School's Out, Play's In!
We’ve covered CSPAP in some earlier posts focusing mainly on helping change programs in school to maximize the physical activity (PA) your kids get. For this one, we wanted to take a different approach and talk about getting your kids to exercise outside of school and give you tips on how to help get the perfect amount of PA for your kids.
School is one of the best places for kids to get PA and be engaged, but if proper programs aren’t in place, it can be difficult to create change. If you’re still wanting to change where kids spend the majority of their time, we wrote a blog post about ideas and ways to create change in their school. But one thing you have complete control of is what your kids do after school. Whether you’re a volunteer for their sports team or just dropping them off at the YMCA, there are plenty of things you can do to help fulfil their needs.
The best way to encourage your child to get activity is for YOU to have a positive and encouraging attitude about it. Kids follow others’ examples, and while it is easy to get them to play on a playground while other kids are present, you wouldn’t have the same kind of success alone. The three key things you can do to get your kids excited to play are to…
- Create opportunities where they can play
- Equip them with the proper tools to play
- Lead by example or encourage proper play
Creating opportunities for kids to play is important to make sure that they don’t take out their energy elsewhere. We’ve all had times when kids are acting up in the grocery store or still bouncing off the walls at bedtime - it’s so important for kids to get their PA so they’ll be calmer in situations where it matters - can I get an amen from the parents?!
It’s important to get kids together, but not have too many of them to where your child doesn’t get much of a chance to play. Pick areas where there won’t be long lines to wait through or large team sizes where the activity is spread out. Whether it’s at school, a club sport, or a program at your local YMCA, it’s important to create opportunities where kids are together and encouraged to play.
Once you have the group together, it’s important to equip them with the tools to do what they want to do. Whether that is playground equipment, balls and goals, or just a goal to achieve, it is important to equip them with what they need. Playing pretend is fun most of the time, but it’s important to give them equipment to work with. While most activities are great for physical activity, try to avoid games that eliminate certain players or only have a few kids playing at a time. A group of people who are together with a common goal will ultimately play, but equipping them is best to make sure they get something out of it.
The most important part of creating good PA for your kids is by encouraging proper play. You can help modify games for maximum PA involvement by adjusting space, equipment, and rules as you see fit. If you don’t watch your kids play, you won’t know what they need the most! Having adults play an active role in keeping kids motivated, managed, and monitored will keep them happy and healthy. You want to reduce the number of both uninvolved children and adults whenever possible. Studies have shown that the optimal ratio of kids to adults is 15:1 or less, so feel free to step up if an after-school program is understaffed. Change starts with you, and after a while, kids may even learn from your example and keep positive change going with others.
If you’re wondering where the best place to find one of these activities is, first look into your own community. Schools often offer a wide variety of after-school activities or clubs. While not all of these are offered every day of the week, it’s much better than nothing. Club or intramural sports are also a good place to look, whether with the school or another group. And ask other parents about opportunities in the area, having a couple of friendly faces around can do wonders for keeping kids active.
If the school community doesn’t work, check out your local YMCA. The staff is properly trained to engage kids, and the environment and resources are there for kids to get high quality PA while having fun. See if there’s a Youth Fit for Life program at your local YMCA or what programs are offered by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
More than 10 million children are involved in after-school activities, and yours can be next.
Just to review, to maximize PA for your children, after school programs are important. You can sign them up for an existing program, or volunteer for a program and help out. Whatever you do, keep the LET US Play principles in mind.
- L - Shorten or eliminate lines so children are not waiting for their turn
- E - Eliminate elimination games
- T - Reduce team sizes and use small-sided games instead
- U - Reduce the number of uninvolved children and adults
- S - Modify games for maximum PA involvement by adjusting space, equipment, and rules
It’s difficult for kids to get an hour and a half of PA time every day in school so after-school activities are important in keeping your child happy and healthy. If you have any questions, feel free to contact a GameTime school playground expert in your area!