While there is no argument that sports may help develop physical health, the social element in sports and free play is what makes us well-rounded as individuals. Rather than sit alone staring at the TV or computer, or relying solely on electronic devices, get out and get active!
Get out there
Sport is a tremendous vehicle to get kids together to learn from each other. Issues arise and emotions can be strong, but sport and free play teach kids how to adapt to one another and develop skills in decision making, conflict resolution, and teamwork, all while improving physical health.
All too often kids are over-scheduled with organized play; to give kids the opportunity to develop these social skills, we need to give them the space to be creative and create their own rules. It feels as though we have completely forgotten how to allow our kids to have fun playing sports on their own with friends without spending thousands of dollars and countless hours of organized training to get there.
There are always ways adults can support the habits of kids without structured sports or specific play direction. Can we get back to the days of “backyard games” or allowing our kids to meet up with friends at parks, courts, and fields with neighborhood buddies? Focusing on a physical activity and enjoying the freedom to play allows kids to temporarily forget about, or cope with, the stresses of the world.
Let kids rule
Today millions of children are on their own after school and during the summer months without the opportunity to play with other kids or learn new sports. While kids need to learn responsibility for themselves and to be given an element of trust, providing kids with a safe place to play gives them the opportunity to develop physical and social skills in a positive environment. We need to invest in programs for child-led activities and free play that allow kids to make smart, healthy and educated choices all while supporting working parents. Finding new ways to make sports affordable, accessible and fun with plenty of variety and free play will increase the number of kids exposed to new activities. This also includes ample recess and free play time during the school day.
The underlying social element of play allows kids to build confidence and make lasting friendships while learning to work as a team and support each other through sports. Giving kids the space, tools, and equipment to stay active will get more kids outdoors and teach them that being active is fun, leading to a lifelong love of active living.
Chris Schulz, Founder and Executive Director, Active Kids Association of Sport (AKASPORT), [email protected]