Insights inspired by Daniel

You may or may not know that Fit Kids was inspired by my son, Daniel.

Fit KidsDan was always going to be a big guy. And what often comes with bigger children who grow quickly, is that they have a poor grasp of how to use their bodies. It’s as if their body is too big for them to manage, and if you watch carefully you can see that they just find normal daily movement to be an effort.

Being a busy, active family, Daniel was kept moving daily with all manner of outings, exercises, activities and extra murals. We encouraged him to keep trying when things took him longer than other children, and I like to think that he’s developed a love for exercise for himself, and not primarily as a way to get approval or accolades from his parents or others.

During his pre-school years I noticed that none of his extra-murals were doing enough to build his strength and body control. There was a lot of waiting in queues, a lot of tiring kids out with running around, a lot of letting kids like Dan do something once while the kids who ‘got it’ were encouraged to practice a particular movement over and over…  There never seemed to be much focus on perseverance, on personal achievement, on getting stronger and more able just for themselves.

I believe that if a child is stronger, more able and more confident in his or her body thanks to the increased muscle strength and control from targeted movements, he or she naturally engages in energetic, fitness building games and activities in the playground, because it just feels good for their body.

This is why in April 2014, I created Fit Kids to be the ideal programme for Daniel: to give him the strength, physical ability and confidence that he needed to succeed on the playground, in his other activities, at school, and socially.

Fit KidsFast forward almost 2 years, and Daniel’s busy schedule of school activities meant no space for Fit Kids in his week. That, and I’d decided to focus mainly on teaching 3 to 6 year olds, leaving only one class per week suitable for his age group.  I felt that at this point in his life, school sports should take preference, and that with his loaded schedule of sporting activities he should be getting what he needed in terms of movement and exercise each week.

So I was totally floored this holiday when we did a couple of Fit Kids exercises together, and I discovered that he couldn’t hold his own body weight! He couldn’t balance on one foot for even a second; a couple of reps of something that used to be a breeze for him were now impossible; and he kept tripping over his own feet during the exercises.

This is a huge problem for me on so many levels! I’ve dedicated my life and my business to building strong, able and confident children, so how can my own child not be the model Fit Kids child?!

I was really blown away by two things.

First, by how quickly he’d lost his core strength, motor control and general physical conditioning. This alone is motivation for me to keep spreading the Fit Kids message, because it shows me what an impact his weekly sessions had been having on his body last year.

And second, I was amazed by the fact that his 9 scheduled exercise sessions a week: 3 in-school phys ed/gym sessions per week, plus 6 extra-mural sports sessions per week, were doing absolutely nothing to develop my child’s strength and physical abilities.  This really highlights the fact that not all children are getting what they should from school Phys Ed and sport, but that’s a story for another day.

So here’s what I’d like you to take away from this.
1. As a parent, make sure that you focus on your child’s strength and physically ability first, and aerobic fitness second. Know that confidence in the playground, in sport, and in the classroom, comes from having a strong body that your child knows how to use.
2. Don’t mistake a large quantity of physical activity sessions in your child’s weekly schedule for quality strength and conditioning. More isn’t always better, so choose wisely and monitor carefully.
3. Never underestimate the value of those little habits you create at home.  Daniel and I now have a daily push-up routine, and it’s fantastic for both of us – great bonding time, a perfect way to model good exercise habits, and of course we both enjoy noticing how we improve each week.

Thanks for reading, and if you liked this story, please share it so that more parents can learn how to build strong, able and confident children.

About Simon

I'm a dad, a teacher and a business owner, doing my best to make every day count. I'm determined to shape the way the next generation feel about exercise, and I'm doing this by showing children the difference between enjoying exercise as part of healthy lifestyle, and participating in exercise as a means to perform in sport. I'm also helping parents learn how to include exercise as a normal part of daily life, and working with schools and teachers to change the way they present exercise to children in the foundation years.

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