Birdy learning to swim

Well the Olympics are here – what better opportunity to get your kids interested in sport.

The great thing about the Olympics is that it only comes around every four years so the kids never get sick of it! 

Even if your child is ten or twelve they’ve probably only seen two other Olympics.  And if you have little kids like me, then it’s all totally brand new.

So why not go the whole hog, get into the spirit and have your own little backyard Olympics at home?  Or give your kids a chance to try a sport they’ve never attempted before.  Take the kids iceskating.  Set up an obstacle course in the backyard.  Do some rhythm gymnastics on the trampoline.  The Olympics is a great opportunity to get active.

The irony is that it’s all too easy to spend the entire ten days in front of the television, rather than actually being active.

We haven’t started any organised sport in our family (other than the obligatory swimming lessons that every Aussie kid does from the age of about two) but Birdy has just started doing sport for the first time at school and she’s loving it!  In kindy they just do very simple bat and ball games, but she’s really enjoying it.  So recently I’ve taken out my old cricket bat or hockey stick and proceeded to put holes in the lawn with her.  Each time we’ve done it, it’s been really fun and my daughter has been quite amazed to see that Mummy can actually hit the ball.  Unfortunately most five year olds can’t just pick up a bat and hit it for six on the first try! It takes practice and it can be a bit hard for them to grasp that concept when they’re little.

 Like most parents, I hope all my children will get involved in some form of sport. It’s great for kids to be active and playing sport is a healthy, sociable way of having fun.

But it’s not just the physical activity that kids benefit from. 

There’s learning to work as a team, the discipline of training, learning to lose graciously, the confidence they gain from learning a new skill and the feeling of belonging that you get from being part of a team.

I think for girls particularly, sport can help with body image issues, because they learn to respect their body for what it can do, rather than regarding it as an object to be looked at.  But playing sport can also give children another way of finding their place among their peers.  When I was in Year 6 in primary school, as we were approaching adolescence, the girls all gave up playing at lunchtime.  Suddenly they just wanted to sit around and talk about boys, hairstyles, who had a good figure, who was getting their first bra, or who wasn’t but should be, and I found that incredibly boring.  I wanted to do something.  So I used to go and play soccer with the boys at lunchtime.  Obviously sport can be a way of making new friends, but it can also offer kids a different way of relating to their peer group.

For boys, sport can be a positive outlet for their aggressive instincts, but also a way of putting limits on that aggression.  In sport, if you break the rules there are consequences and those consequences affect the entire team.  So playing a sport can give boys an outlet for their aggression, but also train them to control it.

So how much physical activity are kids supposed to have?

 The Australian Government department of health and ageing recommends that kids have at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day.

They also specify that children should spend no more than 2 hours per day using electronic media for entertainment, especially during daylight hours.

By the way, that 60 minutes of physical activity doesn’t have to be organised sport.  If your child really isn’t into sport, maybe you just need to start walking to school, or doing nippers or geocaching or highland dancing or skateboarding.  There are lots of different ways to be active.  That’s one thing about the Olympics, there are plenty of activities to choose from if you need some inspiration!

What do you think are some of the benefits of getting kids into sport?  Did you play a sport as a child?  What about your kids?  Would they get the 60 minutes a day of exercise that the Australian government recommends?  Is the family getting into the Olympics and feeling inspired to be more active?