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Let kids just be kids.


The time will come soon enough for children to engage in more rigid, instructed exercise formats. Therefore, parents should not torture their children into such overstructured recreation time that their natural ability to simply plan and have a good time at it is stiffed, says a physical fitness expert.

"One of the things we get concerned about is that adults try to shape children into adults too quickly," says Tom Crawford, director of youth development for the Indianapolis-based Institute for Fitness and Sport. "It's very important for good, progressive human development that children are allowed to be children. Unfortunately, it's very difficult for some parents today--those who are single parents or in households where both patents are working--to not overstructure their child's time. [Many parents] have their child on such a rigid schedule, there is no flexibility, no open play time to allow the child to be creative and to come up with his or her own ideas of what to do."

Recent European studies are showing that children who participate in their own play activity free of adult supervision are more likely to play in a vigorous manner--getting their heart rates up and keeping them up for extended periods--than when they're involved in structured programs designed to help them with their fitness.

Nevertheless, the family can be an important component in establishing youth fitness, says Crawford. "Parents and other adults are role models that children look to. A walk every evening after dinner, for example, where the family can talk about things and keep the pace up--that alone will make a significant difference in fitness levels," he says. "It's also important to establish an active fitness program early because shaping behavior is much easier than changing it."
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Title Annotation:overstructuring a child's time
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Aug 1, 1990
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