Your kids don’t need equipment or lessons to become athletic. There’s an industry telling parents to sign their children up for endless classes – promising to set their offspring up for a lifetime of sporting success with early years football coaching, gymnastics or racquet sports.
The logistics of organised sports for a family with two or three children can be insane. If you take a step back and look at the organising involved for your kid to run around with a ball in a gym hall, you’ll find you’re strapping your pre-schooler into the back of the car, you’re folding the buggy for his baby brother, you need to find parking and you pay at the meter before you drag them both along to the changing room where you pull out the overpriced EPL football strip. There are simpler ways to prepare children for sports enjoyment.
Street furniture fun
Look for ways to hone balance, strength, coordination and of course judgment – all these in combination will make your daughter an agile player on any field. Outside of their favoured sports, kids can build all these skills with some semi-parkour in an urban environment. Look around you – there are grit boxes, columns and ledges everywhere! All street furniture can be fun.
Parkour appeals to young children on several levels. Pre-schoolers love turning things upside down: Why walk on the pavement when you can balance on a balustrade? Kids also like to find adventure everywhere – why enter through the main gates if you can find a fun way to trespass? And they love using their whole body. Why stay on your feet when you can skip or army crawl. From when they’re three or four you can build an irreverence and sense of fun which can progress into the gymnastics of parkour later in life.
I vote for walking weird. You’re teaching your children an approach to their surroundings which helps them build considerable skills. Sports for young children aren’t about correct serves or an understanding of the offside rule. It’s about enjoying your own physicality.
As your kids grow, conforming will matter more. Their independence getting to and from organised sports improves too, and they will enjoy the rigour or friendships of teams. But maybe they’ll retain a curious streak from early years parkour. If no one is looking, I will still jump from bench to bench in a London park.