When we only had our firstborn in our lives, it was easy to devote all of our time and attention to him. We played with him a lot and had a great time teaching him how to kick soccer balls, use a hockey stick, and hit a ball with a bat. But being our first kid, we also did a lot of things that I would have changed, knowing what I know now. Things like constant hovering, being overprotective, and using a stroller for much longer than we should have.
As the saying goes, live and learn. We did just that, and now that we have three beautiful boys in our family, our aim to remain active and live a healthy lifestyle remains an important family goal. The foundation for developing physical literacy starts in the first year of a baby’s life. Raising an active child starts right from the beginning and this includes ensuring that your baby hits their physical milestones, role modelling, active family outings, and connecting with the outdoors, to name a few key items.
If there’s one thing I pride myself on as a parent, it’s that my family leads an active life. My husband and I do our best to keep active and encourage our three sons to do the same. Personally, we love to run (I’ve run seven half-marathons and my husband has run several full and half-marathons) and we spend a lot of time both indoors and outdoors playing sports. Our summer months are spent outdoors at the cottage or at the local park. Winter is spent playing hockey or skating at the local rinks. If weather doesn’t cooperate, we bring everything indoors (our basement isn’t finished, so we don’t mind the potential damage).
So here are five things we’re doing differently with our third baby, Nate, (now 14 months old; that’s him in the picture) to help him with his foundation for developing physical literacy when he’s a little bit older:
- We stopped hovering. We took him out of the swing, out of the car seat, out of the stroller, and put him down on the floor. We gave him as much independent time as possible to move and explore and develop the skills of rolling over, sitting, and crawling.
- We let him get dirty. Part of being active as a baby means getting on the ground, grabbing for things, and getting dirty if that’s what the situation entails. On several occasions I’ve had to strip Nate down to his diaper, but it allowed him to play in the wet sandbox in the park. He might have also eaten some sand and wood chips, but it wasn’t harmful and it’s a baby’s natural way to explore their surroundings.
- We let him take ‘risks’. Nate started climbing the stairs at an early age. Instead of stopping him, I supervised him. I observed him and saw what he was (and wasn’t) capable of. Together we learned his limits and abilities.
- We always include him in family activities. Whether we’re playing hockey or baseball, we include Nate. Over the last few weeks I placed him on the ground of the baseball diamond where my older sons have been playing baseball after school. Nate mostly held a bat or a ball and sat and watched until he crawled away to explore the rocks nearby. However, when we’re at home, he proudly holds up a bat and says ‘ball’. He wants me to pitch to him and play like his big brothers do. Clearly, he’s watching and imitating his brothers who are his most important role models.
- We keep traveling. Sure, vacations take on a different meaning once you have kids, but that shouldn’t stop them from happening. Family vacations are what memories are made of. Vacations are often a great place to engage your senses in new ways and provide an opportunity for your baby to become more alert and active. It’s also a great way to build a love for the great outdoors. We took Nate on a family vacation to Mexico when he was just a little over two months old and we also took a family trip to Hawaii when he was just eight months old. It wasn’t as easy, but it was fun. We still talk about both of those vacations often and fondly.
While having a newborn baby changes your life, it shouldn’t stop your family from staying active. In fact, it’s all the more important now because you are a role model. It’s important to remember that physical literacy begins at birth and helps pave the road for an active life.
This article was written by Maya Fitzpatrick for Active for Life.