Claire Gardner: Olympian task to get our children moving
AS ANY good parent with young children will know, knackering them out before bedtime is massively beneficial for everyone.
It means the child will have spent hours running around the garden or park or house, which is a good form of exercise.
And for parents it means that the kids will generally be winched to bed without too much fuss, leaving the evening free to drink wine and engage in stimulating conversation with their other half – that or stick on the television to catch up on some trash programmes.
So, being a mother who is a firm believer in tired kids and wine and watching television, I started reading a newspaper report about nursery children being encouraged to exercise more. But, as I read further down the article, I stopped in disbelief.
This is what it said: “A university project aims to teach Scots children as young as three how to run and jump.”
Really, three-year-old’s being taught to run?
Heavens above – what else do three year-old’s do other than run and jump? Well maybe cry and eat a bit, too.
But really, what are Scottish nursery children doing instead that they need to be taught how to run? Crosswords? Maybe a Sudoku or two before tucking into War and Peace?
Sadly, we all know the answer. Rather than being taken out to parks or gardens to run around with friends to hop and jump and skip and have fun outside, many youngsters are being plonked in front of the television for hours every day.
Either that or they are playing on the computer or the Nintendo or the Wii or the X-Box. Doing anything other than move.
Then there is the junk food many children are being fed – and the result: fat kids who can’t run.
I’m certainly not doing down these initiatives to get our kids moving, it’s just that I find it rather sad that we really do need these schemes at all.
Our growing girths are a serious issue, especially in Scotland as one in five children are now classed as overweight.
A study carried out in 2010 also showed that one in 12 children were so fat they were classed as obese and one in 25 was severely obese.
On top of this, the percentage of overweight adults in Scotland increased from 52 to 63 per cent between 1995 and 2010, due to poor diet and inactivity.
Researchers say the rising popularity of computer games is partly responsible for the obesity rise and children who live in poorer areas are more likely to be overweight.
And it is not as though exercise has to be expensive. Consider the cost of Sky TV compared with a skipping rope, a Nintendo with netball.
However, there is optimism that Scotland’s sudden rush of sporting heroes will at least inspire some children to take up sport.
If last week’s various parades across Scotland’s cities with Olympic heroes such as tennis ace Andy Murray and cycling supremo Sir Chris Hoy putting in appearances in Dunblane and Edinburgh cannot convince our children to get fit, then I really don’t know what will.
Thankfully, figures from a survey this month show this to be the case.
A study of 700 children across the UK found that more than half of primary schoolchildren have been inspired by the Olympics to be more active and their attitudes towards sports improved.
About 52 per cent of boys and 55 per cent of girls aged eight to 12 said the Olympics had made them feel like doing more sport.
That’s great news – but we still have our unfit three-year-olds who apparently can’t run to worry about.
However, if parents of younger children did their bit by making sure that they were taken to the park, if they bothered to turn off the television and play catch or football or running races, then we might not need projects to teach them the basics.
Instead, in this post-Olympic haze, we could up the stakes and teach our tots tennis, or cycling or even get them in boats and have them rowing down the Water of Leith. Now that would be impressive.
And just imagine how tired out our youngsters would be at the end of the day.
They would be in their beds before sundown – leaving us adults to indulge in the national sport of having a drink or two of an evening.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Friday 24 May 2013
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