Raising Active Kids

Last week, I briefly discussed my hunt for after school activities for my kids.

Jonah does traditional sports recreation programs. He makes up for a lack of technique with boundless energy and enthusiasm. His basketball coach often pairs Jonah up with the biggest guy on the opposing team, because Jonah just wears his opponent down with spastic jumps and arm waves. It's not pretty, but it's effective. While Ian has excellent balance and coordination, he doesn't have the attention span or upper body strength for rec sports. We've been sampling various programs trying to find an activity that at his level.

While it would be nice to find a sports class that isn't too competitive for Ian, it isn't essential, because we keep both boys very active.

I'm a big believer in Kennedy-style vigor. Kennedy wrote, "Our own history, perhaps better than the
history of any other great country, vividly demonstrates the truth of
the belief that physical vigor and health are essential accompaniments
to the qualities of intellect and spirit on which a nation is built."

We want really the kids to be outside, doing stuff, as much as possible. It's not so much about the health benefits. We just think that exploring and experiencing are great fun and we want our kids to like those things, too.

Img055Saturdays are often a work day for me, so  Steve takes the kids on hikes to get them out of my hair. Even when the kids were babies and we lived in the city, he would pop them in the backpack and march through Inwood Park to check out the eagles. During the week, the kids and I lived at Javitts Park.

I want them to be outside as much as possible, and the rules (or lack of rules) reflect that. Ian likes to dig things, so I let him make a royal mess under the back steps. Nobody ever gets in trouble for getting their clothes dirty. I keep buckets of balls and bats in the garage.

IMG_3017 To keep the boys outside, we go outside and do stuff, too. I keep the garden neat, and Steve mows the lawn. I'll throw the football with Jonah, if Steve isn't around. I'll roller blade up and down the block, while they ride their bikes. (My neighbors think I'm crazy.) We belong to the town pool. I'll jump in the pool and do under water handstands. I'm the mom with the frizzy hair and the dissolved mascara.

Steve and I have to be so involved with the kids' activities, not only because we like it and we want to set a good example. We're outside, because other kids aren't. The attention span of playmates for outside stuff is about five minutes, and then they slink back inside to watch iCarly. Even at the town pool, the kids bring their DSIs and sit in the shade. Their ten year old bodies wiggle and jiggle. 

DSC_0028 The great thing about digging in the dirt, doing hand stands in the pool, ice skating, walking through the woods, and tossing a football with mom is that you don't have be an athlete to do these things. You don't need natural endurance or coordination. It's not about the competition. You're not sitting on the bench waiting for your turn at bat. It isn't limited to an hour once a week in a contained, indoors, adult-structured environment. It's just fun.

IMG_0136 IMG_1072 IMG_1202

10 thoughts on “Raising Active Kids

  1. We are the same. Have you read Last Child in the Woods? Your post reminds me of it.
    We are outside, though we are often the only family outside. It’s kind of sad. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.

  2. I just finished Last Child in the Woods – GREAT book.
    One good thing about life in Madison, Wisconsin – all the kids are still outside, at least in our neighborhood. My kids are outside just about every day. They find their friends and play in packs, unsupervised by adults, at a park or in a yard. But I do admit to enjoying the time out with the kids, so I sneak out to organize a game or build a snow fort and pretend that I”m a kid too.
    (That’s the bad thing about life in Wisconsin – the 6 months of snow-fort weather!)

  3. This is the third time I’ve heard people speak highly of Third Child in the Woods; I guess I’ll have to check it out.
    I’m so thankful that we found the house we did, with places for the kids to wander and explore up and down the little run-off creek across from us. And we have parks with bike trails in relatively easy access. Still, we’re not out nearly as much as we’d like to be or ought to be; our bike trailer is hardly used at all these days. We need to do better.
    Great pictures and post, Laura! Thanks.

  4. Our kids are pretty active when the weather is good. We’re in a lull right now because neither of them play winter sports. In late February, lacrosse will begin and spring soccer, so we’ll be back to active again. Mr. Geeky and I are another story. I’m going to the gym and I’m generally more active than Mr. Geeky, but he used to be very active. Your post reminds me to get the kids (and ourselves) out more. Sadly, it kind of wears me out just to find something to do. Sure, we could go for a walk, but our little self-contained neighborhood gets boring. And getting somewhere with actual nature costs money and is a long drive. See? Easily come up with excuses.

  5. Now that he’s nearly six, K and I can no longer share a ski instructor. I struggle with my turns; he goes whoosh-whoosh and says, “I’m bored.” His solution to discovering that the three-meter diving platform was closed was to jump off the five-meter platform. Maybe this is too much of a good thing?

  6. ” Sure, we could go for a walk, but our little self-contained neighborhood gets boring. And getting somewhere with actual nature costs money and is a long drive. See? Easily come up with excuses. ”
    I love seeing what Laura’s doing with her kids, but I miss the childhood of my past where such activeness did not require the active involvement of parents, because it was done with other kids.
    Doug — our 6yo has just discovered skiing (2 lessons, with his school), and has fallen in love, and surpassed, by far, the skill level of both his parents (mind you, our level is very very low). He also enjoys climbing up 65 foot height climbing towers. Generally, we’re pleased, but I spend a fair amount of time biting my fingers weighting for him to come off the rock, the tower, the mountain.

  7. In my neighborhood, which is one of the most racially integrated in Philadelphia, the larger majority of kids I see playing outside, especially on their own, are african-american kids- skateboarding, riding bikes, playing in the little woods, playing games at the school yard, etc. I can’t help but think they are getting the better end of the deal. It’s still a lot fewer kids than when I was growing up.

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