Is there anything that beats a child’s passion to learn a new sport? It’s a thrill!
But sports have an impact on their growing bodies, and the importance of stretching for children shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s important to teach them how and why to care for their bodies while having fun. This allows them to develop good habits they can take into their active adult lives, be more flexible and avoid injuries.
The first thing kids should be taught is that before any sort of physical activity, they need to prepare their body and mind.
Body: Their little bodies need the chance to literally “warm up” their muscles before exercising. The best kind way to warm up is known as dynamic stretching – which are active movements of muscle that bring forth a stretch but are not held in the end position. This will increase their heart and respiratory rate, which will boost the amount of nutrients and oxygen being delivered to their muscles. This means the muscles are ready to work – which helps prevent injuries. Dynamic stretches are also very easy to turn into a game – either with a challenge, a slow race, etc. Just remember to put emphasis on the form they keep, and reel them in if they start to go too fast from excitement.
Mind: We are always preparing ourselves for specific activities. Think about your routine before heading to work and how important certain aspects of it are in order for you to feel ready to face the day. Or think about how there is a specific routine you follow with your child in order to prepare them for bedtime or to go to school. Your child should understand that warming up is just as important – it is the time for them to decide what they want to experience during their activity and maybe set some goals too.
Just like warming up, warming down is important to give their body the chance to ease out of the high gear it’s been in.
Body: “Static” stretching – where a position is held between 10 and 30 seconds can really help bring your child’s heart rate and breath to a normal pace, reducing risk of dizziness. It will also treat the muscles, which have just worked hard, to a much needed “massage” that will help avoid stiffness and soreness. Guide your child into really paying attention to how his or her body feels with each movement, too.
Mind: This is a great time to encourage your child to reflect on how they feel after doing their sport. Are they happy? Frustrated? What was their experience, and how do they feel now? Warm downs can lead to a bonding, insightful moment – so enjoy it!
What are your own experiences, tips and thoughts on the importance of stretching for children? Sound off below!