When I was young, yes that was a while ago, we were outside playing all the time. Many times there would be an impromptu game of california kickball, baseball, tag, hide-n-go seek etc. We usually started our day hanging out with a friend of two and ended up meeting with others in the neighbourhood. Unfortunately, with the way that things are today – most kids are on “play dates” or their devices. They aren’t heading out the front door and off to the local park to see whose out playing and joining in. If you drive by a park, so many of them are empty or perimeter lined with parents.
This is one thing that I have a hard time getting used too. It’s so different from how I grew up and I feel that it’s a bit of a step backwards. This, however, is the reality for our children. Sure my son will ride his bike down to a friend’s house and hang out, but for the most part everything is all planned out. Since there are very few spontaneous games being played outside, for our younger ones, we have moved on to organized sports.
Most of our children have a challenge or two that can affect their thinking and motor development and yes we still have them involved in some type of community activity. Which activity really depends on the child and what he/she can handle and cope with. Consistently our family is involved in dance, lacrosse, basketball, taekwondo, swimming, and parkour. Notice I said “our family”. So our children attend these activities, but we stay quite involved in them.
Many community sports and activities are run by volunteers. These volunteers are often parents and sometimes others who dedicate their time and energy to help the success of the sport. Sometimes they get a bit of “coaching training” and that’s about it. The coaches and leaders get a group of kids that have varying abilities, attitudes and experience with the sport. In knowing this, my husband and I try to set our kiddos up for success in these environments. We spend a lot of time educating coaches and fellow parents, advocating for our kids and volunteering to help them become more successful.
Each of our children have been involved in some kind of “team” sport, but the reality is, some of our children have a difficult time with this environment. There is a lot that goes into “being part of a team”.
Here are a few things that happen on a team, that can cause some challenges for our kiddos:
- Having a volunteer that has the best intentions but doesn’t understand our child’s invisible disabilities or thinks they know, but truly doesn’t
- The coach giving direction, sometimes in a group setting and sometimes on the fly while the game is going on (can be confusing and hard to process)
- Waiting with others that are waiting and wanting to get on the floor, field etc. to play, so lots of excited, impatient players
- The game play, strategy and forward thinking. Knowing what to do at the appropriate time.
- Misunderstandings (happens between team mates and adult/child)
To help alleviate some of these challenges my husband and I stay very involved with their sports and activities. My husband will often coach or assist with coaching. I will often manage the team or help out with where I can. We try to stay connected with the fellow parents and coaches. We educate and give insight on who are child is, hoping that others will have some understanding and maybe more tolerance, if things go sideways. For the most part, this is working.
We do have a child that just can’t navigate a team sport, but needs to be with other kids doing things. Since the opportunity is not out at the local park or neighbourhood to just go and play, we still have them involved in a community activity. Instead of having them focus on a team sport, we have put them in a sport that focuses on individual success while in a group setting.
We have found that both dance and taekwondo give our child the ability to be involved with others, but work on things at their own pace. They are still part of that team, but the focus is more on individual development. Actually, each of our children have an activity that focuses on their individual success, even if they are part of another team sport.
I do struggle with the changes in regards to children and play and how much of their time is adult driven. The days when your child could head to the park and play with whoever was there and available seems to be a distant memory.
There is so much value in getting out there and playing with others, even if it’s a play date, school or community activity.