‘Start them Young”-A look at the benefits derived from early physical education and development to our younger generations.

CrossFit Kids Coach Hayley takes us through the importance of teaching our kids by example and the benefits that will follow…

We lightly throw around a common saying “start them young” quite regularly to reflect when a child is already taking on characteristics maybe even mannerisms quite early on in their lives.
This can at times be seen in a comical scenario where a toddler has a toy lawn mower. He pretends to also mow the lawn out with dad on a Sunday morning- “Yeap, just starting him young!”.
A 5-year-old girl is trotted up on a 3ft stool so she is able to just reach the bench top, assisting her mum in the kitchen with making dinner- “Starting her young!”.

To ‘start young’ is defined by beginning doing something when at a young age especially when it is unusual to do so.

But why are the above examples classed as an unusual act of character?
Why is this masked as a comical relief for us adults?

Three areas I will explore and show the benefits around each:

  1. Early physical development and education
  2. ‘Leading by example’- Household Nutritional Habits
  3. The young elite athlete

There are many benefits from involving your child in physical activity at an early age.
Some parents may think they’re ‘too young’ to gain anything from such experiences however even at the ages of 2-3 years old so much awareness is triggered in each little individual mind that most of the time is unfortunately unfound.
Some of the benefits that transcend in children’s lives include:

  • Social skills: being around other children can do absolute wonders for not only confidence but also awareness and understanding. How do children react to certain environments/situations, and under the guidance of an adult what is the best way to deal with/approach each one with a positive outcome? This is identified to them.
    Friendships of course need to be acknowledged within this as well! Creating these relationships so early on, can mould a child’s special traits that they carry in their friendships and relationships for many years on.
  • Adhering to instructions and guidelines: to a child this is looked at as what is good and what is naughty! In an environment where they are undergoing physical activity in a team setting, let’s say, they’re playing a soccer game- they need to know it is not acceptable to break the rules or be physical in a negative way to the other players. Transfer this into a real-life scenario- they now have some conscience around this and when they are at home or even at school where there are certain guidelines delivered they are familiar with this process and (hopefully) will follow along.
  • Physical and neurological benefits: some of the most basic exercises, drills, and even games can train and develop many positive benefits of a child’s mind and body. These can include development of coordination- a simple task I have used numerous times is a simple jump over a stick, progressed into stepping up onto a small box a number of times with a final progression to jumping up onto a box, landing on their feet safely and then jumping back off again is an amazing way to range and of course improve a child’s level of coordination.
    Having awareness of their own body and the mechanics needed to undergo certain movements should be identified and trained early on also. An example could be having an obstacle set up- although seemed to them as an immensely fun and exciting time, if challenging areas consist it can assist one to learn how they then need to use their body to either go over it, under it, through it around it or even perform the movement applied.
    Putting this into real life their mind is already slightly trained in being able (physically and mentally) to get through a challenging or difficult circumstance like solving an exam question as just one example.

Good leaders must lead by example.
By walking your talk you become a person others want to follow.

The habits presented in a family and household environment can be formed at a young age and in some cases, stay with the individual for the remainder of their years right through to adulthood.
If you drink a can of Coke with dinner every night yet you tell your children they cannot have it for the sugar levels it contains not to mention the extensive artificial ingredients used to make it so addictive- do you think your child will abide and not want to drink it?
No. They will still want to. Why? Because you are willing to.
If a primary school lunch box contains only of packaged foods i.e chocolate bars, heavily salted crisps chips, unnatural juice boxes etc every single day- what do you think their ‘normal’ concept or eating will be?
Now now now- there is a fine line between this behaviour and the addition of these foods into still a healthy household BUT that is another road to venture down- remember our goal of discussion here is creating habits yourself as the adult for them to follow from and forming these habits early with education alongside- let’s keep that in mind.
You are the best example to your children.
If you fill your diet with fresh produce, lean meats and little of the processed and artificial foods AND keep this contents in your house all year around what do you think your children will eat?
Yes yes there are other influential avenues i.e tv commercials, kid’s birthday parties and clever advertisement and marketing throughout our supermarkets- the list goes on but can we control these? Not always. We need to harness what we can and control that.
Laugh all you will at the “your hair won’t grow nice and long if you don’t eat your veggies” persuasion- but this can actually trigger a young mind to want to eat all of their veggies, with the understanding that there is a health benefit (although very vaguely true J) to eating them.
Are there veggies on your plate? Or even better do you know the health benefits behind a well involved diet around vegetables?

To build a roaring fire each day you must add fuel.
Otherwise the flame is lost.  

The genre Ballet can be looked at as an artistic dance performance in most performances to classical music yet what people do not have full understanding of is the precise and highly formalized set steps used to execute this.
The years behind a professional Ballerina are extensive- they have started young.
Similarities are shown in the sport gymnastics. Such technique cannot be crammed into a few years of consistent training. In order to be at the level of an elite performer or athlete such training and experience must be behind an individual.
Let’s face it, a 17-year-old who has never taken a gymnastic class in all of their years claims they will make the next Olympic games- this dream may need to be changed.
Although they seem very determined this just may not be possible!

Enrolling a 3-year-old to take part in gymnastic classes twice a week may seem unneeded to many parents yet the benefits received from this can be astonishing. Yes they may just roll around a lot and skip around a room with the coach for majority of the time but imagine if they were consistent for a year? Then you continued to enrol them for the next. A few more years and you have a child who has 5 ears experience in gymnastic training.
Translate this into much needed life skills, other physical skills needed to carry out other sports/activities and you have a physically and mentally strong little individual.
If this training follows them into their early teenage years for them to then decide they wish to give it up, will these strength and coordination benefits disappear overnight? No. They could well and truly remain for many years to follow.
When they reach their later teenage years and wish to start the revolutionary sport of CrossFit will their many years of gymnastics allow them to have a slight leg up in being competent at such movements involved in workouts? Yes.

The closing of this point is that to be an elite (sometimes even just an exceptional) athlete, ‘starting them young’ can begin a, what seems like nothing at the time, an exciting further life of high level performance and achievement. The younger years are the exciting times for development.

I am not a parent.
This topic has come purely from years of experience coaching, observing and working with amazing little humans who at the time may have no idea what they are doing (which makes it just so damn funny to watch sometimes) and I have seen firsthand what awesome and carefully thought out exercises and methods, like a CrossFit Kids program can do to a young mind, but unfortunatelyI have also seen the negative side to this where all of these arguments are not present in the child’s life.

We need to constantly look for ways to educate and influence kids in any way possible.
The world is evolving so much year after year and it won’t stop.
So many crazy things appearing in our lives and suddenly becoming the ‘norm’.

Kids are special.
Start them young with good health and wellness and just sit back and see their potential blossom.