The amount of parents searching for ways to develop their childs talent in their sport has risen dramatically over the years. The discussion of yearlong play in one sport is continually debated and the use of private training sessions to improve fitness or sport skill is a popular trend. What is often ignored is the good old fashion PLAY! The ability for a child to learn and develop skill and movement patterns through Play is the best thing you can do for your Child!
Unfortunately we all know the decline of play due to technology. Or the consistent decline of free play on school playgrounds due to the fear of injury. We need to bring back the ability for kids to jump, run, throw, catch, climb in order to build our future athletes and reduce disease and obesity.
Take the example of year-long Hockey. Parents are looking for ways to improve their childs performance in the sport now and for the future but are ignoring the fact that it limits their ability to experience other sports & movement patterns and decreases unstructured play.
So how does Play actually help in the development of a child? If you take into consideration the windows of development for youth there are many skills that can be increased for further success down the road.
There needs to be a base of Fundamental movement skills through play. Skills such as speed, co-ordination, balance & agility (running, jumping, throwing, catching, climbing) are learned through fun games and play.
Lets take a look at the ages of 7-9 (boys) 6-8 (girls). Increasing Speed at this age sets them up for further Speed growth at a later age. Speed at this age doesn’t mean running sprints. It’s play based such as tag, kicking a soccer ball, playing pickup soccer. Multi-directional movements that have the child moving quickly.
The game of tag is a phenomenal way to increase speed. If you don’t run fast, you are going to be “it” a lot in the game! Kicking a soccer ball is a fast, powerful movement and looks at rotational hip power/speed and is another building block. Free play is the ability to let these kids run loose and just PLAY! There is an enormous amount of skill development, speed, co-ordination and movement patterns engrained in our nervous system when we allow our children to play.
Neuroplasticity is brain development! It responds to the stimulation of learning, movement and what we experience through our surroundings. The brain will adjust to activity and new pathways are generated! Can you imagine how much learning goes on in the brain when we allow our kids to play! The variety of movement and joint positions our body goes through. The changes in speed and the learning process of experimentation with play is mind boggling. We do have the ability to enhance our skill development and further our athletic potential through something as simple as PLAY!
The ages 9-12 (usually a year younger in girls) are important skill development years. We are reaching the years of incredible growth for your child. They are ready to dig deeper into learning movement patterns and increased skill development. Think of these years as future athletic development. Further fundamental sport skills can be practiced. Play & drills that involve movement co-ordination and teaches children to decelerate properly, land efficiently and accelerate. Hand-eye co-ordination, kicking, multidirectional drills, balance games can all benefit this stage of learning.
Success in sport has everything to do with learning how to move, respond and react to movement and outside forces. You need to get active and you need to allow your child to experience as many different movements as possible in order to train the brain!
Let Play be your childs foundation for learning because future potential depends on it!