A few years ago, there was a new fad for children, called Cross Fit Training.1 Now, I am all for exercise—for both adults and children—but I believe that young children (0-10 years of age) are better off getting their needed exercise on the playground or in the backyard. Research has proven that kids learn better through play because it doesn’t seem like they’re working.2 They can happily engage in an unknowingly educational activity because it is fun. For example, children will eagerly put all of the red bears on the red plate and the blue bears on the blue plate, but if you ask them to do a math worksheet, they will probably stomp their feet in defiance!
I believe the same holds true with physical fitness education. If we capitalize on what children do naturally, which is exploring all of the challenges on the playground or in the backyard, then our children will automatically be keeping fit. Endurance strength, and flexibility are all built on the playground through children chasing each other, crossing the monkey bars, and bending over to pick up a ball or crawl through a tunnel. It also costs less money, takes less time, and is a lot more fun—for both children and adults! More and more playgrounds are also being built indoors for year-round gross motor fun (perhaps not during COVID-19). With all the benefits we can attribute to regular fitness activity (stronger muscles and bones; leaner bodies; decreased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes) we can’t afford not to include fitness in our children’s healthy diets. Now you can go to the playground knowing you are doing your child a lot of good, and that you are establishing positive routines for the future!
2 Want to get your kids into college? Let them play By Erika Christakis and Nicholas Christakis, Special to CNN December 29, 2010 7:57am EST: Early Childhood News, the Worksheet Dilemma: Benefits of Play-Based Curricula By Sue Grossman, Ph.D. (http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_print.aspx?Articleld=134)