Grab a ball to have a ball

19 08 2012

I have fond memories of diving around my lounge room floor playing catch with my dad.  Not just because playing catch is fun, it certainly is.  Not just because my hand eye coordination got pretty darn awesome helping me with all kinds of sports later in life. I have fond memories because it was time with my dad. He never seemed to tire of being with me as a kid and I now understand why.  Investing time with your son (or daughter I’d imagine), seeing them happy, growing and learning is one of the most rewarding things you can do.

Alex and I tossed a ball around for ages last night and absolutely loved every minute of it.  We always do. And this kind of activity does wonders for hand eye coordination, peripheral vision and spatial awareness.  Amongst the cheering, the challenging and the occasional apology for a bad throw, we also did a hell of a lot of laughing.

So next time your kids have nothing to do, grab a tennis ball and some lounge room space.  Get down on the floor and have some fun.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly they start to pull off some awesome catches (we call them speckies, short for spectacular) and at just how much fun throwing a ball around can be. Especially when you start to really challenge each other.

Play, explore, move, parent.

3 07 2012

People who know me know that a lot of what I do in terms of “training” or “fitness” or “workouts” is very loosely associated with the conventional view of these terms.  Actually what I’m really about is playing, exploring, and moving. I’m also very much about parenting. And to me good parenting means playing, exploring and moving – with your kids.

Children use play to learn, its their job!  It helps them to build the skills and competencies needed for adult life including physical, mental and social skills.  Google “importance of play” and you’ll find stacks of supporting information on this, but when I reflect on my own experiences as a child, as an uncle and as a father, I know without doubt that playing with your kids is super healthy, super good for them and super good for you.

I don’t exactly know when or how I learned this but I’ve always known that actively engaging with kids, being and seeing their world, connects you to them more quickly and strongly than any other way.  My guess is that this was learnt by association from my father who did a great job at being part of my world.  Yes as I got older he was my team’s soccer coach or the umpire at my cricket matches, but rolling around on the ground and wrestling with my father and brother rank higher than almost any of my early childhood memories.  As do days at the beach swimming, throwing a ball, playing cricket and snorkelling.  Not specific things that happened, but the memory of the activities themselves is what I hold fondly in my mind.  As an adult, when I look back on many of those times I recognise that I often used to end up hurt and in tears, but that wasn’t what I remember.  What I remember was feeling connecting, feeling loved and in strange way being taught.  I am absolutely positive that I learned all manner of vital lessons from all those bumps, bruises, scrapes and tears.  So if I haven’t said it to the directly enough, thank you to my brother and my wonderful father teaching me so much, simply by engaging with me.  (btw – for a great book and website on this check out The Art Of Roughhousing, highly recommended)

Anyway this post was not meant to be about exploring all the developmental benefits of playing with your kids.  There are oodles of them I’m sure and some basic research will give you plenty of scientific reasons to back up my laymen thoughts.  But really, this post is just meant to get people thinking about investing, not spending, but investing more time with their kids and playing, exploring and moving.  And this investment doesn’t have to cost anything but is really just about igniting the spirit of play, exploration and movement in order to connect with the same spirit in our kids.  And I guarantee the return on that investment will be ten fold that of any material item bought for them.

So what does play, exploring and moving with your kids look like?  It’s only limited by your, and their, imaginations and the willingness to indulge.  Make the decision to go with the flow and the rest just happens, but here a couple of examples that Alex and I have put together (literally, constructed, filmed and edited together which is also an awesome activity to do together) over the last couple of months.  Enjoy!

The first was a recent weekend at the beach.  It’s winter in Australia and was about 16 degrees but beautifully sunny so we spent many hours playing in the water, the sand and that headland.

And the second was a stop off at the local library whilst riding home from the mall.