was never allowed on. We were always out on our bikes, playing in the park, and trying new sports such as tennis, badminton and gymnastics. I remember my childhood being very social, not just with other children my age, but with other adults, too. It was the norm to meet up with other families and spend the whole day playing sport. This is one thing that I feel as a nation that we need to recreate. By building big, multi-sport sports halls, you lose the intimacy and community spirit small specialist sports clubs can bring. So now, getting people together may take a bit more effort to organise, but it benefits everyone.

“As parents, we have a tendency to determine how our child will act just by what we say or how we dress them, and this particularly true with girls.”

I have being going into some nurseries and primary schools to introduce sport and a bit of badminton, too. I think it is so important to introduce sport and PE at an early age, so it can be a positive experience, and this will hopefully inspire children to carry on being active throughout life. I want to stress that I don’t necessarily believe in introducing competitive sport at an early age (although for my 4 year old Harry, this seems to be the way to get him to do anything!) but it is all about ‘physical literacy’. It is about learning how our bodies move, to go under, over, through, jump, hop, run, balance etc. By incorporating these movements, it is amazing how many fun games you can have!

As parents, we also have a tendency to determine how our child will act just by what we say or how we dress them, and this particularly true with girls. I have heard so many people saying “my daughter is such a tomboy” – why?? Because she likes to run around. She is not a tomboy, she is an active child. I hate seeing girls as young as 3 in the most inappropriate dress / skirt and shoes. And then hearing that “she has to choose what she wants to wear.” Erm, no, you’re her parent – you tell her that it is not right for nursery / pre-school. By putting these girls in these clothes and shoes, they are restricted in their movement and so you are determining that today, they cannot be as active as they want to be. I do believe that this is the start of why we have a problem with girls in sport in schools.

Harry (4 yrs old) does football, rugby, swimming, tennis, and gymnastics. Oliver (1 yr old) goes to all of Harry’s lessons and tries to take part. I love it. If someone tells me I do too much with my boys, I tell them I still have to go to the park, go to activity centres, walk the dog and go on bike rides as well, as believe me, they still have bundles of energy and eat and sleep so well. I may be turning into my mother (aaaargh!!) but you know what? I am proud to be.

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