It doesn’t take an awful lot to get kids active and having fun, and the lifelong benefits are huge, says Sport NZ’s Young People Lead Jo Colin.
Her message is very much in line with that of the government’s Big Change Starts Small campaign, which aims to encourage parents to start making small changes to ensure long-term and positive impacts on their children's health and wellbeing.
Fun, informal activities encourage kids to be spontaneous and creative, and give them the enthusiasm and confidence to stay physically active and access sport and other physical activities, Jo says.
Even something as simple as a game of hide and seek or bullrush, rebounding a ball off a wall, making a hut, or climbing and exploring outside can have an impact and set kids up for life, Jo says.
“Any physical activity that kids enjoy will help develop positive attitudes to an active lifestyle and have an impact on health, growth, social connectedness, physical skill and personal development.”
As well as highlighting how parents and caregivers give their children too much food, and, specifically, too much junk food, as an expression of their love, Big Change Starts Small has a focus on inactivity, and how children spend too much time on sedentary activities like computer games. It suggests numerous playful activities that parents can get their kids involved in.
Playful activity gives kids the opportunity to practice with ideas and concepts they have learned in other areas of their lives to make sense of them and enhance their learning in their own way. They can then take that learning in to more structured experiences, Jo says.
Jo notes that in more structured settings such as sport, it’s critical to keep things fun as a way of engaging kids, challenging them to develop and be the best they can be, and keeping them participating.
“In talking to young people who play sport, their big message to us is that socialising, being with friends and having fun is one of their main reasons for doing so.
“If we as parents can understand that, and create experiences and opportunities – whether informal or structured - that are fun and meet their needs, we can encourage a lifelong love of physical activity and contribute to the overall wellbeing of our Kiwi kids.”