It's finally that time of year once again. Summer has come to a close; kids are getting back to school, and more importantly, back to routine. Over the last 18 months, the world seemed to come to a standstill. School and work were done together in the same house, meeting up with friends was done virtually, team sports and after school activities were cancelled.
All of this had a dramatic effect on mental health. As it is human nature to socialise with others, being told to stay away from each other and, in some cases, only seeing direct family for the last 18 months can be detrimental to your mental well-being.
For children, in particular, meeting up with their friends, playing together, and doing activities together teaches them skills. It allows them to grow and feel some independence away from the family unit. Having all of that stopped on them can impact them badly and affect their mental health.
Thankfully, the world is slowly opening back up, and everything is returning to normality again; it’s time to get back into a routine, which means getting back to fitness!
Back to School, Back to Routine, Back to Fitness
It can be challenging to shift from one mindset into another, and as everyone has gotten used to being at home, the usual routines have been forgotten. Now that everything is becoming normal, routine is more important than ever, especially for your children. Part of that new routine should feature fitness.
For many, working out is seen as a chore and as something we ‘have to do’. As children tend to mimic adult behaviour, putting a negative spin on exercise and working out, in general, will deter children from trying to stay fit and healthy. To begin with, adults need to start thinking of exercise as contributing to their mental and physical well-being.
When children see their parents or family being active, there is a higher chance that they will want to replicate that behaviour. Showing children that physical activity is a good thing instead of a chore is essential. It will give them a good chance of going back to school and using their lunch breaks to run and play, instead of being sedentary.
Mental health of children
Mental health in recent years has become more prominent and talked about in society, but one aspect that is often pushed to the side is the mental well-being of children.
Unlike adults who can vocalise and articulate how they feel, many children may not know how to say when their mental health is being negatively affected. Many factors are at play when it comes to a decline in their mental well-being, which is why it is vital they go back to school with a strong base. Physical activity is part of this base that has significant benefits for children's mental well-being.
How sports and fitness can help with mental health
Ever go on a run, and after it, you feel happy and satisfied? Our body feels good when we work out, and it is an excellent way to decompress. When children are active, the same thing happens. By helping your child to become active, you are giving them a lot of emotional benefits that will stand to them in all aspect of their lives. Have a child suffering from self-esteem issues?
Being on a sports team and part of a larger goal will help a child's confidence, as being part of a team allows kids to receive praise and recognition from their peers and coaches. It will boost their self-esteem and help them gain confidence that they may not have in another situation.
It doesn't need to be a strenuous activity, though. It can be a simple game of hide and seek or chasing, something to just get their legs moving, and have their physical activity quota met for the day.
Different types of exercises to do with children
You don’t need to go on a 10km run to keep fit. Just having them engage in light activity 3-4 times a week can help with their mental well-being. We've put together a few different exercises that you can do with children that are fun and engaging.
Chasing is an all-time classic in Ireland. Playing a game of chasing will be sure to elevate the heart rate as running away from the person trying to catch you already increases it. Great for a group of children to play together in the schoolyard, or if you want an easy activity game to play at home.
Pass the ball
This game works on endurance and fine motor skills. Throwing and catching a ball or bean bag will strengthen their arms and help their response time. It's a fun game to play. Alternatively, if you don't have a ball, playing keep up with a balloon is equally fun and will have everyone working up a sweat!
Rounders is another classic game that will get children running and using their muscles without being too tedious. It is excellent for a team sport option that everyone can get involved in and brings in elements of pass the ball and chasing.
It may be better for engaging younger children, but it's still a fun way to become active. The aim is for the other kids to blow out the parachute, and one child tries to make their way to the other side before it comes back down.
Skipping ropes are a staple when it comes to exercise for kids and adults. Have a skipping rope race or see who can skip the longest is fun and helps children and adults to work their arms and legs.
Being able to hula hoop is a skill in itself. Try to teach the kids to hula hoop, it will be fun and give them a bit of a workout. There is also the side benefit of showing a child that it’s okay to fail once you try your best.
All children have different needs. Some may need to engage in exercise and physical activity in different ways. Using sensory products is the best of both worlds. Giving them the chance to get used to different textures while still being active.
Sports Day Activities
Why not take a look at different physical activities children often enjoy during sports day. That can be an egg and spoon race, jump sack race, or even one of the most popular, a wheelbarrow race! Wheelbarrow races in particular are great as it helps both children with their arm strength and cardio. It also promotes working together and is over all fun. What more could you want?
These activities may not seem like much, but they will help children socialise, connect with others, and support their mental well-being. It will also go a long way into improving their mood so that you can help them with any deeper problem they may have.
*Please note that this is just a guide, if you feel your child is suffering negatively from their mental health, please consult with your doctor or a trusted medical professional
For help on mental health here are a few numbers:
Samaritans (01) 671 0071
Suicide hotline: 116 123
HSE mental health: 1800 111 888
Aware: 1800 80 48 48
Pieta House: 1800 247 247
Bodywhys: (01) 210 2906