Online learning has become a norm for some children however, sporting activities and extramurals have been halted. Extramural activities are beneficial to the child’s mental development as well as physical health, so it is essential that children engage in these, in one way or another. School coach Gary Mortimer and professional running coach Kathleen Shuttleworth share ways in which you can get your children active and participate in sports.

Be Actively Involved As A Parent

As a parent, getting involved in the activities your child is interested in, will motivate them. Coach Mortimer advises parents to give their children the support and motivation they need to keep doing physical activity and look to engage and make it fun for their child.’’ He further shares that physical activity, and the principles thereof can still be taught through online learning. 

For children who have lost interest in physical activity or sports, coach Mortimer advises parents to encourage their children to watch and support sporting activities such as the Olympics, and physically active events. “This will then get them to go out and pick up where they left off. You need to remember that parental guidance and support is what will ultimately affect the decision of the child. Children tend to see their parents as superheroes and believe everything that comes out of their parents’ mouth. Ensure the right mental and emotional support is in place for your child to feel comfortable,’’ explains coach Mortimer.

Why Should Your Child Engage In Physical Activity?

The benefits of physical training whether it be for a sport or general fitness go way beyond the playing field. Coach Kathleen elaborates that children who engage regularly in sport will be mentally sharper, have better concentration and improved memory – All of which will improve academic performance. They will be able to handle stress better, which is why she encourages training during exams.

Physical activity will also help with hormonal balance, something which is challenging in the teen years. ‘’Committing to a training regime teaches great discipline and time management. Sport also provides healthy social interaction and great peer to peer encouragement and motivation in a safe positive environment,’’ she adds. 

Exercises To Do At Home

The most important thing your child can do is to go outside, get some fresh air and sunshine as much as possible, especially if your children are online schooling. 

Coach Kathleen advises that  the ideal thing is  to break screen time with exercise time. If you are able to get to a nearby park or open field then make the most of that. Even just getting out into your courtyard or driveway is better than indoors.

She further reminds parents to include lots of variety and fun challenges in activities. ‘’If you are able to, invite the neighbours’ children to ensure healthy social interaction,’’ she adds. Try the following exercises:

  • Set up exercise stations that they must run between and let them throw a dice at each station for how many reps they must do, set up a short running loop in a park and see how many laps they can do in a certain amount of time, or time them and see each week if they can better their record. 
  • Traditional games such as hopscotch or three sticks are great for small spaces. 
  • Play wall tennis or put up a netball hoop against a wall. 
  • Run errands with your children on foot or bicycle instead of driving. Be creative, create a family challenge and keep it fun.

Fitness enthusiast Reneilwe Kgengwe shared some advice on Episode 19 of the The Sit Down with Olwethu on how you can keep your children interested in being active while they are at home.
  • Plan activities ahead, and share the plan with them. This gets them excited.
  • Start with small activities like walking the dogs, or walking to the park.
  • If you live in a safe environment, encourage them to play with the neighbours’ kids.
  • Be the best role model. Lead by example. 
  • Make them feel like they are leading the exercises, this creates a sense of responsibility.   
  • Rewards go a long way.

Friendly Exercises For You And Your Children
  • Jumping Jacks 
  • Skaters 
  • Running on the spot
  • Squats 
  • Lunges

Preparing Your Child For High Performance Sports

Children should be encouraged to participate in a variety of sports so they are able to choose what they prefer. There are a lot of physical changes that take place in the growing years and what they enjoy will also change as they discover new sports. The greater the variety of sporting skills they develop, the better they will be equipped to excel in the chosen sport as they get older. 

‘’Don’t over-fill their schedule though. A lot of the best development takes place during free play. Parents should focus on praising effort before winning and help their child discover what they love, and nurture that. A love for the chosen sport and the discipline to work hard are key cornerstones for excelling as they get older,’’ coach Kathleen shares. 

High performance sport is a tough grind. As your children reach high school, it is a good idea to look outside of school and find a training group that they can train with year round. Contacting sports clubs in your area is a good place to start. It is important for young athletes to be part of a group environment with peers, this is important to ensure healthy social development within their sport. Find a coach that thinks long term and knows how to develop young athletes at the right pace. 

We are also advised as parents to look for a training group that has good values and a healthy team culture. “Your child should look forward to going to training and seeing their training mates each day. Even on hard grind days,” she says.

Food That Blends Well With Physical Activity

Coach Kathleen advises on what your child should be eating while they engage in physical activity.

Having sustained energy throughout a long school day and then enough energy to still train hard in the late afternoon. This is where some planning is required to ensure that they have enough healthy energy rich “on the go” meals. 

  • Aim for natural vitamin sources such as fruits and vegetables before supplements. Supporting the immune system is important. The more vitamin rich the food the better.
  • In Winter include immune boosting ingredients such as garlic, ginger, citrus, peppers and loads of greens.
  • The bulk of their diet should be nutrient rich, low GI carbohydrates such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes and fruit. A good amount of dairy and sufficient protein. Ensuring healthy bone and muscle development is key. Athletes should also be sure that their iron and vitamin B intake is sufficient, especially girls who have started menstruating.

It may take a little extra effort from your side as the parent because this period we’re living in requires that. Extra murals are beneficial to your child’s development and they must be given the same attention as the academic part of your child’s life. 

AoS Shop sells the following Micro Sprite that is great for home yard activity as well as outside playing.

If your child is interested in becoming an athlete, coach Kathleen offers more advice here