Harnessing the power of a warrior, parents are consistently struggling to find a balance between their kids’ television-watching, playing on tablets, after-school programs, activities, and finding solutions to the dreaded cries of “I’m bored!”
The rise in popularity of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior, local obstacle course races (like Calgary-based X-Warrior), and the introduction of adventure-themed indoor entertainment centres show that there has been a shift toward traditional ways of run, jump, and play. Today’s educators are realizing the importance of how kids used to play.
A return to the playground
Play is the foundation for all physical endeavors. Playgrounds and obstacle course centres uncover an awareness of those developmental gaps we might have in full-body functional movements and strength, speed, agility, and flexibility. Playgrounds challenge our kids in fun and rewarding ways. While playing at the playground, primary activities require running, climbing, hopping, crawling, and dodging objects; these skills help your child respond quickly to avoid dangerous situations, as well as provide the skills necessary to take their athleticism and health to the next level by warding against potential injuries.
Play is not just ‘child’s play’
Dr. Stuart Brown, a pioneer in research at the National Institute of Play, says humor, games and roughhousing are more than just fun. Plenty of play in childhood makes for happy, smart adults - and keeping up play can make us smarter at any age. These days, as families struggle for time to come together and connect while also looking after their health, unstructured play on indoor or outdoor obstacles provide an all-in-one fun fitness workout! Returning to the basics of play challenges our muscles, and we learn the critical cognitive skills that arm us with the ability to problem-solve and gain confidence - the skills needed to tackle problems in everyday life. (Trust me, if you run through a ninja warrior course and can make it to the top of the warped wall, you’re going to feel like you can handle anything life throws at you!)
‘But my kid really only loves one sport’
There are a lot of benefits from improving oneself in a specific area. However, Rich Hesketh (long-time Sport Conditioning Coach for the Calgary Flames) notes that “up until the age of 14... the most important thing you can do is play. We know now that the best players have been multi-sport athletes: Wayne Gretzky, Jerome Iginla, all multi-sport athletes.”
How does your family start?
There are ample opportunities within Calgary and the surrounding communities to learn more about incorporating obstacle courses and play into your family’s life:
Permission to play
If we can teach our children to play in a safe and exploratory way (the same way we did as kids playing outside or at the park until the streetlights came on after dark!) we instill in them the lasting benefits that will create stronger relationships, healthier kids and families, and resilience to life’s barriers.
Jeff is a Program Manager for InjaNation Fun & Fitness in Calgary. He is also a proud father, paddleboarder, and rescue puppy dad.
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