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Our Savvy Scouts have been very busy enjoying all that there is to enjoy while the Olympics are in town. Here’s our savvy list of what to do and where to go with kids, because we want to make sure you make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Have you been to any great Olympic events or activities? We’d love to hear about your Olympic experiences.
Rush, rush, rush. No matter how well organized, there’s always that last minute morning scurry as you check that everyone has their lunch bag and homework signed and then hustle your kids out of the door.
Then there’s pick-up. Some days you bring a snack in the car so they can eat on the way to gymnastics or karate. Other days you plan an early dinner so that they don’t have to swim on a full stomach. Some evenings you’re all too tired to persevere through homework assignments. Even weekends, best for catching up and taking a breath from a hectic schedule, are often filled with extracurricular activities for one or more of your children.
Ideally, my recommendation is for parents to explore as much as time and money will allow before their child goes into grade one since that is when both child and parent may have more free time. After that, it’s best to refine the choices according to your child’s interest and aptitude. I advise parents not to enroll their children in more than two extracurricular activities per week. When choosing activities, you may ask your child to choose one of the two. The second choice may be something that you are inclined towards—an essential life skill such as swimming, for example.
Children, like adults, can feel overwhelmed from always being on the run. By occupying our children every waking moment, we don’t teach them the value of down time and enjoying their own company during quiet moments.
Next calendar year, think about what you want for your child, for yourself and for your family. Instead of piano or dance being that extracurricular activity, make family night the activity instead. Having some time to relax and connect with each other can make all the difference.
Looking for an eco activity to get your family excited about Earth Day? Storm drain marking is a special activity that brought me precious one-on-one time with my young boys, helped educate my children and neighborhood about the environment, left a lasting memory, and involved no cost!
When I heard about an opportunity to mark storm drains, I immediately knew my kids would love to participate. I mean, what child doesn’t like fresh air, reflective vests, glue, and a hammer? Along with the process of marking drains, the kit comes with literature to distribute for residents to read about what ‘not’ to put into storm drains. This was my boys’ favorite part of the process and I loved watching people ask my kids what the pamphlets were for and listening to their answers. From the mouth of a babe—my younger son, Angelo, would simply reply, “I’m helping the fish”.
Storm drain marking is a conservation and education project developed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The process is to apply fish stickers beside the storm drain and hammer the decal with a mallet approximately 50 times so the sticker absorbs into the grooves of the cement. This activity needs to be done on a clear day and takes two days to fully dry.
My boys and I marked a long road and tagged fish decals to 35+ storm drains. They still proudly point to the drains they marked knowing they helped improve their community. It was such a fun activity and will always be a favorite memory of quality time spent with my boys.
Tips for making this activity a success:
Q. What should a parent do if their child shows no interest in sports? My 6-year-old daughter would rather read, draw or play. Do I risk turning her off of sports and activity if I ‘force her’ to do them?
A: Lots of children love to read, draw and play on their own, and those are valuable activities. Music, art and free play are important parts of a balanced childhood and you should continue to encourage these activities.
Your question suggests that you are concerned whether or not you will create a negative experience for her by insisting she participates.
There is no great risk in introducing your daughter to a particular sport or activity, but you should keep a few things in mind:
For more tips, check out Active for Life.
If you have a daughter, there’s good reason to be concerned about her future in sports and physical activity. The statistics are bleak and there might be worrisome consequences for your daughter’s health.
Girls move a lot less than boys
Research shows that only 4% of Canadian girls are getting enough daily physical activity to meet recommended health guidelines. Meanwhile, 9% of boys, more than twice as many, are getting enough activity.
Another survey showed that only 70% of girls regularly participate in sports in a year. For boys that number is 81%.
Follow the money…
Here’s an interesting fact. Statistics Canada says that sport participation rates for girls and boys get closer as household income rises. Basically, girls from low-income families are much less likely to be active than boys from low-income households.
Sports and activity reduce cancer risk for girls
All of this highlights a critical health issue. One review of data for females aged 12 to 24 suggests that their cancer risk is reduced by as much as 20% if they are physically active. Each regular weekly hour of physical activity during their teen years is associated with a 3% reduction in risk for breast cancer.
What to do?
It’s not all doom and gloom. There are ways we can help girls get involved and stay active. Check out these suggestions on how to support and encourage girls in sports and physical activity.
Beyond smoking and nutrition, physical activity is one of the few health factors that we can influence.
As parents, we can help our daughters to get the right start in physical activity so they never stop.
For more tips, check out Active for Life.
We recently featured a study that identified the 5 top reasons kids play sports. As you might have guessed, ‘because it’s FUN’ is at the top of the list while ‘doing something I am good at’ is a close second.
We’ve compiled a list of DO’S and DON’TS for parents who want to help their child enjoy sports and learn great skills.
1. Do your homework.
Make sure the activity your child is interested in is safe. Meet the coaches and visit the play area. Familiarize yourself with the equipment and rules if you don’t already know them. Help your child prepare and set realistic expectations for their participation.
2. Don’t bribe your child to play.
Participation and skill development will be the reward for a child who is having fun in a supportive environment.
3. Let the coaches do their job.
If you’ve done your homework, you can rely on them to assess your child’s skill development and they’ll let you know when your child is ready to advance.
4. Don’t force your child to play a particular sport.
Just because soccer is close and convenient does not mean your child will enjoy it. Let her find a sport that she enjoys and excels at. And make sure she samples a wide variety of activities. It can take time before a child realizes they like a particular sport.
5. Behave yourself.
Don’t curse and yell. Don’t argue with coaches, referees or other parents. Playing sports is an opportunity for your child to experience fair play. It’s a chance for them to learn humility in victory and grace in defeat. And while it’s fine to cheer for your child, it’s better to support all the kids who are out there, having fun.
6. Don’t fixate on a single sport.
Science has proven that children need to develop as all-round athletes before they specialize in one sport. By participating in a variety of sports kids develop many movement skills, avoid injuries from over use and won’t get bored or burned out.
7. Talk to your child.
Learn about their participation and their enjoyment, show your interest and let them know you want them to have fun.
8. Don’t compare your child to others.
Let him enjoy participating without having to worry about others. Not all children will develop at the same time, so skill levels are often different. And not all children will enjoy the same sports. If they aren’t having fun, let them try something else.
9. Get active yourself.
Be a role model for your children, because studies show that active parents have active kids. Nearly 70 percent of children of parents who play sports also play sports, according to a recent Statistics Canada report.
10. Don’t rush things.
As long as they have the opportunity, kids will learn movement and sport skills when they—and their bodies—are ready. Until about age 5, kids should be learning basic motor skills, the FUNdamentals. After age 6 they can sign up for organized sports programs, but make sure there is an emphasis on skill development, not competition.
11. Don’t fixate on results.
Kids can and will be competitive, but they aren’t concerned about who wins or loses. Children play sports because they want to have fun, because they learn and master new skills and because they get to spend time with their friends.
Watching him surge powerfully through the water in the 100-metre freestyle, you might imagine Brent Hayden has always been an athlete. The truth is that as a child he struggled in just about every sport.
This Canadian Olympian is another great example of why kids need to be exposed to a variety of sports when they are small, and why parents need to keep an open mind when it comes to recognizing where their kids’ talents might be.
In a recent interview with Active for Life, Brent talked about his early love of swimming, his struggles in team sports and his inspiration to swim at the Olympics.
Q: What different sports did you play as a child?
I started playing soccer and baseball around age five, and later I played on the basketball team at my elementary school. I also played water polo for about three or four years from about age 12 to age 16. Around the same time I did karate for about five years and earned my first-degree black belt.
The truth is that I was awful at just about every sport I did, except for the water sports and karate. I was terrible at every sport outside of the pool.
When I briefly played basketball in grade seven, I only scored one basket all season. And it was an exhibition game against our own girls’ team. I mostly joined basketball because I was trying to get into the popular crowd at school, but in the end my lack of skills didn’t help me.
Q: What kept you in swimming?
I just loved to swim. I actually failed swimming lessons the first couple of times, but eventually I just found my place there.
For me, there was something about it being an individual sport. People weren’t relying on me getting the ball up the field or anything. I could just focus on my lane, and I think that’s what kept me in swimming.
Q: Do you have any memorable childhood experiences in sport?
I remember during my first or second year with the Mission Marlins Swim Club, a coach gave me one of his medals to take home for a couple of weeks. I was probably only five or six years old.
It was really special for me because I hadn’t won a race or a medal yet. But it kind of felt like it was my medal. It sort of lit a fire under me. It made me want to go out and win one of my own.
Q: Do you remember when you first began to think about the Olympics?
The first time I ever thought about the Olympics was probably grade three. The teacher was getting kids to stand up in class and say what they wanted to be when they grew up.
I stood up and said, “I want to swim in the Olympics, and I want to be a robot maker.” I think I had just recently watched the movie Short Circuit or something, and I wanted my own Johnny Five!
Q: Of your swimming achievements, which one stands out most for you?
I guess it’s pretty simple just to say that winning the gold medal at the 2007 World Championships was the best one, but it really was. It was fulfilling a promise I made to my grandfather.
Just before I left to go to Australia for the World Championships, I got the call that my grandfather was dying. I went to see him, and I sat with him as he was going in and out consciousness.
I said, ‘Grandpa, I am going to Australia tomorrow, and I am going to win you a medal.’
He passed away five days later. So winning a gold medal for me was not just about winning a gold medal—it was about fulfilling the most difficult promise that I’ll ever make to anyone in my life.
Q: Do you have any advice for children who might dream of going to the Olympics?
Just enjoy every moment and never stop having fun. I always try to have fun with my sport because my best performances are when I’m enjoying it. I actually struggle when I’m not having fun.
Q: Do you have any advice for parents looking to get their kids involved in sports?
Just open the doors for them. Just get them out there and get them to experience different sports. But at the same time, don’t pressure them into any one sport. If they like it, they like it. If they don’t, they don’t. Let them find what’s right for them.
We’re not really a ‘watch sports on television’ kind of family, but now that the kids are old enough to appreciate the events and the achievement of the Olympics we were looking forward to watching the London Games.
To build some excitement, I thought I would show our 7-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son the Relentless video with Canadian Olympic athletes training hard for the London Games.
They both seemed to like it, especially our little guy who loved seeing the divers somersaulting in the air before hitting the water. Our daughter thought it was ‘cool’ because it showed her some of the Olympic events.
It was briefly interesting to me that they each seemed to take away different things from the video. Then we forgot all about it, or so I thought, until a few days later when we were at my parents’ house for a Sunday visit.
After playing outside for a while and running all around the yard, our daughter showed me a list of events she had just completed in her own mini-Olympics game including the medal she had awarded herself for each category.
The girl who has been known to describe herself as ‘not liking sports,’ told me that she had used everything in our sports bag: t-ball, soccer ball, football, and a Frisbee; plus the neighbours’ pond for ‘fishing for leaves’; she substituted her arm for a golf club; and counted the previous day’s swim at a friends’ house as the swimming event.
I love that she did this because she had a blast and was so happy with herself. But it also showed me that she’s internalized the idea that physical activity is fun, to the extent that she’s incorporated it into her imaginative play without any interference or coaxing from us.
It’s a bit like how she introduced writing and reading into her playtime once she had those skills under her belt. And it reminds me of the one thing that stuck in my head from those in-class driving lessons I took years ago: the idea of conscious incompetence vs. unconscious competence. She’s gone from having an acute awareness of her lack of sports skills to being physically active for fun without thinking about it. Pretty cool!
However, I don’t think that this means that our kids have visions of standing on the podium in real life.
The next day when I asked them if they want to be Olympic athletes when they grow up, I got the following responses:
Daughter: ‘No, I want to be a librarian because it’s nice and quiet.’
Son: ‘Yes, I mean no, I want to be a writer because it’s nice and quiet and nobody comes in.’
So I do believe we have turned another corner in our sporty journey, but the kids are staying true to their bookworm roots. And who says a writer and librarian can’t throw around a football or play a round of ‘arm golf’ while discussing the latest literary news?
Sara Smeaton is a self-proclaimed non-sporty mom to her 7 year old daughter and 5 year old son. While working in advertising, as an interactive project manager, she avoided all company bowling outings and baseball games. Since having her kids, Sara continues to work as a freelancer and consultant; she is enjoying this new adventure writing for Active for Life.
Nothing is more exciting and terrifying than the lead up to back to school: new classmates, new teacher, new subjects to learn, and for some, even a whole new school. One way to help alleviate some of these transitional stresses and ensure kids and teens have more confidence as they pick up their new books, is to keep learning over the summer. After all, it is understandable that some of the skills learned have fallen wayside—particularly in reading and writing. Jeanette Podolsky, Director of Speech Therapy Centres has some activity ideas to help you and your kids as they get back into the grind and feel confident heading back to the classroom.
‘By incorporating activities for listening, language expression, reading and writing into your daily routine, and creating a language-literacy rich environment, you can help ensure smoother transitions at school,’ says Jeanette.
Here are her tips:
Simon Says: This is a great game to sharpen many of your child’s skills; from listening to improving verbal attention and from following directions to self-regulation. Based on your child’s skill level, you can make the game easy to challenging. Start simple with one task—‘Simon says clap your hands.’ Then as each level is mastered, add a degree of difficulty,such as multi-step directions—‘Simon says take your dishes and put them on the counter.’ Or perhaps you can tease them by throwing in some directions that require good listening such as, ‘Simon says don’t clap’ or ‘Simon says tell me a word that rhymes with bat.’ With a little imagination, the possibilities are endless!
Reading together: One of the messages every parent hears from the time their child is an infant is ‘read to your little one.’ As your child grows, so too can reading time. You can work on site words, or you can encourage them to use the pictures in the book to help them tell you the story. If you want quiet reading time, ask them to predict what will happen next or when you are done ask them to recall the main ideas, characters and the plot of the story.
Junior School Age:
Name-Place-Animal-Thing: Here’s a fun group word game that stimulates vocabulary and targets literacy skills. Ask one person in the group to call out a letter of the alphabet. Then everyone takes a couple of minutes to write down a ‘name,’ a ‘place,’ an ‘animal’ and a ‘thing’ that starts with that letter. When all members in the group have finished writing down all four fields, each one calls out their list. There are many ways to build on to this game, from describing how the members of the category are related to including adjectives, verbs, synonyms and antonyms.
Young writers in the making! What did your child do this summer? Something new? Exciting? Or did they simply frolic in the sun and enjoy the laziness of no school. Whether they travelled to a new place, enrolled in a summer camp, or visited some exciting local attractions, ask your child to write about it. Support their writing with a topic and conclusion sentence (e.g., Topic sentence: ‘This summer, I had a lot of fun.’ Conclusion sentence: ‘I can’t wait for another fun-filled summer next year). Watch them as they write. If you see them struggling with their spelling, encourage them to sound out the words. Once they have finished, have them to check their work for punctuation and proper capitalization.
Middle School Age:
Movie Reviews: Challenge your child to summarize a recent movie they have seen. Not only will this activity target organization of thoughts (beginning, middle and end), but it will also help with verbal memory, descriptive writing and presentation skills. Remember—encourage them to provide reasoning for their thoughts and likes or dislikes.
Summer trip comparison: Wonder what your child liked about their summer holiday? Here is your chance to find out. Over dinner or some quiet time, have a discussion with your children where you compare this summer to last. Encourage them to talk about what was liked or not liked and how they can make next summer even more memorable. This activity uses comparison skills, problem-solving and generation of ideas for next summer!
Making the transition from the lazy, dog days of summer back to a new school year can be a challenge for both parents and children. Incorporating some of these activities into your family’s daily routine throughout the end of summer can make for a smoother transition back into school.
I’m fortunate. My family loves to be outside. And we happen to live close to a fantastic warren of forest trails. So we take every opportunity to venture into Lynn Canyon, in the mountains 25 minutes north of Vancouver.
Getting into the fresh air is not only invigorating; our hikes provide countless opportunities to share great experiences with our kids.
We teach our children, ages 2 and 5, about the wonders of nature. By asking questions and encouraging observation, we give our children their first science experiences. We look at plants and fungi. We search out signs of animal life.
And while not all of our hikes are vigorous—we do enjoy a leisurely stroll from time to time—every moment outdoors is an opportunity to develop and refine fundamental movement skills.
We hop over branches. We climb and leap off stumps. We practice balancing while walking on fallen logs.
Our children quickly became confident in performing these skills and are comfortable enough on the uneven—and often muddy—ground that they are often racing ahead, and blazing new trails in the underbrush.
In fact, we think of the outdoors as an activity environment for development of physical literacy. To our minds, being able to move in the natural world is as important as being able to do things on the ground, in the water, on snow and ice, and in the air.
So get outside! It’s possible to find hiking spots even in the most urban of Canada’s cities. You don’t need a large area, just the right outlook. And your kids will learn and develop skills while having fun.
Blaine Kyllo has written for a variety of print and online publications including CBC.ca, the Globe & Mail, the Georgia Straight and Vancouver Magazine. Also an editor, producer and the father of two young children, he lives in North Vancouver.
Our latest TV ad features NHL superstar and dad Vincent Lecavalier playing ‘tightrope walking’ with his daughter Victoria and some of her friends. The ad highlights the fact that it’s easy, fun and critical for parents to play with their kids in a way so they learn fundamental physical skills.
As simple as the ad is, it actually challenges common beliefs on raising active and successful kids.
There are three common myths that we want to debunk:
Myth 1: Kids will learn all the skills they need on their own
Kids play. That’s what they do. But playing is more than just fun; play is critical to your kid’s entire development.
Play is so important that the United Nations has recognized play as a fundamental right of children. The UN statement is in recognition of the research that shows kids need play to grow physically, intellectually, socially and emotionally.
But parents are not necessarily aware that kids need to play a variety of games to develop the physical literacy skills they need to achieve their full potential.
It’s great to spend time playing games with your children. As you play with them, why not play fun games that will also help your child learn fundamental skills that will help them in all aspects of life?
Myth 2: Teachers and coaches will teach my kids the skills they need to know
So that we can deliver to you what you need, we’re always talking with parents like you. Parents have told us that helping their kids succeed is important. Along the way, they feel that their main responsibility is to make sure their kids succeed academically. It’s not that parents don’t understand the importance of physical activity, but they assume that coaches and teachers will teach their kids the physical skills they need.
In reality, parents are and remain their kid’s first teachers, and this applies to physical skills as much as academic skills. And you can’t start too early. From birth to age 6, children need to develop the ABCs of movement—agility, balance, coordination, speed—by playing a diversity of fun games every day.
Realize that you are your child’s first teacher of all skills, especially the physical skills. By teaching, we mean exposing your child to many fun games. Don’t be afraid if you are not sporty yourself. It’s not about turning your kid into an Olympian; it’s about teaching good skills and active habits early in life. Get to know the fundamental skills for your kid’s age and just play!
Myth 3: It’s for jocks only, my kid is not an athlete
In our last editorial we stated that there are no natural-born athletes. This generated many comments. It has raised the old nature versus nurture debate, but there’s not much to argue in view of the new research. There is simply a lot of science that now demonstrates that our brain is not static, and that what we do actually changes the structure of our brain.
In other words, the brain we are born with will adapt and evolve according to what we do and the skills we practice. Two video clips, one from Daniel Coyle author of The Talent Code and one from Matthew Syed who wrote Bounce: How Champions Are Made present simple summaries of the research.
Based on the science, our contributor Sara Smeaton, who calls herself a “non-sporty mom,” told me that she has changed her entire outlook on what could be possible for her kids. ‘I always thought that my kids would never be athletic. I was resigned to the fact that they would be un-athletic like my husband and I,’ she said.
Don’t fall into the old clichés of sporty versus non-sporty or athletic versus non-athletic. Instead, look at physical literacy as a way to help your children develop as well-rounded people. In the end, our body is our window to the world. Whether your children become artists, business moguls or professional athletes, their bodies will be their main tools for expressing themselves and for relating to the world around them.
The winning formula
The formula is simple: Play with your children, and play fun games that will help them to develop fundamental movement skills. With new skills, your children’s confidence will improve. With skills and confidence, their level of enjoyment will grow. In the end, having more fun in activity will mean your kids might become active for life!
Richard Monette is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Active for Life. He’s a ‘renaissance man’ of the quest for achievement and fulfillment. His professional activities span the disciplines of business, sport psychology and education. He is part of the B2ten leadership team and leads the Active for Life initiative. Richard is married and the the proud ‘papa’ of a 9 year-old boy and an 11 year-old girl.
Try singing this to the tune of 12 Days of Christmas.
On the first day of the winter holiday break, my family and me
went outside to play in the snow.
Run up a hill and toboggan down. Go snowshoeing. Try skiing, both cross-country and downhill. Have a snowball fight. Don’t let the fresh, crisp air keep you inside.
On the second day of the winter holiday break, my family and me
built an obstacle course in our house.
Create a tunnel out of some cushions. Set up a tightrope to walk. If you’ve got a mini trampoline, include it in your course.
On the third day of the winter holiday break, my family and me
went skating at the local ice rink.
Most community centres have cheap rentals if you don’t have your own skates. Make sure to wear your helmets (adults, too).
On the fourth day of the winter holiday break, my family and me
had a dance off to crazy music.
Turn up the volume and get creative.
On the fifth day of the winter holiday break, my family and me
went swimming at the community pool.
Many aquatic centres often include wave pools, water slides and great shallow pools for toddlers and younger children learning to swim. Plus: hot tubs.
On the sixth day of the winter holiday break, my family and me
played hopscotch in our kitchen.
Use masking tape to create a range of hopscotch grids. Alternate the legs you hop on.
On the seventh day of the winter holiday break, my family and me
learned to rock climb at the gym.
Rock climbing is a great activity that can be enjoyed by everyone in the family. Get some practice now so you can climb outside next summer.
On the eighth day of the winter holiday break, my family and me
played ‘Simon/Simona’ says.
Use basic calisthenics like jumping jacks for an active and bouncy game.
On the ninth day of the winter holiday break, my family and me
visited a bowling alley.
You get to wear snazzy shoes and practice some throwing and aiming skills.
On the tenth day of the winter holiday break, my family and me
played basketball and soccer inside.
With a novelty hoop that fits over a door and a Nerf ball, a game of knee basketball can be very invigorating. Or try having soccer shootouts with a beach ball or Nerf ball in the basement. Make sure to put away any breakables before you start your game.
On the eleventh day of the winter holiday break, my family and me
went to the local gymnastics club.
Quite a few clubs will have drop-in sessions where your kids can see what it’s like to use the same equipment elite athletes use to win medals.
On the twelfth day of the winter holiday break, my family and me
played table tennis for the first time.
Ping pong is family friendly and helps develop hand-eye coordination. If you don’t have an official table (and there isn’t one coming as a gift), you can substitute a kitchen or coffee table.
Blaine Kyllo has written for a variety of print and online publications including CBC.ca, the Globe & Mail, the Georgia Straight and Vancouver Magazine. Also an editor, producer and the father of two young children, he lives in North Vancouver.
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if your kids are getting enough physical activity. So we say put the ball in their court with a printable activity log that makes it easy for them to keep track. If your kids are very little, you can help them.
The suggested activities in the left column of the chart can be done in any combination and any length of time to get your children to the total of 60 to 90 minutes a day. Blank rows allow you to fill in your own activities. (Need more ideas? Visit our Activities section).
Whenever your children are active, have them record their times in the appropriate row and column. At the end of the day and again at the end of the week, add up the totals to see how they are doing (they will be flexing their math muscles as well!).
Challenge your children to increase the variety of activities and time spent being active each week. And make sure you celebrate achievements with them.
Idea: Keep the current week’s log visible in a communal space such as the fridge, and archive weekly logs in a binder so your children can keep track of their progress!
Download the activity log and get started today.
Canada is a great country. We have so much to be thankful for. But all is not perfect in our land. We are known to be a progressive and diverse culture, and in the bright-shining light of progression I speak to all the parents, administrators and educators of our fair nation.
We stand proud on our achievements in literacy and numeracy, for our children are among the most capable in the world when it comes to Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic. No surprise really, as the 3 Rs have been long-standing pillars of our education system and our Canadian mindset. From the Pacific to the Atlantic, we measure our achievement of the 3Rs using mandatory provincial examinations. We know where we stand, and we can rightfully stand tall.
Despite these marvelous literacy and numeracy achievements, the health of Canadians, child and adult alike, is being insidiously eroded. Sadly, our Canadian way of life has become sedentary for over 95% of us and more than 65% are overweight and obese, leading to the unprecedented development of ‘inactivity diseases’ such as type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.
The true north isn’t strong, it’s weak
This unhealthy lifestyle—our behaviours—is a reflection of our Canadian values and attitudes. Thank goodness for our health care system which has, up to this point, been able to manage the negative consequences of our collective sloth and gluttony. But our health care system is beginning to fail under the burden of our lifestyles.
We want our health care but we do not want our health!
How do we rectify this? Well, thankfully the health and physical education (HE/PE) objectives that are a part of our provincial education curricula can provide the foundation on which we can create physically literate children that actively participate. Which could save the next generation of Canadian bacon, so to speak.
Parents and educators must start to insist on the delivery of the HE/PE objectives, just as we have insisted for reading, writing and arithmetic. Perhaps this would form the foundation of a new Canadian culture, one that is active and healthy.
The physical education curricula for all provinces can be found here. Parents should become familiar with what our children are supposed to know and behaviours that they should exhibit as a result of being enrolled in our health and physical education system. You will be surprised to learn what the learning expectations are. Parents want their kids to be healthy. We all do. We may not yet have provincial examinations for physical literacy, but if we value what physical literacy gives to our children we need to measure it. Just as we measure the ability of our children to read, write and do math.
Like most provincial HE/PE curricula, Manitoba’s has strands on fitness, movement, safety, healthy lifestyle practices, as well as personal and social management. For your interest, here are some of the learning objectives of the Grade 6 curriculum from three strands: fitness, movement and lifestyle. What you’ll notice is that the objectives are quite bold. If kids were able to do the things that the curriculum sets out, they’d be well prepared for the future.
The problem is that schools aren’t delivering on the curriculum. Our children are not able to do everything that the system itself expects. As parents, we need to work cooperatively with our education system to actually deliver on these objectives.
The recreation and sport sectors need to become integrated into our school systems via the parent advisory council to complement the physical literacy education process. Our teachers know which children are in need of improved healthy lifestyle behaviours, and they can play a very important role in guiding their students toward suitable, physically active leisure pursuits in the community.
We don’t need to worry about who is already active in sport and leisure activities. We need to worry about who isn’t.
So, parents, please politely get in the face of your teachers, engage your principals and superintendents, recruit your parent advisory councils. Leave them in no doubt as to your hopes and needs for your children and our country: ‘Hey, my kids have to be physically literate and active!’
We’d never tolerate our kids practicing reading only twice a week because we know that regular reading is what builds literacy. So why are we okay with our kids only getting physical education and activity in schools with only a couple of sessions a week?
As parents, we can do our bit outside school time. But schools can make a powerful contribution during the day.
Let’s make sure that Canada, the true north, really is both strong and free.
Dean Kriellaars (BPE, MSc, PhD, CEP) is faculty at the University of Manitoba and a scientist at the Manitoba Institute of Child Health. Dr. Kriellaars has received two University of Manitoba Presidential Outreach awards for meritorious community work and recently was awarded the Campbell Award for longstanding community service. Provincially, he was recognized for his outstanding activities in building community wellness in the province of Manitoba through the Healthy Living Award.
Make this March Break the week you take a step back from your busy schedule and spend some quality time with your family. Plan a few activities but keep it simple and relaxed and you’ll be sure to have a great time together.
Use their week off to find that work/family balance. Take some time off work, if possible, and go out of town. If travel isn’t in the forecast, act like tourists in your own city. Visit the landmarks, go to some local events and exhibitions, and let the kids help plan the activities they want to do. Having them involved in the process will help the excitement grow leading up to the outings.
If you’re looking for a creative outlet, let your kids redesign old pieces of clothing. Give them fabric paint, beads and other embellishments to decorate pieces. Or visit a pottery shop where you can all paint your own ceramics, customizing them however you want. If a sibling or friend’s birthday is coming up, suggest making something as a gift, but any creation of theirs will be a great keepsake.
Another way to spend quality time together is to stage your own blackout. Unplug your electronics and leave technology behind for a night. Use flashlights and candles, play board games, tell stories and snack on homemade treats you whipped up together earlier that day.
Cooking with your kids is another great activity. Whether they’re helping you bake a batch of cookies, make dinner or plan a meal, they’ll learn how to work in a team, develop their fine motor skills and become more independent in the kitchen. For an added learning opportunity, ask them to pick a country and then make a food that is specific to that culture. Find some music associated with the region to listen to and learn some interesting facts about the area to discuss when you sit down to eat the meal you’ve prepared together.
A week may seem like a long time, but it will pass before you know it. Make sure to spend that time together, doing things that you normally wouldn’t have time for.