Playing in a park: It’s about more than just having fun
Leading health organizations, including the World Health Organization and the government’s Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, recommend that children participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
Physical activity doesn’t need to be vigorous exercise or organized sports — it can be playing in a park or participating in active games at home.
Unfortunately, it’s still not happening.
According to an extensive survey conducted by the YMCA, 74 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 10 do not get enough exercise on a daily basis. Most of the parents surveyed said they are more concerned with their children’s financial security than physical activity, while others said that technology like social media and computer games is getting in the way of active play.
Only 15 percent of the parents in the survey said physical health is a top concern for their children, even as child obesity is becoming more common.
Perhaps research can help change their mind.
3 Ways Physical Play Helps Children Succeed in Life
1. Physical activity is linked to better performance at school
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “physical activity can have an impact on cognitive skills and attitudes and academic behavior, all of which are important components of improved academic performance. These include enhanced concentration and attention as well as improved classroom behavior.”
Research from Columbia University explored how physical activity can help brain function and found that it is related to the increased oxygen flow to the brain, increased brain neurotransmitters and the protection of neurons in the brain that are responsible for learning, memory and higher thinking.
Although physical education programs within schools recognize the importance of these findings, many do not incorporate an appropriate amount of physical activity. According to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, students only spent between 10 and 40 percent of class time participating in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.
2. Outdoor activity is good for the soul and the brain
Americans spend an average of 90 percent of their time indoors. When people don’t spend enough time outdoors, they don’t receive enough Vitamin D — which is crucial for bone development and immune systems.
Even a small amount of Vitamin D exposure is shown to boost mood and mental health. Both warm and cold weather outdoor play is shown to boost the immune system.
Importantly, a 2008 study showed that children with ADHD were able to concentrate better after spending time in green spaces.
3. Sports coaching develops life skills that help in school, college and career
Whether it’s through formal sports participation or unstructured free play with other kids, participating in activities like soccer, basketball or other physical activities is shown to help students develop leadership and self-confidence that sets them on a path to success.
During a friendly soccer scrimmage for example, players on both teams learn the value of effective and concise communication. They also learn that they are only as strong as their whole team. The “winners” of the match learn good sportsmanship, while the losers are given a lesson in perseverance.
Unstructured free play is just as important — so important, in fact, that it has been recognized as an essential right by the United Nations. Kids learn self-regulation, gross motor skills, conflict resolution and social skills. During free play, imaginations are given space to blossom.
A solution from KidzToPros: Park Pods
Mountains of research shows that physical activity benefits students in a multitude of ways. Not only does it improve physical and mental health, but the skills also translate into the classroom and beyond. Despite the clear evidence, there is still a shortage of after-school offerings that focus on outdoor recreation.
That is why KidzToPros has launched a new, first-of-its-kind program called Park Pods in neighborhood parks across California, Illinois, New York and Massachusetts.
Up to 8 kids meet at a neighborhood park after the school day ends to work with passionate and highly-trained coaches on various drills and activities related to basketball, soccer, flag football, kickball and more. Each day includes free play as well as more structured technical development.
While students will build endurance and athletic ability, Park Pod participants also take away lessons in leadership, teamwork, perseverance and good sportsmanship.
How to participate in a Park Pod
KidzToPros offers Park Pods in 20 neighborhood parks across the country, from California to New York (more are always being added to meet the growing demand).
Park Pods are designed for students in Grades K-5 and can accommodate between 4 and 8 kids.
Park Pods meet from 3:30-5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays.
Since the neighborhood parks are spacious, kids will have plenty of space to spread out and lots of fresh air to breath. Still, KidzToPros recognizes the importance of protecting against COVID-19 and will monitor county guidelines to ensure students, staff and families are taking appropriate safety measures.
To sign up for a Park Pod:
- Visit kidztopros.com to find a Park Pod near you.
- Enroll in the next available cohort. KidzToPros offers three sessions, with the first cohort starting at the end of September, the second at the end of October and the third in early December
- Get ready for your kid to be active and have fun!
Interested in other KidzToPros Learning Pods?
KidzToPros also offers three other types of learning pods:
- Distance Learning Pods, which support students as they work on their school’s remote learning assignments
- Enrichment Pods, which provide enriching and fun activities like STEM, arts and sports, beyond the school’s learning hours.
- Micro-School Pods, comprehensive and high-quality instruction for students no longer enrolled in their public or private school.
To learn more and enroll today, visit the KidzToPros website.
PARK POD LOCATIONS
Park Pods are offered in the following parks