WORDS BY ERICA NEWTON, MYFIRSTGYM CO-FOUNDER
The antidote to your child’s Christmas Couch Fest.
As parents who’ve been spat out the other end of the Christmas machine with endless presents to buy, get-togethers, chocolate, all-the-good-things-to-eat-and-drink and New Year’s festivities thrown in on top, early January is a welcome sight to behold. Blobbing on the couch in front of the cricket, chewing through the last of the Christmas treats and lazy days… it’s bliss! But it can also be a trap for our kids: it’s just too easy to let all that fitness developed during the year slide down the back of the couch.
Routine physical activity is crucial to health and wellbeing.
There’s no denying that screens are great babysitters, especially when Labuschagne is batting in the final over or you just need a little time to yourself after the extended family Christmas onslaught. But for our kids, there needs to be a healthy balance between screentime and movement. The Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing has shown that routine and regular physical activity supports our children’s brain development, bone strength, muscle control and a healthy weight, as well as affecting their well-being: sleep patterns, mental health, concentration, self-esteem and confidence are all beneficiaries.
Getting our kids into a routine of movement is a no-brainer.
How much time should kids engage in physical activity per day
The World Health Organisation says that for children, physical activity which is moderate to vigorous in intensity is essential to health and wellbeing.
In a 24 hour day:
- 1-4-year-olds should spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of moderate to vigorous activities.
- 5-17 year olds should do at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous intensity, mostly aerobic, physical activity. There should be some activity during the week which strengthens muscle and bone too.
Getting your kids active doesn’t have to involve complicated games or high-end sporting goods, but it does need to get them huffing and puffing! For some children, traditional organised sports which attract skilled athletes with pressure on performance and ability is too competitor-orientated. Couple this with the fact that most organised sports shut up shop for December and January, and you’re back to the kids binge-watching Masha and the Bear or all nine (!!) Spiderman movies. This is where MyFirstGym works exceptionally well, providing inclusive activities for all abilities from zero fitness to elite, in a wide variety of programs to keep kids engaged and inspiring movement… alllll holidays long!
How to get the kids off the couch.
We hear you. It’s all well and good to read the stats, feel the heat from that hardworking television pulsate throughout the day and watch the pantry get ransacked on the hour… but as parents, we know inherently that kids need to move to feel good physically and mentally. How do we wrestle those screens off them and get them sweating? There are two answers to this question and both build resilience, that ‘bouncebackability’ our kids so desperately need to live a fulfilling, happy life.
1. A carrot.
Some might call it a bribe but we’re all about health and fitness at MFG! Having some sort of reward or achievement they are working towards will always help children overcome that initial uncomfortable ‘ugh’ feeling of physical activity. At MyFirstGym, we’ve developed a Class Sticker Challenge that’s designed to get kids into a routine of exercise and trying out new fitness classes. Not only do the kids have a sense of achievement when it is completed, there’s a small prize and the chance to be the national MFG champion. That’s one feel-good carrot!
If you hike the same National Park trail every day, the kids will get fit, but they’ll be bored silly. Varying the ways we exercise is essential to building a routine of physical activity. MyFirstGym has a huge variety of classes from ninja warrior to martial arts and circuit training (all our gyms are air-conditioned!) designed to inspire kids to move more. For our coaches, helping children find that ‘thing’ they love to do so much they don’t even realise they’re exercising, is a beautiful bonus.
If these two fail, Erica, one of our MFG founders, recommends simply turning the WIFI off. That’s resilience building for kids right there.
Getting your child school ready
It’s not the first day of the school year that shows just how physically fit your child isn’t, but the second, third and fourth day. If they’ve done little but follow their nose from the fridge to the couch to the television, the routine of class times, outdoor play, navigating friendships and following teacher instructions can send even the most delightful child off the deep end.
Playing physical games socialises our children in following instructions and rules, and builds resilience when the score doesn’t go their way or the going gets huffy and puffy: all important lessons! The physical fitness they acquire along the way will also make the school day easier to take.
If your child is only just starting out at school, give them the best possible start in the School Readiness Program. This is designed to give kids more confidence and skills in their transition to ‘big school’, easing those clingy, teary moments at the classroom door.
DOWNLOAD: SCHOOL READINESS BROCHURE
Physical activities to keep kids exercising
To get started, try these very simple activities with your children:
- • Go on a bike ride.
- • Marco Polo in the pool.
- • Play The Colour/Shape/Equipment Is Lava at MyFirstGym’s Free Play (bonus is the gym is airconditioned!).
- • Play a game of tag.
- • Go for a hike in your closest National Park.
Back at work already? Want somewhere you can drop the kids and know they’re in safe hands building their fitness, skills and resilience? MyFirstGym is the answer. We also offer memberships for those hard to engage kids, which allows for chop and change. They can test out several different classes until they find out what they enjoy most.
The most important thing is to get them moving!