Running and jumping may be the best way for children to excel in school. The benefits of play and physical activity in children are growing by leaps and bounds.
Running, jumping, and playing with other kids may be the best way for children to raise their brain power and excel in school. Studies show that academic performance actually improves with regular engagement in physical activity.
Thanks to a new report card produced by Active Healthy Kids Canada, ParticipACTION, and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, we now have a snapshot of the activity levels our Canadian children are engaged in—and the picture isn’t pretty.
Physical education curtailed
Across the country many schools are attempting to improve scholastic performance by curtailing the time allocated to physical education and even recess. Yet the report card notes that there is no evidence to support the idea that academic performance is hindered by physical activity—the opposite is true.
According to the report, children who are physically active do better in school. Yet only 13 percent of Canadian school children are meeting the recommended 90 minutes a day of physical activity.
Damaged by inactivity
Sadly, a whopping 90 percent of Canadian youth are barely moving at all, choosing instead to spend far too much time in front of electronic screens. Televisions, computers, and video games are all robbing our youth of healthy outdoor play and important social interaction.
Worse still, the report card notes a significant association between increased screen exposure and poor academic outcomes. The report states that the likelihood of earning a bachelor’s degree (or higher) by age 26 decreased as the mean hours of TV watching per weekday increased between the ages of 5 and 15 years.
What your kids do today can affect how their lives unfold in the future. So get your children outside; get them running, jumping, and engaging with other children. The grownup that your child is destined to become will one day thank you for the power of play.
Benefits of play
Achieving the recommended activity level of 90 minutes a day results in a host of benefits for kids. These include:
- Improvements in cognitive function (memory, concentration, etc.)
- Improved cerebral blood flow
- Enhanced neurotransmitter release and function
- Increased self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-image
- Increased attention span
- Reduced misconduct behaviours at school
- Increased feelings of school connectedness
- Increased ability to relax
Getting your kids outdoors and active is easy and inexpensive. All they need is a green space and an imagination. Keep kids active with tried-and-true games such as hopscotch, skipping, tag, hula hoop, tug-of-war, and many more.
Active play is so important to a child’s development that the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has called it “a right of every child.”
Active Healthy Kids Canada notes that children should be encouraged to get outside, get active, and play because:
- Active play allows children to use their creativity while developing imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength.
- Active play is associated with healthy brain development.
- Active play allows children to conquer their fears, practise adult roles, and develop the confidence and resilience needed to deal with life’s challenges.
- Active play is as an excellent way to increase physical activity levels.