grow.

From time to time I cycle back to the topic of personal growth. Often.

And sometimes, I forget that I’m a piece of the nurturing growth puzzle. Not growth in myself, but in the kids I see every day I go into work. In the tape and pencil crayons, sparkly wigs and lego, cars and endless board games, sportsmanship lectures and hugs, soccer and Livin’ on a Prayer outbursts, problem solving and water parks.

Some days, I see these things as ways to fill days for our kids. But some days, I really see those things as what they are meant to be: opportunities for growth and development, opportunities to learn, opportunities to develop new skills and moral dissonance.

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From one of our soon to be first graders and his family.

Growth happens inside, but it requires things from outside to ensure all aspects–physical, affective and cognitive development–are nurtured. I need to see these things, these steps we take, for what they really are more often–like I’ve been reminded of today. That we are, many hours a day, helping to build these kids into who they are becoming.

Helping them grow.

celebrating what is coming

The past is important in telling our stories, to understand where we’re at and why we’re there.

But tonight, I am not celebrating what’s ending . . . i am celebrating what is coming.  I don’t “do” new year’s resolutions, because a resolution is simply a goal–and goals need to be set and re-set frequently to make progress.

Today I closed off 2011 with my friend and former coworker, Sara, just one of many amazing people I experienced the joy of meeting in 2011.  We ate too many crepes and had an amazing time, and were ironically wearing the same Hollister hoodie in different colours, pink t-shirts underneath and brown jackets!  [I took mine off for the picture].

sara and i!

After making a final pharmacy trip for the year (gotta love breathing, yeah?), I came home to do a final workout to hit 800 kilometers for 2011.  To give some perspective on how much I’ve grown in regard to exercise and fitness in 2011, my total on December 31st, 2010 was a tiny 100 kilometers [which was upped to a legitimate 106 as I found later on that I had forgotten to count an April race in there].

That. Is. Huge.  The big change in 2011 came in September through the amazingness that was Physical Activity: Promotion and Adherence, definitely my favourite university class thus far, and really gaining the understanding that the SMALL things make a BIG difference!  Though an unintentional success attributed to making small changes and regulating physical activity, since mid-September [at my highest ever weight which may have been some sort of weird fluke] I have lost a total of 17 pounds.  I can’t say I felt “bad” before or anything, but comparatively, I feel totally awesome both physically and emotionally with the GOOD changes that have happened!

I’ve walked 213 km, stationary biked 143, and racked up hundreds of kilometers in commutes. I walked one race, went on a few short hikes, went on an adventure rock climbing this past week.  I played hockey both in my skates and in my Sauconies and skated down rivers.  I’ve played in concrete jungles and playgrounds.  This has been the most active year of my life, and I plan to strip that title away from 2011 and give it to 2012.

This year, I have reached farther than I thought I could, pushed my lungs and my body in bigger ways.  I started thinking about things differently, relationships changed and growing happened.  I did things I couldn’t believe I would or could succeed at.  
I got a new job at an amazing daycare.  I worked one-on-one at camp for a week, which was one of the biggest challenges and biggest joys simultaneously.  I have met so many amazing people in “real life” and online.  One of my best guy friends for a time became my first boyfriend and even though it mutually didn’t work out, it definitely did not damage our friendship, which was the most important thing to us.  I returned to Chicago.  I watched one of the girls I do inclusion with grow so much in where she’s at, while simultaneously realizing the growth in myself through her.  I have fallen more and more in love with the subject that is applied health.  I have changed my perspectives on health advocacy, become more involved, and continued to learn how to OWN my asthma and encourage others to do the same.  I have learned to better live with what I’ve been handed.  I have learned more deeply that health and wellness is a choice.  I have learned to see things differently, engage differently, and not just make goals, but meet goals and ENGAGE in these goals to use them as learning experiences.

I want to continue that next year.  Continue moving forward, continue proving myself wrong, continuing to grow and learn and thrive, not simply survive.

There is more goodness coming.  There is a year of hope, joy, change, growth, learning, and love ahead.

Bring it on 2012. GOOD THINGS!

developmental physical activity: barriers in childcare

Kids need at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day.  Every day.

It sounds like a lot, and that’s because it is.  I’m fortunate enough that I’m in a position where 1) I learn about the impact of physical activity on people of all ages on a pretty much daily basis, 2) work in an atmosphere that allows me to apply this knowledge directly to the kids in our program and 3) I can, in a small way, contribute to helping kids and their families meet this total.

Here’s the thing though: resources aren’t available to make quality physical activity programming in childcare accessible to all programs.

When i started my current job, my boss and coworkers were excited that I actually like gym games.  It’s basically my thing at work.  I love it.

I’d like to say to start: yes, our kids still play sports. I think that sports are valuable for kids to learn, to play, and contribute to long-term athlete development and being active for life beyond what gym games do.  But I also believe that non-sport physical activity can play a huge role in getting kids active for the simple reason that it is just fun.  Some kids, even as young as five, get serious about sports.  Because even when kids are little, they know what competition is.  There are kids who are young who get onto a field or a rink and are just little natural all-around athletes.  They’ll make the good passes, score the goals, and be that kid that everybody’s looking at and talking about positively.  When competition comes into play, these kids will thrive on it.  In turn, though, this can make kids feel that maybe because they aren’t natural athletes and aren’t that kid that they shouldn’t bother. It’s cyclic. That kid who’s always picked last decides they shouldn’t bother trying, they stand around on the field, sit around picking daisies and grow up fighting PE teachers trying to stay on the bleachers.  And if such behaviour isn’t modified, that same kid can grow up to face a number of health concerns due to inactivity.

I was that kid.  That kid who hated PE, and didn’t start liking physical activity until I took dance in my last semester of high school.  Because of that, I’ve hit a proficiency barrier in many fundamental skills that I just didn’t get during developmental PE in elementary and middle school.  So these kids that don’t like sports or just aren’t as proficient in the skills?  I feel for them, big time.

So I organize/facilitate our Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday morning physical activity component at our program.  It’s optional.  Monday is usually floor hockey, and I have no idea what they do Fridays.  I plan four gym games per month, but I play a lot more of them.  On a soccer morning, I’ll have probably ten or eleven kids.  On a FUN game day, perhaps Ollie Ollie Octopus or dodgeball [yes, we play dodgeball. I hated it, but the kids LOVE it, and it teaches a ton of valuable skills–running, throwing, dodging, agility, catching, etc–so I submit to the “Miss Kerriiiiiii, can we play dodgeballlll?” and let them play.  Gatorballs and typically below-the-waist hits only.  No injuries as of yet, it’s a good time], which are our more popular choices, I’ll have up to seventeen or eighteen.  On tag game day last week we had eighteen.  Seven more kids is huge.  We have usually about 24 to 30 kids in the mornings, so we get a big chunk of them moving first thing in the morning–engaged body, engaged brain.  While not every kid comes every day, I can’t pinpoint too many kids who never come.

The thing is, I’ve taken classes on teaching kids physical activity, and I’ve taken courses on making physical activity more fun for ALL kids.  I’ve learned where to find physical activity resources. From what I’ve experienced, this isn’t common knowledge among childcare staff, because that’s not where their focus typically lies. Additionally, many childcare staff do not have education in childcare.  I started working at a daycare [not the one I’m at now] less than a month after I turned eighteen with nothing but high school Family Studies classes behind me.  They either come straight out of high school, or from a variety of other professions.  That said, the people running programs are certified Early Childhood Educators, and thus create a program centred around that knowledge.  We’re required to offer specific amounts of outdoor play per day, but I’m not sure if there are regulations requiring active play to be a part of the day.  Keep in mind, too, that the bulk of resources are for phys ed teachers.  The very last thing I want is for morning gym games to feel like PE–for the kids who aren’t good at PE or who don’t want anything to remind them of school when they’re not in school, I try to keep a clear barrier.  That means lots of pick-up games and games with minimal instruction so that they can play and not sit and listen.

As for programming, think about this: a school-aged daycare at any given point typically provides programming for kids five to twelve years old.  Then wrap your mind around providing developmentally appropriate physical activity programming for that group, that encompasses a variety of opportunities for increasing a child’s physical literacy, as well as providing opportunity for cognitive and affective growth through physical activity.  Fortunately, physical, affective and cognitive development can be incorporated into a child’s day through active games — pretty much any game that requires a child’s body and mind to be engaged simultaneously [read: pretty much any physically active game] will provide opportunities for all of these to occur.  However, there is a huge difference in all domains between a five year old and a ten year old, and a seven year old and a twelve year old.  This makes finding games that this wide of an age-range will enjoy difficult.

Unfortunately, the barrier keeps growing in providing quality daily physical activity in programs — there aren’t enough resources available to early childhood educators or early childhood educator assistants (like myself).  Resources are either very difficult to find (even online), or they are provided by such organizations that are pushing for daily quality physical activity/education, but also charge between $50 and $100 for a resource book.  I was blessed to receive some resources from my friend Dia, but these resources were only available via partnership that Special Olympics Ontario has with other sport organizations.  The same organizations challenging the world to provide more opportunity and options for physical activity to kids are the same that are making it inaccessible for the bulk of organizations to do so — it’s understandable that profit and business takes precedence, but these things only work if the programs seeking the resources have the funds to access them, making it a catch-22.  These barriers are not typically due to childcare centres in themselves, but their governing bodies or sport and physical activity non-profits not reaching the intended market in the most effective way and/or not receiving adequate funding to be able to reach the places that need it most. What can be done to overcome them is likely a huge mess of economics, politics and continuing education.

I am only a small piece in the puzzle, and the centre I work at joins in the picture.  The puzzle needs to keep being put together to give our kids active, healthy futures and encourage physical activity for life.  I play a small role in helping get these kids more physically active–in a week, I spend an hour and a half in the gym with them.  It’s not enough, but it’s all I can do, and hope that the rest of the active component of our program, physical education class, outdoor play and parental engagement are doing the rest.  As for other childcare programs?  There’s got to be something more out there.

If you’re a childcare provider or have a child in a licensed daycare, let me know your thoughts — what’s your physical activity program like?  Do you feel that it’s enough?  What would you like to see your kids doing differently?  Let me know what country you’re from so we can compare.  Additionally, if you’re a childcare provider and can direct me to any resources, I’d greatly appreciate it!

lego pyramid


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What I did this morning at work . . .

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Because nothing is complete without a Transformer head and a peace sign.

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Then the kids built a wall

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And dinosaurs that look kinda sphinx like

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And a triangular wall with a Transformer mask . ..

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And then it all came down.

I love my job.