All too often, I’m shocked when reminded of the current need to get kids off the couch. Whether it’s reading a news story about the government’s “Let’s Move!” campaign or hearing a “Play 60 a Day” ad, it’s hard to believe that we have to beg children to play. When I was young (and I’m not that old!), it was as if my parents had to pull teeth to get my sisters and I to STOP playing and come inside for dinner. In fact, finding us outside was such a chore, that Mom and Dad attached a rope to the large iron bell in the cupola on top of the garage and rang it when and it was time to come in. We spent hours in the woods building forts, in the creek catching crayfish, or even just in a neighbor’s yard, making up dances to the latest Madonna song.
Most of these memories took place a little more than two decades ago, but the American Academy of Pediatrics says in just the past 20 years the prevalence of children who are obese has doubled, while the number of adolescents who are obese has tripled. So how does that translate into actual numbers? The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found nearly one in three children and teens are overweight and one in six are obese. Some may argue that BMI, or Body-Mass-Index, isn’t the “best” way to determine whether or not someone is overweight, but consider this: Kids between the ages of 8 and 18 spend an average of seven and a half hours each day using entertainment media. According to the Let’s Move campaign website, this includes TV, computers, video games, cell phones and movies. Although some may blame modern technology for making these activities more prevalent and more accessible, we can all agree being sedentary is a huge health risk.
On a daily basis, when I get to leave the office and head out to a Soccer Shots site to coach, I feel the sun on my face, the wind in my hair and the mud beneath my shoes and I feel like the luckiest person alive. I get to revert back to the times when I ran around the neighborhood laughing and burning energy. I get to be a kid again. I get to play! Better yet, I experience the feeling that our organization is making a difference. If the little ones we work with associate a positive feeling or a sense of joy with physical activity, we are on our way to reducing health risks associated with childhood obesity. I’m proud that my job allows me to teach kids to play a game that doesn’t involve a controller.
My hope is that the activity doesn’t stop when kids leave our preschool soccer classes. It is my hope that kids share the games we play and parents see the activities we demonstrate in our webisodes. Just a few minutes each day being Cookie Monster or a Rabbit or Turtle could really get parents laughing…. and kids playing!