Active play is an important part of any kid’s life as they grow up and learn more about themselves. The term “active play” is used to refer to a broad range of activities like running, jumping, and crawling. These activities involve physical exertion at a moderate to vigorous pace, which means pretty much anything that gets their heart rate up and tires them out. Other than that one condition, there are no limits on active play. It can happen indoors or outdoors, alone or with family and friends, and in structured or unstructured situations.
Structured active play could include, for example, sports or swimming lessons. It can also come in the form of youth groups like the YMCA, Boys Scouts, or Girl Scouts. On the other hand, unstructured active play is more along the lines of free backyard play, exploring outdoor spaces like parks and farms, or even helping out with household chores.
Why do kids need active play?
Active play should be a part of every kid’s day-to-day life, with preschoolers needing more than twice as much play time than what grade-school to teen-aged kids need. A big part of their personal development depends on the amount and nature of active play that they get. It also makes a big difference in how they socialize and relate to other people, since active play is usually their first venue to learn this outside of their homes.
Active play does much more than just give children something to do during the day. It offers a host of physical benefits from cardiovascular health to building strength. It also teaches them vital skills like resilience, independence, and self-confidence. Even though active play is largely about burning off energy and having fun, it helps kids mature at the same time.
Active play is also important in developing kids’ decision making and problem solving skills. As they are placed in situations where they are the ones in control instead of their parents or other adults, they get to weigh options and try to predict outcomes on their own. This helps enhance their sense of creativity and imagination. It’s a fantastic way to challenge them without stressing them out; they don’t notice the work that they are putting in because they’re having fun doing it.
All of this leads up to one skill that will be crucial as they get older: coping with change and powering on instead of letting it paralyze you. In many small, simple ways, kids learn how to deal with unexpected situations and approach problems with confidence through active play.
The social aspect of active play has just as big an impact as the personal improvement aspect. Active play teaches kids how to better express their feelings and allows them to laugh, have fun, and interact with other people. It sets the scene for new friendships and gives them a strong sense of belonging in their friend group or community.
Children work on their communication and social skills when they engage in active play. This includes getting a better understanding of social rules that they’ll need to keep the friendships they forge and enjoy them fully. For instance, many children learn about the concept of “give and take” through active play when they share toys and help each other with simple tasks. They also learn about the importance of patience, and appreciate other people’s differences. All this learning comes together as kids try to work as part of a group and hone their teamwork skills.
Active play through obstacle course racing
At two years old, most kids have already mastered walking. This means that they’re ready for the next stages of development, both physical and social. As early as age two, children can and should be introduced to new activities and games that will give them the chance to develop a full range of fundamental movement skills. These skills will serve as the basis for the stronger, more refined movements they’ll be able to do as they grow bigger.
One way to get them highly involved in active play is through obstacle course racing. OCR is a sport that requires participants to run to and go through various obstacles that will test their physical and mental strength. Although most of them take place outside, it’s also fairly easy to find an indoor obstacle course to try out. In outdoor courses, mud runs and trail runs are combined to create a next-level, down and dirty fitness challenge.
What can kids gain from OCR?
While OCR has been trendy among young adults for the past few years, it’s open to pretty much anyone who would like to give it a shot. Children don’t have to limit themselves to the playground. Many OCR events include a race just for kids. First-timers are often encouraged to have a parent, older sibling, or guardian accompany them. Those who have some experience or are just a bit more adventurous are welcome to do it on their own and have mom and dad cheer them on from the sidelines instead. Aside from the benefit of the workout itself, it’s a fun, fulfilling experience, and a nice venue to meet new people.
A good number of adult OCR enthusiasts become interested in OCR because of the fitness benefits it offers. Kids can reap these benefits, too, and get in great shape for sports and other strenuous activities. The great thing about this is that all kids can get into OCR, whether they’re starting out as star athletes or couch potatoes who got bored of sitting in front of the TV all day long. There’s an OCR event for kids and grown-ups of any and every skill level.
OCR enhances muscle strength from head to toe. Even the shortest, easiest OCR courses require participants to use their whole bodies. Sometimes, you’ll be lifting heavy stones or weights. Other times, you’ll be carrying your own body weight. Either way, your muscles will be put to the test. OCR also builds endurance. After all, running is the foundation of the whole race. Some obstacles will challenge both cardiovascular and muscular endurance, which forces you to figure out how to strategically use your strength and breath to get all the way to the finish line.
Coordination and balance also come into play in OCR. To overcome the obstacles, it’s essential to know how to move your body in the most efficient way possible. This carries over in kids’ everyday lives, making them better at sports and games and less prone to getting into accidents. Parents will be relieved to know that any kind of mistakes made in OCR training or at an OCR event are quite unlikely to result in any real physical injury to kids. This is one of the advantages of doing active play in a controlled environment with the guidance of professionals.
OCR is not a sport for quitters. No matter what age you are, you can take a valuable lesson away from OCR: strength comes from struggle. Sometimes, kids can be easily discouraged if they don’t nail down a task and see results right away. OCR teaches them mental fortitude and helps them silence that negative inner voice that says “I can’t do this.” As they gain more confidence in using their bodies and making various body parts work together, that voice is gradually replaced with one that says “I must do this” - a positive attitude for the obstacle course and anywhere else in life.
Still, there will be times when they try hard and still fail, but this is simply a part of the process. OCR isn’t about avoiding failure. It’s about progressing from failure. Getting into OCR might make you question your own determination, but the only way to get to the finish line is to just keep on going. Although it can get frustrating and you may need help as you go along, crossing that line is so rewarding, and so worth it. Kids can benefit greatly from developing this attitude early on, whether it’s about race day, a big school project, or a personal dilemma.
Obstacle course racing is a great example of how to engage kids in active play. It allows them to explore new environments and test their physical limits in a safe, controlled setting. Through OCR, they can get more than the prescribed healthy amount of active play, and make friends while they’re at it. OCR will also help them develop a strong-willed, “never give up” kind of attitude that will get them far in real life situations.
If your child isn’t ready for a big OCR event just yet, they can still get a little taste of the real thing at Pretty Huge Obstacles, which has family-friendly facilities, including a dedicated kids’ zone and coaches on site to guide them through the obstacles.