Sean Van Staden
Columnist
3 minute read
8 Feb 2014
9:00 am

Children should learn to climb trees again

Sean Van Staden

There is a big problem facing our youth of today.

Sean van Staden

Obesity is causing health problems for families and it is only a matter of time before medical aids start charging you the same premium rates for your children. However, there is another epidemic plaguing the healthy development of our youth and that is “low muscle tone”.

I had never even heard of that phrase until my early varsity years because I was lucky enough to grow up outside, climbing trees, falling off jungle gyms and running around playing kissing catches with the girls or was that running away? My memory fades. Either way, my parents were too happy to chase myself and my brother outside to go and play.

My parents believed in play and sport and were even more eager in assisting us to join a sports club at the early age of six.

There was no such thing as poor posture, slouching at the dinner table, depression and many of the ailments out in the open today, and what doctors are too happy to prescribe medication for.

In my industry I deal with a lot of young athletes and it is concerning for me to hear about low muscle tone, and prescribed medication to calm children down. Medication is as prevalent and abundant in children like sweets in a sweet store.

Crime plays an important role since kids no longer can play freely outside.

In today’s life up-and-coming baby boomers are not looking for houses but rather the safety and security found in complexes and this poses a whole new problem for young children. Space is tiny and small seems to be the new big, apartments are kitting out not with play areas but with the latest Xbox, PlayStation and Ipads.

This message really hit home when I saw one of my friend’s five-year-old child operating an IPad better than I know how to, yet when we went outside he could not kick or throw a ball. If a kid can be a techno whiz at his age, then why can he not have learnt adequate movement skills needed for his current and future development?

The answer does not only lie in environmental or society but also with the parents. If parents don’t take an active role in their child’s education, the child will have learning problems. If parents don’t take the time and energy to develop their child’s health, muscles and wellbeing, they are going to end up with a problem that the doctor is more than likely going to medicate for.

Improving muscle tone, concentration and wellness is relatively easy. Young children need gross motor skills development and a “low carb, high protein diet” to develop into healthy human beings. Children during play need to learn to “push” a wheelbarrow, they need to learn to “pull” a thick garden hose toward them. They need to learn to “squat” down and play in the sandpit. They need to learn to “deadlift or lift from the ground up” a box of toys and carry it across the yard not before “twisting” from the torso and handing the box over to a friend.

The final part in a child’s pillar strength development is the “lift” over the head and this can be explained by the child carrying his box of toys over his head so that the other kids can’t nip one of his prized toy cars away. I have mentioned six primal functional movements needed to develop a child’s muscle tone, posture, balance and pillar strength.

There is one golden rule with young children. All these movements must be disguised through play and fun games. The more creative you are, the more your child is going to love playing with you.

Take the time out on weekends to focus on these six functional movements and within four weeks you will see a noticeable improvement in your child’s mood and wellbeing.

If you still a bit confused, then my suggestion is to look to the nearest sports scientist in your area to have an assessment and let them work on the six areas of your child’s development.