Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Raising Confident, Healthy Kids - Exploring Fitness Activity Options

Jungle gyms always gave me gas.
Let's be honest, nobody wants to raise an overweight child. All my life I've tried to live a relatively healthy lifestyle. My parents always gave me the opportunity to play multiple sports growing up. There was soccer, baseball, basketball, golf and football (a brief stint as kicker for my high school football team:), not to mention all of the daily activities in and around my neighborhood. It seems like I was always on the go. As an incredibly fortunate kid growing up in a neighborhood with a lot of kids my age (and a brother), there was always a pickup game to play, forts to build, hikes through the woods and of course my BMX bike got it's hefty share of use riding around causing trouble with the other neighborhood kids. Continue reading...
It may not have been a conscious decision to try and stay healthy, but these activities always led to such a lifestyle. Why is it then, that it seems like kids these days don't take advantage of life's free outdoor activities like you and I did growing up? Sure, I had Nintendo (the original one of course), but that was often played in the evening and my time on it was usually limited by my parents. It's my strong opinion that kids nowadays need to get out of the house and be more active. These statements are probably making me sound like a grownup, but as I creep into the age of adulthood and parenthood, this topic has become ever-present.

Charlie Cooke Soccer School
Having children that are active in sports or some type of physical activity that promotes a healthy lifestyle will be a top priority of mine and should be with yours. The importance of  physical activities even reach beyond physical health concerns and into mental and social betterment as well. As a soccer instructor for Charlie Cooke Soccer School (Coerver Coaching) at Kids First Sports Center, I coach classes of kids ages 3-12, six days a week. I'm able to get a first-hand experience with the positive mental and social aspects that sports activities can bring to children. At the beginning of a 9 week session, it's a given that 2 or 3 kids will have trouble participating, let alone even step onto the field without shedding a few tears. The 3 year old kids often want to stay attached to their parents leg, and 4-6 year old kids would rather stand at the entrance to the field and watch than try to participate in an activity that's new to them. It's uncomfortable to leave the comfort zone of what you know, that will never change for these kids and is often played out in adulthood. By urging the kids to try something, even if it means shedding some tears or screaming and flopping on the floor (for your child, not you:), your teaching your child that it's okay to be uncomfortable and that often good things can come out of trying something new.

Kids First Sports Center - Cincinnati, OH
Confidence plays such a huge roll in people's lives, successes and even failures (sometimes caused by overconfidence). Like a school teacher, my biggest satisfaction (other than seeing kids having fun with fitness) at my job is watching the kid's self-confidence grow as they learn new skills and develop not only as a player, but as a human-being. That same kid who cries in fear or distances themselves from the class on the first day, typically has a break-through session by week 3 or 4. Once they break through that uncomfortable/unsure feeling, the children typically flourish.  I don't have a child of my own yet (until Sept. 14th 2011), but I can firmly say (and I'm sure there is research to back this up) that the child's self-confidence that was bolstered on the field (or even in the classroom) is translated into everyday life and carried with them through adulthood. Obviously, some children require more attention and positive reinforcement than others, but all in all, the results are same.

GetYourKidsOffTheCoach.com - Kids Fitness Directory Website
As a new parent, finding new and interesting activities for your child to become involved in can be a daunting task, especially if you are not part of a larger neighborhood where kids run rampantly like squirrels in autumn. Thankfully, there are publications and websites that can help you find a program, camp or facility in your neck of the woods (another squirrel reference). My favorite site that I stumbled upon is called GetYourKidsOffTheCouch.com

Brian Foster, founder of Get Your Kids Off The Couch website, describes the site,
"We are making it easier to find the right activities for your child in your area. Trying to use the internet to find Gymnastics Clubs, Music Lessons, Dance Studios, Tutoring Centers, Karate and Martial Arts Programs can sometimes become a cumbersome process online. Our www.GetYourKidsOffTheCouch.com program eliminates the difficulty in finding the best activities for your kids by placing them in one central location on the web and allows you to narrow your search results by zip code. Kids being involved in activities are so important and want it to be easy as possible to find the right activities for your child. We don't want your kids to miss out."
The site is as colorful as it is useful, and not only can you locate a facility near you, but you can also learn more basic information about the above activities. Check it out!

Stars & Stripes Kids Activity Center - Clarkston, MI
Interestingly enough, Brian Foster, along with his wife Becky and business partner Cassie Davis own a facility similar to Kids First Sports (where I coach soccer out of currently), called Stars & Stripes Kids Activity Center located in Clarkston, MI.

Business partner Cassie Davis states,
"At Stars & Stripes our goal is to provide children's educational programs through physical activity that far exceed the norm. Our programs are specifically designed to meet the needs of the children. We offer recreational gymnastics, competitive gymnastics, competitive cheer and our newest edition, Camp Kids, which is our summer camp program. We have been in business nearly nine years and strive to maintain a standard of innovation and excellence. Our mission has always been to build self-esteem, strength and dreams. We provide a safe and kind training environment where the child comes first."
 Whether you're looking at a facility where your kids can play/train or are content with a sports team, neighborhood activities and visits to the park, please make sure your children get the fitness, nutrition, creative and social engagement necessary to lead successful healthy lives.

Do you have any good or bad experiences with a kids sports activity based facility? Suggestions for our readers on how to promote an active lifestyle for their children? I'd love to hear your comments or suggestions on this topic!

Side Note: I'm sitting here watching Christie's (my wife) belly literally move from baby kicks (or punches). How amazing! Sometimes my stomach feels like something is moving inside, but that's probably just gas. This is one of the most REAL experiences to date!

4 comments:

  1. We joined our local YMCA when our first child was two. It's a great place to go for swimming classes, but there are also tons of other activities (for the kids and adults) that will keep our family active all year round. Of course, they have the pool and play area outside as well! Family pricing is reasonable, and once your a member, many classes are only a dollar!

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  2. How do you feel about putting your kids in martial arts classes? I've been thinking about taking my 5 year old to Karate, but I'm afraid that he'll take what he learns and get himself into trouble at school.

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  3. I'm on the fence about the martial arts Chuck. Having never participated in it myself, I can't say one way or another. I do know that it's more of an art of self defense, and even at a young age, the teach and pride themselves on not using their skills as offensive or disruptive actions. I think that is also the part where the parent's roll comes into play. Teaching your kids self-discipline and the difference between right and wrong. This could be one of the single biggest lessons missing in most "families" today. It's extremely evident in lower income areas.

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  4. My husband currently aids in teaching a Taekwondo class of 3-4 (maybe there's a 5 year old in the mix, they all look the same to me) year old children.

    Though they mainly focus on feet movement it isn't until the child reaches the age of 8 that they learn anything that can cause any bout of harm to another person. For the most part younger children play games, practice stances (not actual "hi-ya" moves), and get sticker stars for being a good student. Since the parent is there the entire time, bad behavior is never tolerated.

    If anything it's a great way to get a 'kid-centered' activity family oriented as most places offer family classes as well for those that want to do it along with an older child (usually around the minimum age of 10).

    My advice: go observe a class and see if it fits your needs before signing up for it. Since quality really varies from place to place if there's more than one in your area try to observe all before getting your kid involved.

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