A campaign has begun in the United Kingdom fronted by Cypriot-Canadian psychologist Dr. Linda Papadopoulos. The Make Time 2 Play campaign is highlighting the need for children to engage in old-style, general play activities like hide and seek, tag and impromptu games and sports.
Many children, often as young as five or six shy away from organized activity and sport. One of the factors that this is attributed to is that it is entirely possible for children that young to have a negative body image and not be confident in themselves. This in part comes from the focus of society on celebrity, beauty and unhealthy competition.
If a child is unhappy about themselves, the way they look or the way they feel then sending them to an organized sports event such as soccer practice or hockey can illicit tempers and tantrums. Dr Papadopoulos theorizes that traditional games and play activity can help children get away from negative thoughts about themselves and help them realize that their body serves a purpose rather than simply being a function of aesthetic value. And once this correct idea of the body is formed they are far more willing to go to their first Calgary hockey camp.
Every accomplished sports person knows that their body needs to be trained to achieve their goals. They often spend hours in the gym and practicing their sport to get to and maintain their high levels of success. While a muscle-based physique can be appealing beauty is not the reason that these players work out. For them their body is a functional tool allowing them to achieve within their sport. For children this realization can be a big help in fighting body image concerns. Not only is the child getting an active work out from traditional play such as tag, building forts and rough housing but they come to realize that their body exists to let them do something, not to please other people with how they look. By playing traditional games, playing outside in parks and play grounds children get the joy of seeing how fast they can run, how far they can jump and how high they can climb. When they achieve a new personal best it helps them see that their body is a tool that lets them have an engaging and fun time, all while being active.
The run on effect of this is that once the child realizes what their own body is for they can become more at ease with themselves. The worries of another child being faster, stronger or thinner fade away and the child becomes happier within themselves. They see that their own happiness is dependent on what they do themselves and their own personal enjoyment is based on their own achievements, not how they are viewed by others.
If your child objects to going to a hockey camp, or a weekend with the scouts then all you may need to do is give them time to play in a natural environment where they set their own goals and determine their own outcomes. Many adults will have memories of their parents standing at the door and telling them they’re not allowed inside unless it’s to get a glass of water, that they should be playing outside and enjoying the great outdoors. Dr. Papadopoulos thinks that the natural play of children should be encouraged, that the games these children’s parents and grandparents played are of great value and that it will lead to far more sporting activity and happiness in their own skin in the long term.